Interview with John Greenfield
John Greenfield is co-editor of the blog Grid Chicago along with urban planner Steven Vance. He and Steven authored separate blogs for many years. I sat down with him to talk about cycling in Chicago.
FOB: Why did you start Grid Chicago?
JOHN: Steven and I were doing separate blogs. I was doing a daily blog about transportation – walking, biking, transit. Really focused on sustainable transportation. The blog still exists at votewithyourfeetchicago.blogspot.com. Steve was doing his blogging at stevencanplan.com about urban planning issues. We both wanted to do something bigger, something similar to Streets Blog out of New York but it was too expensive. Dave Glowacz, who introduced us, suggested we start our own which we did in June 2011. It combines our interests in sustainable transportation and urban planning issues.
FOB: How did you begin cycling?
JOHN: I’ve been riding since childhood. I was a bike messenger throughout my college years, work that I continued after college.
FOB: How did you continue your involvement in the cycling community?
JOHN: I worked for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (now the Active Transportation Alliance) and for Boulevard Bikes. I wrote a book, Bars Across America: Drinking and Biking from Coast to Coast (Pint Size Press, 2010), telling the story of my bike journey from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I’ve written for many cycling publications and contributed, along with Greg Borzo, to On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life, an anthology edited by Momentum magazine cofounder Amy Walker.
FOB: How would you describe the current cycling culture in Chicago?
JOHN: It’s one of the great bike communities in the country which probably comes from its early history in cycling. Early on, like in the early 1990’s, there wasn’t much infrastructure to support cycling but that has changed a lot. The grid street system of the city makes it an easy place to navigate. Mayor (Richard M.) Daley made a lot of good things happen in cycling. He was very influenced by Randy Neufeld, then Executive Director of Active Transportation Alliance. Under Daley, the city began installing bike racks and bike lanes. The concept for the Bloomingdale Trail was conceived in the early 2000’s but the city dragged its feet on implementation until now. Neufeld’s influence continued in the new administration as Mayor Emanuel added him to his transition team. Many of Neufeld’s recommendations were included in the Mayor’s transition report. Emanuel chose Gabe Klein to implement many of those recommendations including 25 miles of protected bike lanes, 3000 bike sharing facilities, and the building of Bloomingdale Trail by 2014.
Lots of great things are happening in the city. It’s moving forward well. The demographics of biking have opened up. More young and old and other diverse groups are biking. More neighborhoods are getting involved in biking or using bikes as youth outreach.
Friends of Blackstone Library presents author Greg Borzo Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in “Cycling Chicago”, 6-7:00pm. Blackstone Library is located at 4904 S. Lake Park Ave. Blackstone Public Library is a branch of the Chicago Public Library.