Ride IllinoisRide Illinois
October 11, 2020

Reflections on Year One

Hey Friends, It’s Dave. It has been just more than one year since I took on the role of executive director of Ride Illinois. And, what a year it’s been! Nonprofit bike advocacy is a challenging profession in a normal year. It was supposed to be a year spent traveling the state to meet local advocates, attending the National Bike Summit, and enjoying my first Grand Illinois Bike Tour. Instead, much of the year has been spent on phone calls, webinars, and Zoom meetings. While the communication method may have changed, Ride Illinois’ mission to make biking better in Illinois has still been front and center. That has been the nonprofit bike advocacy organization’s focus since 1992, when it was established as the League of Illinois Bicyclists.

As the new guy, I was determined to get up to speed quickly and make an immediate impact. Many thanks to Ed, Gina, and the Ride Illinois board for their willingness to share their time and talent. When COVID-19 emerged and altered our approach to advocacy, we worked tirelessly to identify solutions and ensure that our important work continues on behalf of all cyclists in Illinois. The result was a series of informative webinars, guidelines for Cycling During the Pandemic, the first virtual Illinois Bike Summit, a collaborative Value Workshop that focused on the organization’s impact in the future, and so much more. The term ‘pivot’ is a bit overused, but it’s also an accurate term to describe the approach taken by Ride Illinois in 2020. In other words, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Let’s just say that there was an abundance of lemons in the past 12 months!

When all is said and done, and despite the unforeseen challenges, I truly enjoyed my first year as executive director of Ride Illinois. This role is a dream job for someone who knows the transformative, life-changing impact a bicycle can have. Whether you ride a bike for recreation, transportation, or both, your bike is part of your identity. As Pee Wee Herman once said, “I wouldn’t sell my bike for all the money in the world. Not for a hundred million, trillion, billion dollars!” Chances are that you can personally relate to that sentiment.

As a result of my role, I have had the genuine pleasure of meeting and collaborating with so many talented, wonderful people in the past year. Derek, Romina, Oboi, Julie, Jeff, Shameka, Bert, Kevin, Matt, Sid, Lee Ann, Rochelle, Molly, Keith, and Amy (to name a few) – the pleasure is all mine and I commend you for your commitment and truly appreciate your friendship. Bikes bring people from different backgrounds and ways of life together. What unites all of us across age, ability, race, gender, socio-economic status, political affiliation, etc. is our shared love of the simple pleasure of riding a bike. The joy of the wind in your hair, the escape from the daily grind of work and family obligations, the understanding that your bike is a part of who you are – these are important aspects of your identity. Let’s use our bikes to find common ground, to meet new people, to reduce our impact on the planet, to enact positive change, and to go to interesting places!

As I look to the future of Ride Illinois and the impact that cycling will have on the lives of Illinois residents, I am unapologetically positive. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ride Illinois sees the simple, humble bicycle as a solution to many of the issues our society currently faces. If you agree, please support and share our mission to “make biking better in Illinois.” I am excited about the next year as executive director and look forward to connecting with more individuals who are looking to have a positive impact in their community. Please contact me at dave@rideillinois.org to start or continue the conversation. Thanks!