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The Chicago Race Riot Route Guidebooks

A couple months ago I came across a bike event in Chicago that was hosted by Newberry Library (legendary) and Blackstone Bicycle Works (wonderful) that invited riders to trace a 10mi route through Chicago's South Side and hear from speakers at historical sites along the way. The route commemorated the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, an important yet relatively unknown event in the city's history.

By day, I work for an app called Ride Spot, which is built to share riding experiences, lower barriers to cycling and build community around local bike shops. Specifically, I work with our Affiliates (bike shops, etc) to help them engage their riders with the platform. So when I came across this event, I felt compelled to reach out to Blackstone and Newberry to see if they'd like to use Ride Spot to help them promote this experience. They were on board, and the idea evolved quickly to become a fundraising campaign for Blackstone, so I volunteered to build route guidebooks to sell in addition to the generous donations from our sponsors, SRAM & ABUS.

It was really enjoyable to weave together my bike world and my book world again. I also had the pleasure of working with a few great bike shops in Chicago that I've known since back in my shop days. (Comrade Cycles, Heritage Bicycles and The Bike Lane - go check them out.)

Inside the book, we introduce the campaign and share another QR that invites you to see the route and download the Ride Spot app. Ride Spot features free turn-by-turn navigation to help riders find their way, and can track when you complete the route.

[Side note: I'm really keen on printing QR codes using letterpress and foilpress. There's something especially fun about using anachronistic printing methods to reproduce a pattern that can be read by the camera on most modern devices to continue to communication digitally. More on that later.]

For each stop along the route, there is a corresponding chapter in the book. The content for the chapters was contributed by Newberry Library as well as C. Peter Cole and Franklin Cosey Gay, who, in addition to having many other impressive titles, are also the founders of The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project. They are true authorities on the topic. They also recorded an audio tour to accompany the route, which expands on the book content and adds incredible context and dimension to the experience. (Truly - if you're going to ride the route, you must listen to the audio tour).




I've been enjoying these projects that involve more design and layout for the pages themselves. There is an aura of liberty to printing the pages and building the book from nothing. I get a similar feeling when I design and build Great Little Bike Books as well. In the age of the internet, when one can say anything they want to whoever they want, I feel a newfound intimacy when creating these small, specific, physical communication devices. And as I produce more of them, other ideas continue to surface. I'm working on a few projects like gravel route guides, "bike scout" handbooks with checklists and goals to earn "badges, a compilation of "two-word tales" I've been working on for years, and a self-published retail theory zine. If you have an idea or a project that you'd like to see in real-life book form, let's have a conversation.

Some production shots:


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