Bike the Ridge brings communities together for an annual, non-motorized view of Ridge Avenue


Daily file photo by Iris Swarthout

The Bike the Ridge event in 2022. Ridge Avenue, usually a busy street, will be open only to pedestrians and cyclists on Sunday morning.

Iris Swarthout, Audience Engagement Editor

Participants of this year’s Bike the Ridge enjoyed the freedom to bike up and down Ridge Avenue this Sunday — without cars. 

The stretch of road between Howard and Church was shut down between 8 a.m and 2 p.m. Sunday to make room for the event, which lasted between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Evanston sponsored the event, which featured food and music at Ridgeville Park, in collaboration with Ridgeville Park District and Northshore University HealthSystem.

For residents like Kellogg Prof. Klaus Weber, Bike the Ridge was perfect for his family of bikers. “We always go with the kids because they get a kick out of it,” he said. “Being able to bike on a road that is otherwise non-bikeable … it feels like one day in the year you can actually own the city and enjoy it.”

Unlike other Evanston traditions, the event has occurred throughout the past few years despite the pandemic. Students from School of Rock Evanston performed covers at Ridgeville Park, the epicenter of the celebration. Local businesses like Cocina Azteca and Soul & Smoke set up food stands for attendees. 

The food and entertainment were accents to the community experience of biking down Ridge Avenue. Michael Miro, the event chair for Bike the Ridge, said the event started around 2008 when former 8th Ward Ald. Ann Rainey felt South Evanston needed a community event. 

“You just look at Ridge in a new way when there’s no cars because it’s kind of a tough street to ride on (with them),” he said. “But when you’re just biking (without cars), you really appreciate the historic nature of Ridge and how beautiful it is.”

Miro isn’t employed by Evanston or Ridgeville Park District. Instead, he works with the two organizations to officiate Bike the Ridge.

Ridgeville Park Program Director Natalie Sallee said partnerships like the one between the city of Evanston and Ridgeville Park District help expand community programming and introduce collaborations with other groups, like School of Rock Evanston.

Though Sallee said community is an important aspect of Bike the Ridge, the event is also rooted in environmentalism and fitness. 

“It’s a good chance (for) local, young high school students to celebrate their talents because they’re all really great,” she said. “I think it’s about being outside (and) celebrating the end of warm weather … getting your blood flowing, moving your body as a community together.” 

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Twitter: @swarthout_iris

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