Cyclical History

John Boyer, dean of the College of the University of Chicago, is saying something historical. There’s a crowd of close to 50 bikers trying to listen to him speak through his faulty megaphone, most of them wearing complimentary ponchos given out by the University Community Service Center that morning. The UCSC is coordinating the event, but the South Side History Bike Tour is really run by Dean Boyer and the two men standing next to him: Terry Clark, professor of sociology, and Mark Hansen, dean of social sciences. The three of them are dressed for biking, and Dean Hansen especially looks ready for the Alps stage of the Tour de France.

Passing the megaphone amongst themselves they all have something unbelievable to share–that cattycorner from the White Castle on 35th and MLK there used to be a Confederate prison; that Chicago’s location wasn’t chosen for the wind or the views, but because it straddles a continental divide; that Professor Clark knew the political advisor for Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African American mayor.

Credit for the idea of a bike tour through Chicago goes to Professor Clark, who used to take his classes on bike trips through the city. No one’s really sure how long the official South Side History Bike Tour has been in existence (consensus says this is the 13th anniversary), but most everyone can agree that the event has never had weather quite like this. It’s wet and it’s cold–it’s expletive wet and it’s expletive cold–and less than half of the 105 registered participants show. During the four-hour ride one breaks a pedal, another a chain, and Dean Boyer a promise: that he’ll do his best to incorporate his specialty, the Habsburg Empire, into the tour. He doesn’t succeed. A dry, sunny bike tour is being considered for this upcoming May. (Harrison Smith)

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