Bikes! The Green Revolution at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Through Sept. 19

Chicago is in the process of expanding bicycle access across the city, with several miles of protected lanes emerging on city streets over the next couple of years.  As the city looks to the future with its ambitious Bike 2015 Plan, a new exhibit at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park is looking back at Chicago’s bike origins.

Bikes! The Green Revolution looks at the evolution of bikes and biking with a focus on Chicago’s important role in the process. The history lesson is augmented by presentations that explore the city’s current bike-friendly offerings, as well as opportunities that increase biking’s reach as a form of sustainable transportation. Though designed to appeal to younger children, the exhibit proves fascinating for all ages.

Bikes! opens strong, displaying bicycles dating from the late 1800s to the present, complete with explanatory histories on each. Presented chronologically in order of production, the selections offer an interesting, wide-angle view of bicycle development both in terms of construction and public use, from the towering high-mount bike with its exaggerated front wheel that was popular in late 1800s high society to the modern-day everyman street bike. The older bikes dominate, of course, looking as much like antique works of art as they do utilitarian devices.

Revelations about Chicago’s cycling past are fascinating, as well.

By the 1890s, Chicago was a busy bicycle manufacturing hub, with over two thirds of the United States’ bikes being produced within 150 miles of the city. Velodromes for racing stood in Garfield and Humboldt Parks. And from 1895 to 1983, the city was home to Arnold, Schwinn & Company – a company whose advancements would revolutionize the way the world perceived and rode bicycles. Brief, but extensive displays detail all of these developments and more.

Moving into the present and future, Bikes! takes a decidedly kid-focused turn as it runs through current Chicago biking highlights, bike repair and construction and sustainability issues….

Click the link to read more of Phil Morehart’s review of the exhibit. If you are interested in learning more about the role of transit in sustainable urban planning, the Roosevelt seminar SUST 320 Sprawl, Transportation, and Planning (offered this this fall as a hybrid course meeting in Schaumburg and online) may be of interest. For more information on these or any other of our courses, please visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email

This entry was posted in exhibits, transportation. Bookmark the permalink.