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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Notes from the Illinois cycling scene

Some random notes about cycling in Illinois:

BRAKELESS BIKES: Last Sunday, the Chicago Tribune wrote about the fixed-gear bike trend, and newspapers throughout the country are picking up the story.

There's just one problem: Riding a bicycle without brakes on streets and highways is illegal in Illinois.

Nevertheless, many cyclists are jumping onto fixed-gear bikes because they see them as a pure form of cycling. Critics say running fixed-gear bikes on the street without brakes are a traffic hazard.

BIKE TRAIL TO CLOSE: Thanks to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's round of state budget cuts, 11 state parks are slated to close, including the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, Channahon Parkway State Park, Gebhard Woods State Park in Morris and Illini State Park in Marseilles.

The Hennepin Canal Parkway is a 104.5-mile linear park that spans five counties (Rock Island, Bureau, Henry, Lee and Whiteside). The canal's towpath today is a popular destination for cyclists and is a part of the Grand Illinois Trail.

Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, told the LaSalle News-Tribune that closing the trial could have a devastating impact on northern Illinois tourism. Barsotti told the paper that if the state allows the Hennepin Canal Parkway, which received federal funds for its construction as a bike path, to go into dispair, the federal government could withhold highway funds.

“The Hennepin Canal, also the I & M (Illinois and Michigan Canal), which is affected — that’s a major, major part, a highlight of the trail. And here we are, after making a huge investment. We’re going to lose that,” Barsotti told the paper. “I think the state has put too low of a priority on tourism in Illinois. Bicycling is one part of that, and it’s a growing interest throughout the country.”

The Lockport-based Canal Corridor Association says the Channahon and Gebhard Wood parks are major access points for users of the I&M Canal State Trail, a 61.5-mile trail from Rockdale to LaSalle that uses the old towpath for the I&M Canal, which links the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers.

The canals were built to link the Chicago area to the Mississippi River, ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico. Both became obsolete as barges became bigger and the larger Illinois Waterway, which connects the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers was completed.

The Canal Corridor Association is urging people to contact Blagojevich and state legislators to keep access to the trails open.

The budget cuts don't affect any trails in the metro-east, but they also affect historic sites in our area. Fort de Chartres, the Pierre Menard Home and Fort Kaskaskia, which are on this year's Illinois Great Rivers Ride, will be closed because of the cuts.

ANOTHER ILLINOIS BICYCLE TRAGEDY: This week has not been a good one for Illinois bicyclists. An Illinois man was killed when he was struck by a Kentucky state trooper's car, four Amish men were injured when a motorist struck their bike, and now a 13-year-old Springfield boy was killed Friday night when he was struck by a Jeep.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reported the boy was trying to cross busy Veterans Parkway at Lawrence Street. Initial police reports indicate the Jeep, which was driving on Veterans Parkway, had a green light, driving with the flow of traffic and had the right of way and that the boy entered his path.

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