Interview with the Major Taylor Cycling Club Chicago
I’d been trying to contact the Major Taylor Cycling Club Chicago to no avail when into Blackstone Bicycle Works walks the man in the photo with his Major Taylor shirt on. It was magic. There are hundreds of cycling clubs across the area but this one, named for the famous African-American cyclist, operates primarily on the south side of Chicago. I talked with the club’s president, Ed Dixon, about its history and philosophy.
FOB: Tell me about the start of the Club?
ED: Cycling (in Chicago) is as racially segregated as the city. I was approached by Keith Holt who was then working for the Chicago Bicycle Federation (now the Active Transportation Alliance), to form a club on the south side. So in October 2007, with twelve charter members, we began the Major Taylor Cycling Club Chicago (MTC3). Our mission is threefold: 1) to create more opportunities to cycle, 2) to advocate for more cycling on the south side including improved infrastructure, and 3) to get more young people involved in cycling. We want young people to see the future of cycling as recreation, sport, and a professional career.
There are now twenty-five members with seventy-five others who ride with us but are not currently members. During the riding season, there are about four to five rides a week. They include many different kinds of rides: along the lakefront from 67th St. to Hollywood, from Chicago to Michigan City or easier rides known as the “ice cream” rides which are short and geared towards beginners. The rides are designed for varying abilities and varying scenery. There are also overnight rides where we take the train to a city like St. Louis and then bike the Lewis & Clark Trail.
FOB: How do you want to reach out to youth?
ED: We’d like to take youth on overnight [biking] and camping trips but it’s really involved so we’ve talked about collaborating with Blackstone Bike Works.
There’s lots more that we could do but some members want to ride more while others are really into advocacy. We have to find the right balance.
FOB: Why do people join cycling clubs?
ED: Some join because they want to be with others that like to do the same things they do. Others know that there’s safety in numbers when riding with a group. It’s also a great way to learn from others like how to fix your own flat tire or how to pick a bike. It’s possible too to experience a wider variety of rides given that different people want to do different types of rides. Being able to experience a diversity of riding experiences along with developing a community is important. Club membership can also provide discounts on bicycle parts and services.
FOB: Let’s go back to something you said earlier. You mentioned that cycling is as segregated as the city. What did you mean by that?
ED: When I first started riding there were only a few other African-American riders that I would see. And often when you see groups of riders, they’re not very integrated. Many clubs don’t even know that we exist so we’re trying to promote our rides to others across the city. Last year we posted a few of our rides online at ChainLink. We got a four or five people to join us. I mean, people have their ideas about riding south of downtown. The trail ends for them at 55th St. or 71st & South Shore Cultural Center or 79th St. so it’s nice to invite people to see what else is out here.
We also ride north to make people aware of our club and we volunteer for some of the major cycling events like Bike the Drive. Some of the members are involved in other clubs too and they serve as bridges for us to those other clubs.
FOB: How can someone find out more about the club?
ED: Visit our website at www.mtc3il.org. We welcome all comers.
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.