Chicago’s cyclists have historically had an enormous impact on building green spaces, strengthening community relations, lobbying for legislation, and influencing political campaigns. As early as 1897, Carter H. Harrison II capitalized on Chicago’s biking community by using the bicycle as a key strategy in his mayoral campaign. Harrison kicked off his political drive with a 100-mile bike ride from Chicago to Waukegan and back. He flooded the city with posters carrying the slogan, “Not the Champion Cyclist, But the Cyclists’ Champion.” Harrison believed that the support of Chicago cyclists won him the office of mayor. As a sign of appreciation, the mayor had a bike path built from Edgewater to Evanston.
During the 1960s and 1970s, another Chicago mayor, Richard J. Daley, became a champion for the city’s cycling community. In 1963, Daley had the city’s famous 18.5-mile lakefront trail officially designated as a bicycle path. This designation was one of Daley’s first plans to develop the city’s bikeway system. Throughout the 1970s, Daley worked to create Chicago’s first on-street cycle routes and commissioned rush-hour bike lanes on Clark and Dearborn Streets.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Mayor Richard M. Daley continued to make Chicago an ideal city for cyclists. In 1991, Daley created the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council in an effort to promote cycling and the extension of biking programs and resources. Within one year, the Council prepared the Bike 2000 Plan, which presented 31 recommendations to encourage bicycling in Chicago. Based on these recommendations, the City of Chicago established a network of 100 miles of on-street bike lanes and 50 miles of bike trails, install 10,000 bike racks throughout the city, produce educational biking publications; and create outreach programs. In addition, the City has worked with the Chicago Transit Authority to permit bikes on CTA trains and equip more than 2,000 CTA buses with bike racks. By 2002, the mayor’s administration had begun collaboration with the Department of Transportation and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, now the Active Transportation Alliance to present the Bike 2015 Plan. The 2015 Plan has two main objectives. The first is to increase bicycle use so that five percent of all trips of less than five miles are by bicycle. The second is to reduce the number of bicycle injuries by 50 percent. Mayor Richard M. Daley has also been instrumental in other cycling programs including the Bike Chicago Program, the Bike to Work Rally, Mayor Daley’s Bicycling Ambassadors, and the annual Bike the Drive event.