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He traded his car for a bike

July 31, 2012|By Steven Chaitman | For RedEye

Bill Bushnell just let a microbrewery take away his car. For the next year, he will ride a bicycle everywhere he goes.

Bushnell, 28, of Elmhurst, made the pledge July 21 as part of New Belgium Brewing Co.'s Tour de Fat, a traveling bicycle and beer carnival that stops in Chicago each summer and culminates in one person trading in his or her car for a bike.

"What we're really trying to do is inspire people to rethink transportation choices," said Michael Craft, Tour de Fat nonprofit liaison.

That's exactly what Bushnell did. His decision to apply for the trade was an easy one for Bushnell, who has become a sort of born-again bicycling enthusiast over the last year.

"When gas prices were going up a lot I was standing at the gas pump watching the dollars just tick away, and I thought there's got to be something I can do to reduce this," he said.

He recalled biking to and from school as a child and dug his old bicycle out of his parents' garage with the intent of riding it work. His bike was too small, however, with some parts beyond repair.

So Bushnell bought a low-end bike, but even that wasn't meant to endure the miles he was starting to put on from his 7-mile round-trip commute each day. He needed more reliable --and consequently costly--transportation when he recalled the Tour de Fat trade.

Bushnell submitted a video in which he attempts to use a variety of other "modes of transportation" to avoid driving his car, including a rocking horse and plastic car. His plea was heard, and in exchange for his 1996 Nissan 200sx, New Belgium gave him $2,500 for a new commuter bike and accessories.

He bought his new wheels from Performance Bike Shop in Lombard: a 2011 Fuji Cross 3.0, a cyclo-cross bike that blends the comfort and design of a road bike with the durability of an off-road bike.

Given the suburbs are not as bike-friendly as the city, Bushnell faces more of a challenge in his commitment to cycling.

"(Elmhurst) is not very well set up for cyclists, which is actually something they're working on changing," said the IT programmer for a marketing agency. "Drivers are not used to cyclists, so they don't know what to do. Some of them are overly cautious to the point where it's actually dangerous, and others are impatient."

Bushnell said he hopes his unique situation will make him a voice people are willing to listen to in terms of improving the biking infrastructure of the city.

But what Bushnell said he most looks forward to is "evangelizing" and inspiring more cyclists. He will be tracking his experiences on his blog, forwardatspeed.com.

"Even if they don't commit to the level that I've committed at for the next year … I hope that over the next year I can get more people to take the leap and just try it out," he said.

And he's gotten a good start. Bushnell has already inspired his boss, a manager at Performance Bike Shop, and even his wife to try riding more often.

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