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A Livable City: Chicago-Style

There are a number of ingredients that make up a Livable City. People respond well to jobs, education, culture and good health, for example. That attracts more artists, entrepreneurs and happier citizens. You’ll also notice that a Livable City has bikes.

There’s a correlation between bikes, innovation and great food. We’ve had the good fortune to visit a number of Livable Cities lately (Providence, Boston, NYC, Seattle, Los Angeles, Berlin, Vienna, Las Vegas…). So far, only two of those cities left us without an easy bike solution (can you guess?).

Now our data has been strengthened by the City of Big Shoulders. Last weekend we visited the folks at Heritage Bicycle and General Store in Chicago. That shop of theirs is a microcosm of innovation, bikes and good food. Like pancakes, Heritage makes people happy.

We were there in their pop-up. It’s an old Metro bus outside with picnic tables and lots of pumpkins. Inside the shop, Aaron and Ben assembled hand-built Goblins, and the baristas were busy frothing and serving. They have a sharp team and a new shop opening called Littles. Instead of coffee, there’s a Milk & Cookies bar.

We met Nico – that was a highlight. Worldclass Alleycat, proprietor of 4 Star Courier, musician, and activist, he’s gearing up for Stockholm and Mexico City and planning Chicago’s Bike Film Fest next month. He visited after a CycloCross race that morning…on his fixie. Nico Deportago-Cabrera is a fan of the Cleverhood rain cape.

We used Divvy to get around. We even went to the heart of the operation where Deputy G.M. Elliot Greenburger proudly showed off his fleet of bikes in the depot. Just launched this summer, Divvy already has chalked up a half-million rides.

(Editor's note: People for Bikes just released real data showing that Chicago edged past Portland as the nation's No. 2 bike city)

Now, where's a good place to go next?