I Support Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Posted 05/25/18 by Brenda Dixon in America's Trails, Trail Use

Brenda Dixon | Photo by Jovanka Novakovic/Bauwerks

In each issue of Rails to Trails magazine, we highlight a member of our national trail community. Special thanks to Brenda Dixon for supporting America’s rail-trails!

What I Do

I am a research and analysis manager for the Division of Strategy and Analytics for the Illinois State Board of Education.

My Cycling Experience

Brenda Dixon | Photo by Jovanka Novakovic/Bauwerks
Brenda Dixon | Photo by Jovanka Novakovic/Bauwerks

I joined the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago in 2013. The club is named after legendary African-American cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor, who was one of the most celebrated bicycle racers of the late-19th century, setting several world records and winning numerous races all over the world.

For the past two years, I have served as a board member of the club. Prior to serving on the board, I served as chair of the membership and events committee working under the board manager of events, James McCoy. I have also served on the cycling advocacy committee under previous club chairman Shawn Conley and founding member Dr. Ed Dixon.

I recently started my own nonprofit organization, Community and Neighborhood Improvement Project, also known as CNIP Chicago. CNIP is focused on the improvement of current trails in my community and the development of additional trails along our rail lines and bike lanes or sharrows that will connect our communities to other popular trails throughout the Chicagoland area and the state of Illinois.

I also serve as vice president of Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, and I am a member of the leadership team for Women RUN the World, a health and fitness group that primarily focuses on running, but includes other fitness activities, such as cycling. 

Favorite Trail Activity

Cycling and walking

Favorite Rail-Trail

The Major Taylor Trail (MTT) here in Chicago. I am currently managing a grant that I wrote and received from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust to create a mural on a bridge over the Little Calumet River that connects the MTT to Cook County Forest Preserves’ Whistler Woods. The bridge is currently covered with graffiti. We’re also developing site plans for river access and a bike kiosk.

I am most passionate about the MTT for two reasons. First, it is practically in my backyard—approximately 8 blocks away—and ends at my second favorite pastime, sitting on the banks of rivers and lakes! Second, the Major Taylor Trail is one of Chicago's few truly urban trails, connecting several neighborhoods on the city's southwest side.

DON'T MISS: Honoring the Legacy of African-American Cycling Legend Major Taylor

Why I Dedicate My Time to Helping Others Ride

As a child and through my teen years, I cycled all over the city as an escape from some of the pains of my harsh childhood. I found the euphoric feeling of cycling to be the best cure for unhappiness ever! It is literally impossible to be sad and ride a bike at the same time, and the euphoria lingers long after you are done riding.

Also, becoming an avid cyclist has literally saved my life from a health perspective. I spent most of my adulthood not cycling, and I didn’t pick it up again until I moved back to my childhood home in 2011. At this time, I was almost 300 pounds and had diabetes. [Also] round this time, I was introduced to Women RUN the World. When we went out on runs, I could not keep up with any of the ladies because my flat feet and shins would hurt so much that I would cry. I wanted to keep up, so I pulled out my eldest son’s old bike and rode along side the ladies as they ran.

All of the memories and joy of riding immediately came back to me. I was hooked again, and the rest is history.

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Most Impactful Trail Biking Experience I’ve Had to Date

My most impactful cycling experience was the Salisbury Seagull Century in October 2016. This was the first time that I completed a full century ride. This was quite an accomplishment for me and an amazing experience with friends. 

Advice to Others Getting on a Bike for the First Time (or After a Long Time Away)

JUST DO IT! Don’t hold yourself to the expectations of other bicyclists, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

When I first got back on a bicycle, I was only physically fit to ride for about 4 or 5 miles at [a speed of] about 7 or 8 miles per hour. The leadership of my cycling club encouraged me to become a ride leader and post the pace of my ride so that other similar riders would know the expected pace. I became the ride leader of what is now called the “Monday Night Malarkey” ride on the Old Plank Trail.

To my joy and disbelief, several people came out every week to formally teach me the skills and safety rules of bicycling. After that, many new members began to join the club because they saw a ride that was designed for beginner riders. The following year, the club created a series of developmental rides to teach "newbies."

If it had not been for the more advanced riders helping, teaching and guiding me, I would never have learned or experienced the joy of long-distance riding. Every cycling season, I now participate in a few development rides as an instructor to give to others the gift that my cycling club gave to me.

Favorite inspirational quote

"If you treat an individual as he is, he will stay as he is, but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be," by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. This is my favorite quote, primarily because it is derived from the scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). I consciously attempt to live my life by these principles every day. 

Why I support RTC

I support RTC because of its commitment to being a national voice for advocating for more walkable and bikeable trails across America, including in my community!

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