In 2005, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis thought that the annual National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) needed to include a bike ride as a way to promote cycling and physical fitness to the attending legislators. Senator Ellis approached BikeTexas for help in making it happen.
Eight years later, the ride is still going strong. Last year’s ride in San Antonio was hard to beat: Legislators, legislative staff, and their families toured the 12-mile mission trail from the Alamo to Mission Espada. This year’s ride in Chicago may have topped even that, with more legislators than ever, including Texas hosts Rodney Ellis and Linda Harper-Brown, along with Christine Radogno, Illinois Senate GOP Leader, and Dorsey Ridley, a long time ride supporter from the Kentucky Senate.
For the first time the ride saw participation from national advocates, with Caron Whitaker from America Bikes and Randy Neufeld from SRAM Corporation in attendance. At the last minute, Chicago’s pro-bike transportation commissioner Gabe Klein also rolled up to join in the fun.
Other Texas Legislators on the ride included Rep. Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs and Rep. Larry Taylor of League City.
Six BikeTexas staff members left Austin on August 4 with two vehicles plus trailers loaded down with our fleet of 150 bicycles, tents, tables, registration supplies, and bike tools and stands from Park Tool. After a two-day, incident-free drive to Chicago, staff members were ready to scout out the route and the staging area to be ready for Wednesday’s ride.
Starting at 2 AM on August 8, BikeTexas staff and staff & volunteers from Active Transportation Alliance began preparing for the day’s ride. Helmets and all 150 bicycles had to be unloaded and checked so they were ready for ride participants to arrive at 6 AM. Additionally, staff made coffee and set out snacks so that riders would be ready to go by wheels-down time at 7:15. About 170 riders rode the Lakefront Trail, past some of Chicago’s great museums, and along some of the city’s bike routes. Many riders commented on how much they enjoyed the ride before getting down to the day’s business.