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We Put the Spring in Springfield

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  • Jym Dyer
    http://www.journalstandard.com/mysource/family/x1797066723/Critical-Mass-shows-U-S-cities-the-power-of-the-bike [Click That Link to See Accompanying Photos]
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 17, 2011
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      [Click That Link to See Accompanying Photos]

      Critical Mass shows U.S. cities the power of the bike - Freeport, IL
      By Molly Beck
      GateHouse News Service | Posted 15-Jul-2011 @ 10:38 AM

      Dark clouds worried Magdalena Casper-Shipp on a recent Monday
      morning. It wasn’t because she didn’t want her street to flood
      in Springfield, Ill., but because she rides her Gary Fisher
      Wingra bicycle to work. And to friends' homes. And to pick up

      Casper-Shipp, 25, is part of a community in Springfield that
      chooses to use bicycles as a primary mode of transportation.

      "It is the most sustainable method of transportation there is.
      I feel that, as someone who tries to live other parts of my
      life in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner, it is
      only fitting that I try to go by bicycle as much as possible,"
      she said.

      The Chicago native moved to Springfield in 2008 to be closer to
      her fiance, now husband, who teaches at Lincoln Land Community

      Accustom to the bike-friendly atmosphere of the Windy City,
      Casper-Shipp joined the group, which was organized to foster
      a similar cohabitation in central Illinois.

      Critical Mass, a nationwide effort spawned in 1992 in San
      Francisco, began hosting monthly bike rides around the city
      in 2008. The intention for the Springfield chapter's rides
      is to promote awareness of bicyclists using city streets to
      get around, instead of just recreational bike trails.

      "(The rides are) to try and show that bicyclists do want to ride
      in the street and not feel threatened by cars," Casper-Shipp
      said. "(We're) trying to be a little bit more visible as a mode
      of transportation rather than a recreational sport."

      = Group project =

      This year, turnout has been inconsistent. Five bicyclists showed
      up in April, but that number rose to 20 in May.

      The group meets at 5:30 p.m. on the last Friday of each month
      at the same location for a ride that snakes through the major
      thoroughfares in downtown Springfield.

      Nationwide, Critical Mass rides have been designed to disrupt
      traffic and are perceived as a bit menacing, with hundreds or
      thousands of bicyclists halting car traffic in big cities like
      Chicago and San Francisco.

      "In Springfield, the group's focus has definitely been on the
      promotion minus the disruption, while I think there have been
      car drivers who thought what we were doing was disrupting
      traffic," said Wes King, the group's current organizer –– if the
      participants were to name officers. "I have definitely disrupted
      traffic before, but that is the natural effect of a group of
      cyclists asserting their legitimate right to ride bikes on
      public roads in a legal fashion following the rules of the road.

      "If we had bike lanes in areas of town where people actually
      ride bikes to get places ... it might not be as much of a
      disruption. But when you have 10 bikes riding as a group
      following the rules of the road, which allows cyclists to ride
      two abreast, you become somewhat of a natural disruption."

      The group does not require helmets, or anything, really ––
      just a bike.

      "But we try to keep pace of the slowest rider; no one should
      be left behind," Casper-Shipp said.

      She said she would like to see bike lanes on local roads, but
      she acknowledges there's little room for them.

      Former Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin established a bicycle
      advisory committee in 2009 to address those concerns. Since
      then, there are still few bike lanes on major city streets,
      but new bike trails have been created to connect the west
      side of Springfield.

      City spokesman Ernie Slottag said the planning and zoning
      commission is developing recommended bike routes through the
      city so it will be easier for people to bike without battling

      King also said he would like it to be easier to bike in

      "I think if the city encouraged and made it easier to bike as
      a mode of transportation with bike lanes that go places people
      need to get to, encouraged new development to be more compact
      and biking and walking friendly, and if drivers on Springfield
      streets were more respectful of bikers, there would be biking
      more," he said.

      "I know some of the people who have come to (Critical Mass'
      rides) do so because it takes away from the intimidation factor
      that comes with riding on city streets."
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