Cycle Brookfield more than a community bike club

Now a nonprofit, group wins stipend from Active Transportation Alliance

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Anthony Landahl

You can find them on Brookfield side streets. You can find them at the farmers market on Saturday mornings by Brookfield Village Hall. You can even find them in the Fourth of July parade, rolling along. 

Cycle Brookfield was established three years ago and has organized events like bike tune-up clinics and, since May 2018, its Slow Roll Social Rides, which are open to all on the first Friday of every month.

But a growth spurt in its membership has Cycle Brookfield retooling its purpose as a community group.

"One of our main goals is to get people in Brookfield seeing people on bikes, feeling comfortable riding your bike in Brookfield and drivers being aware that there are people on bikes in Brookfield," club member Ken Knasiak said.

Cycle Brookfield recently received its status as a 501c3 organization, further defining its mission as an advocacy group and not just a social organization. 

"It's like a cornerstone to take us to be an official group," O'Connor said. "[This status] will bring some credibility and some permanence that would help in terms of talking to the village." 

Cycle Brookfield will start exploring soliciting donations or implementing a members' fee to contribute to other biking campaigns. 

Knasiak and Joe O'Connor were among the few riders in Cycle Brookfield's early days. After the first Bike Brookfield, a village-sponsored event held annually every May, a group of cyclists started to bike together every Thursday and invited others to join along. 

As more people joined, the group began getting together for a ride once a month on Fridays and also started to host general meetings, discussing what they could do to change Brookfield's bike scene.

So when the club's First Friday Slow Roll Social Ride came around on July 5, Knasiak and O'Connor were shocked and thrilled by the number of people who showed up.

Knasiak said the Slow Roll Rides typically draw between 12 and 20 people. During the winter months, attendance is in the single digits. But on July 5, they had 55 participants.

Though there is no official count of how many active members Cycle Brookfield has, the group's Facebook page has accumulated more than 350 followers. To O'Connor, the Fourth of July parade appearance served as a recruiting tool.

"Getting our name out there," he said. "For us, the parade is like showing people the flag, showing we're here, encouraging people to cycle."

With numbers increasing, the group recently applied for and received a $400 stipend from the Active Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes walking, bicycling and public transit in Chicagoland communities and advocates for environmentally friendly transportation legislation.

It offers stipends through its "Bike Walk Every Town" program to help spread the Active Transportation Alliance's message in the Chicago suburbs. 

The stipend has been offered the last two years for groups to advocate for the improvement of community biking, walking and public transit. Batavia, Oak Park and Elmhurst were among the communities that received the stipend last year.

According to ATA's advocacy manager, Maggie Mellin, Cycle Brookfield's application included a goal to "raise residents' awareness of the need for the 31st Street Corridor Multimodal Impact Study as well as advocate for the village of Brookfield to secure dedicated funding for this project." 

The 31st Street Corridor Multimodal Impact Study would focus on the possibility of a shared-use path along 31st Street from Prairie Avenue to Golfview Avenue. The cost of the study is projected to be $170,000. 

Brookfield received an $85,000 grant from the Invest in Cook program, but village officials were hesitant to make up the difference, saying the transportation study was a regional initiative and that Brookfield shouldn't shoulder such a high part of the cost.

Cycle Brookfield is attempting to collect 500 signatures to advocate for the completion of the study and convince the village to spend the money required. A path along 31st Street would provide easier access to the Salt Creek Trail, which connects to other bike trails. 

In addition to making with 31st Street a more bike-friendly place, Knasiak looks forward to a future where bike lanes connect Brookfield from north to south. His vision includes a community where residents' first instinct is to walk or cycle and not take a car to get around town.

"The kind of town where people are actively moving from one place to another also engenders more community interaction as well," Knasiak said. "So you get to meet your neighbors more often, because you're not in a car having a little bit of road rage at them at the Eight Corners."

More information is available at the group's website, cyclebrookfield.com, or by emailing questions to info@cyclebrookfield.com. 

General meetings for Cycle Brookfield take place every third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at Slager's On 47th, 9308 47th Street. 

The next First Friday Ride is Aug. 2. Riders are asked to meet at Compassion Factory Art Gallery and Studio, 9210 Broadway Ave. at 6:30 p.m. The 10K bike ride ends with drinks and conversation at Little Owl Social Pub, 3747 Grand Blvd.

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Helen Vogel  

Posted: July 30th, 2019 2:51 PM

Chris- thank you for the additional information, I am pleased to know you are all protected. As much as I would like to join you, my husband and I (and our 8 bikes!) moved from Oak Park to Tucson 3 years ago. I wish you great success in the growth of your group- pedal on.

Christopher Valadez  

Posted: July 29th, 2019 3:25 PM

Helen, thanks for the message. I can assure we do absolutely advocate for the use of helmets at all times. This picture was taken prior to the ride in a parking lot and many yet to strap on the helmet. However, I would encourage you to join our group and share your experiences with the group. Thanks!

Helen Vogel  

Posted: July 29th, 2019 2:30 PM

As an advocacy group, you should advocate for a helmet policy. The picture has a small handful of participants wearing helmets. From personal experience and the great work of the Loyal trauma unit, helmets DO save lives.

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