Apparently no one told the Evanston Bicycle Club that a major parade would kick off at noon today in downtown Waukegan just as the bulk of 2,100 cyclists would be pedaling by in the 26th annual North Shore Century ride on a picture-perfect Sunday.
Cyclists gather outside the ETHS field house before departure.
But club officials, aided by a cadre of volunteer amateur radio operators in a small room off the Evanston Township High School Field House, quickly turned a potential disaster into a minor headache as they routed the riders around Waukegan’s annual Hispanic American “Fiestas Patrias” Parade on the final sector of a 100-mile roundtrip ride from Evanston to Kenosha, WI, and back. An optional shortcut from Gurnee to Waukegan was available for those who wanted a shorter 70-mile trip.
Clear skies, low humidity, and mild temperatures attracted a record number of cyclists for the annual benefit that helps the club raise more than $25,000 that they donate to youth groups and advocacy programs aimed at making the world safer, healthier, and enjoyable for bicyclists. Last year, some 1,800 registered for the event, while this year’s unofficial final total was 2,163, according to a club officer.
Some cyclists complained of being ticketed in Kenosha for running stop signs and in Lake Forest for riding three abreast. On one stretch, broken glass was reported on the roadway. Otherwise, there were a few flat tires and at least one incident of two cyclists colliding, with only minor scrapes or bruises reported.
About 20 members of the North Shore Radio Club handled communications for the event. Four of the hams manned the Central Command, while the rest were stationed at the five rest stops and in seven support vehicles.
Volunteer ham radio operators at Central Command.
Disabled riders would phone the Central Command, which would radio instructions to nearby support vehicles that would give the cyclists a hand and even a ride to the nearest rest stop, if necessary, where refreshments and repair facilities were available. The support vehicles were equipped with tracking radios (also supplied by the hams) that posted their locations on maps displayed on laptop computers at Central Command.