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Todd Ricketts: Bikes can help solve some of the world’s problems

Todd Ricketts moments before last year’s Wrigley Field Road Tour kicked off.

Todd Ricketts moments before last year’s Wrigley Field Road Tour kicked off.

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Updated: October 18, 2013 2:25PM

When I was growing up in Nebraska, we didn’t have a lot. This meant that the only bike I ever owned was a hand-me-down from Woolworth’s. The crank on the bike was broken, and would lock up when I pedaled down the street.

One night, I left my bike in the driveway (everyone did back then), and it was stolen. I was ecstatic! Now my parents would have to get me a new bike. Sadly, whoever stole my bike also realized the crank was broken, and threw it in a ditch down the street from our house.

Today, I don’t just like bikes — I love them. Maybe it’s bikes’ carefree, childlike nature. Or maybe it’s the sense of community we get from biking, which pulls us out of the cocoon of the daily commute. I now own a bike shop in my neighborhood, and the satisfaction I get from seeing my neighbors embrace cycling cannot be put into words.

Though bikes likely can’t solve many of the world’s problems, they can go a long way toward mitigating them. For instance: If you don’t like paying $5 for a gallon of gas, ride your bike. If you’re concerned about the environment and global warming, if you notice that our urban infrastructures can no longer handle the traffic demands of society, if you’re concerned about public health or just need to lose a few pounds — ride your bike.

Now think outside of our communities and neighborhoods. Think of the daily tasks people of Africa perform each day just to survive. Bikes provide a simple solution to many complicated problems in the developing world. They allow health care workers to deliver medicine to the sick and elderly. They allow a mother to fetch water from long distances. They allow an entrepreneur to deliver his goats to market. And most importantly, bikes give children in rural areas an opportunity for an education that they would otherwise be denied.

Four years ago, I got involved with World Bicycle Relief. The organization was founded by F.K. Day right here in Chicago to help those in the developing world. It has delivered more than 100,000 bikes to health care workers, mothers, entrepreneurs and school children in these areas, impacting millions of lives.

Each year, to support these efforts, the Chicago Cubs Charities teams up with WBR for the Wrigley Field Road Tour, which helps spread the word about the impact of bicycles in the lives of those less fortunate than us. We do this by opening the gates of Wrigley Field to cyclists of all kinds and riding 100 miles around our own community, culminating with a barbecue on the field.

On Sunday, we again will set out from Wrigley Field on our bikes for a 100-mile ride. Visit
roadtour to sign up.

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