Evanston residents enjoy once-a-year biking treat

Ali Elkin

Teetering children on training wheels and parent-child pairs on tandem bicycles took advantage of the opportunity to ride down the middle of Ridge Avenue on Sunday during Evanston’s “Bike the Ridge” event. About 1,000 cyclists, as well as pedestrians, skateboarders and in-line skaters, came to enjoy the sunny weather on a section of the street that was closed to traffic from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., said Tom Janetske of Evanston Emergency Management Services, which monitored the event and directed traffic with the help of about 30 community volunteers.The idea for the first “Bike the Ridge,” which was held last year, originated with Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), said event organizer Anjana Hansen, a former 9th ward alderman. The event originated last year as a way to celebrate the repaving of Ridge Avenue, Hansen said. “Alderman Ann Rainey thought it would be a good thing to inaugurate the newly paved road,” she said. “We just had such a great turnout and feedback last year that we thought we’d do it again this year.”That Ridge is usually not open to cyclists adds to the popularity of the event, Hansen said. “You can’t ride bikes on Ridge any other time of year, so it’s a little bit of a novelty,” she said. “I think the residents on Ridge also appreciate it being closed to traffic, too.”Hansen said this year’s event attracted more vendors along Ridge Avenue than last year’s. Hot dog carts and Cub Scouts selling popcorn, some in corn cob-shaped hats, dotted several of the street corners. Some local bike shops also had booths set up along the route. Anne Barnes, marketing director for Turin Bicycle, 1027 Davis St., was handing out stickers and temporary tattoos so small cyclists could decorate their bikes and themselves. Barnes was on the committee that organized the event. “This is a beautiful street in downtown Evanston and, once a year, it’s ours,” Barnes said. Cardelle Spangler, who attended the event with her husband and two children, said her family enjoyed the change of scenery at their first “Bike the Ridge.” “It’s great,” Spangler said. “We don’t usually ride outside the neighborhood.”Spangler asked her young daughter, Noelle, who rode a “Dora the Explorer” two-wheeler with training wheels, whether she preferred riding on the street or on her sidewalk. With a conspiratorial grin, Noelle said, “In the street.”Hansen said residents will be able to “bike the Ridge” again next year. [email protected]