Bike riding is one of the things we associate with an all-American childhood, but nowadays it seems that adventure has been replaced with more modern indoor pursuits.
Fortunately, Chicago's Active Transportation Alliance has two events bookending the summer designed to get your family freewheeling with the best of them.
"For us, it's a celebration," says Ethan Spotts, marketing and communications director for the Alliance. "There's something very inspirational and celebratory about riding a bike. It's just a way we bring people together and they have a really great experience."
Bike the Drive. For once, you don't have to be stuck in Lake Shore Drive traffic on Memorial Day weekend. Bike the Drive closes 30 miles of road (from the Museum of Science and Industry to the Bryn Mawr Avenue rest stop) to cars for four hours.
You can choose the length of your route, and there are three rest stops along the route so you can take a break when little legs start to get tired. The Alliance recommends arriving early and then staying to enjoy the post-race festival that includes breakfast, music, bike gear and a kids' zone.
The event starts at 5:30 a.m., but don't worry, you don't have to start leaving the Drive till 9:45. They recommend starting around 7:30.
The Four Star Bike Tour. You can choose from four routes, ranging from 12 to 65 miles. The event takes place early on a Sunday morning to limit car interference, and there are rest stops along the way.
Each of the rides explores different aspects and areas of the city. The shortest route (and the best for families), the Chicago Ramble, goes through the UIC campus, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Chinatown, Prairie Avenue and Dearborn Park.
The Active Transportation Alliance's policy is "if you pedal, you pay." So little ones in trailers or bike seats are free, while those on tag-along bikes or their own wheels pay the youth rate.
"If your child is [already] biking with you around the community, it's a great opportunity," Spotts says. "We'd love to have families join us."
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.