Area cyclists celebrate summer’s last stand

Susan Du

While some Northwestern students snoozed their Sunday morning away, nearly 2,000 eager bikers gathered at nearby Dawes Park to participate in the North Shore Century, reputed to be the North Shore’s last major bike event of summer.

Even though a light rain dampened most of the registration proceedings at Dawes Park, the turnout was greater than seven of the last 15 years combined, said Neal Ney, North Shore Century chairperson.

Ney, a self-described “adrenaline junkie,” said he has worked for the bike ride for 13 years because he always expects the event to be exciting.

“There’s just a lot of stuff going on,” he said as he rushed around moving tents, checking that registration papers were well stocked and finding lost iPhones. “I got to see three sunrises on the lakefront this week. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Bikers get the choice of participating in one of five routes: the 25-, 50-, 62-, 70- or 100-mile rides. The 100-mile route, which organizers agreed is the most popular option, extends up to Kenosha, Wis.

Participating riders ranged from grade school kids fresh off their training wheels to veteran couples on tandems. Though five or six charities participated as fundraisers, the majority of bikers were individuals from Chicago or the surrounding suburbs who just showed up to ride for fun.

One charity in attendance was the Chicago Blood Cancer Foundation, an organization “committed to curing lymphoma, leukemia and myeloma,” according to a pamphlet. It was the beneficiary of nearly 60 participating bikers who have some stake in blood research.

Scott Seaman, author of “Battling and Beating Cancer,” ran the booth for CBCF. He said he believes in raising money for blood research because “almost every type of cancer treatment available today was developed through blood therapy.”

Of the bikers benefiting CBCF, one of the youngest was 13-year-old Samantha Lask. She said she needed to do a good deed in honor of her bat mitzvah, and since her grandfather had died of cancer three years ago, CBCF seemed like an obvious choice. With the help of her family, Lask rounded up 18 riders and $5,000 for charity.

“I wanted to do something active,” said Lask, who joined her immediate family in riding the 25-mile route around Evanston.

Although some bikers rode only for recreational purposes, others showed up to advocate for alternative transportation solutions.

Jeff Miller of the Evanston Bicycle Club said the North Shore Century was its main fundraiser of the year for bike-related causes. The money they raised at Sunday’s event will go toward the Evanston Police Department’s bike programs, school districts for bike training, used bike store The Recyclery and the World Bicycle Relief donation fund, among other causes.

Miller said although he couldn’t be sure if the Evanston Bicycle Club’s advocacy alone transformed the city into the model of sustainability it is today, it’s undeniable that Evanston has made great strides toward becoming greener every year.

“Yes, we’ve had an impact on Evanston and North Shore,” Miller said. “Just for example, I’ve noticed more bike routes here than there used to be 10 years ago.”

The North Shore Century marks the beginning of the week containing the Chicagoland Car Free Day. And although it’s billed as the last great ride of summer, Sunday’s ride precedes Bike the Ridge, an Oct. 2 event in which Ridge Avenue is closed for six hours and opened to area cyclists.

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