FILE 2015

There was a time in Brookfield, not all that long ago, when the words “bike path” were unwelcome. But these days, the village is embracing its inner bicyclist.

And on May 21, cyclists of all ages will be invited to participate in the inaugural Bike Brookfield event, which will combine the police department’s popular annual Bike Rodeo with a 5K and a 10K bike ride through the village’s neighborhoods.

“Big picture, it’s both a community and economic development tool,” said Emily Egan, Brookfield’s village planner. “It’ll be a great event to fulfill the mission of the Community and Economic Development Department.”

In past years, the Bike Rodeo event was geared toward younger kids, to teach them bike safety and provide families with a way to get to know local police officers in a friendly setting.

The Bike Rodeo, which has been held for more than a decade and draws — depending on weather — between 100 and 200 kids each year, will be a central part of the May 21 event, which will start at 9 a.m. in the parking lot of the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.

Police will again give away free bicycle helmets and offer kids the chance at trying out their skills on a bike obstacle course.

Deputy Police Chief Edward Petrak said that the police department is on board with the village piggybacking onto one of its signature events.

“Many times this is the first bike ride of the year for these kids so adding a short, guided and safe ride through town should add an exciting element to the rodeo,” Petrak said. “Bike riding is a healthy family activity, and we’re blessed to have so many great riding areas in and around Brookfield. This event gives us an opportunity to connect with kids and families and stress the importance of wearing helmets and bike safety at the start of the riding season.”

Nicholas Greifer, the village of Brookfield’s community and economic development director, said the shorter bike ride will be oriented toward kids while the longer one will be a “family ride” for kids and their parents. The routes are still being worked out.

Following the bike rides, there will be a gathering in Kiwanis Park, where there will be live music, activities and prizes.

“We wanted to do something that leverages some of our assets, like Salt Creek, the Metra stations, our low-traffic neighborhood roads, the [Brookfield] Zoo,” Greifer said. “Biking to the zoo is such a great option. Having a bike event is a way to remind people of that.”

While Greifer said he expected a modest turnout the first year, he’d like to see the event grow into an annual one that potentially could attract people and young families from other parts of the metro Chicago area.

“From a long-term economic and community development standpoint, it’s a way for people not familiar with Brookfield to come explore it,” Greifer said. “In year two we’d like to expand it and get people who live in places like Logan Square, Bucktown and Lincoln Park to have some fun.”

Greifer said that Brookfield has embraced biking. If it once was out of favor in the village, that’s no longer the case.

“I think it’s a generational shift,” Greifer said. “A lot of young people don’t want to necessarily own a car. There’s a practical aspect to it. I think, too, it’s become more fashionable to own a bike, and certainly it’s become a more popular thing to do, especially if you’re a millennial.”

Asked if residents might be seeing dedicated bike lanes within the village of Brookfield, much like the ones that have popped up all over the city of Chicago, Greifer said it’s possible.

“We’d like to sit down with the village board and [Village Manager] Keith [Sbiral] and study it more,” said Greifer. “That’s the time to roll up our sleeves and analyze what we can do.

“We can talk with Brookfield Zoo and see if they want to do something parallel — if they wanted to connect the Hollywood station and the zoo, for example.”