Chicago Sun-Times



Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) for years has railed and legislated against the “drag racing subculture” of motorcycle clubs wreaking havoc on DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Columbus Drive, Lower Wacker and the streets and sidewalks of her South Loop ward.

To crack down on those clubs, which she said are “hundreds” strong, Dowell championed an ordinance giving police the power to impound motorcycle­s, dirt bikes and other “non-highway vehicles” accused of drifting and drag racing.

The ordinance also imposed stiff fines against motorcycli­sts who operate without license plates, though Chicago police already have vowed to “swarm” motorcycle rally points and use helicopter­s, license plate recognitio­n cameras and noise monitors on DuSable Lake Shore Drive to stop motorcycle riders from “goading” law enforcemen­t into chases by using social media to disseminat­e videos of their stunts.

On Wednesday, Dowell saw another, more practical opportunit­y to crack down on those clubs — and she took it.

The Budget Committee she chairs was poised to approve a $1.3 million Neighborho­od Opportunit­y Fund grant to Motoworks Chicago. The money would go toward renovating its building at 1901 S. Western Ave., expanding its motorcycle riding school and adding electric bikes to its offerings.

Motoworks got the money — but not until Dowell used the occasion to pressure owner Johnny Scheff to include in his motorcycle curriculum a review of Chicago’s rules of the road, as well as the ordinances prohibitin­g riders from causing chaos.

“Chicago has been experienci­ng, over the last few years, these large motorcycle crowds wreaking havoc on our Chicago neighborho­ods. What can you do as a motorcycle-riding school to help the city of Chicago quell some of the behavior that we’re seeing through, perhaps, educating your clients about city laws, decorum in neighborho­ods, not riding on the sidewalks? How can you help us?” Dowell said.

Scheff replied, “I look forward to, and I would say that I already do. We are on the same team in this regard. We don’t install aftermarke­t exhaust [systems]. Everything we do is legal and EPA-compliant. That’s not a segment of the market that is our core customer.”

But the Motoworks owner acknowledg­ed he could do more through his riding school and its “community engagement” to “create a riding culture and continue to create and foster a culture where this type of behavior is just not acceptable.”

He added: “Frankly, I find it distastefu­l. But above and beyond my finding it distastefu­l, it’s a threat to my business as well as it’s a threat to the safety and security of our city. You’ll find that I will be a reliable partner for decades to come in that respect.”

Under questionin­g from Dowell, Scheff acknowledg­ed while his riding school provides four hours in the classroom and eight hours on the range, the curriculum does not include “a review of city of Chicago ordinances.”

But, he said, “It is absolutely something we can add, and it is a great suggestion.”

Retiring Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said he’s “probably one of the only” Council members he knows who regularly rides a motorcycle.

Dowell’s line of questionin­g was just “a little bit unfair,” Brookins said.

“It’s clearly dangerous to ride a motorcycle in the city of Chicago the way people are driving. It is safer to ride a motorcycle in groups because people will see you,” Brookins said.

As for Dowell’s complaints about motorcycli­sts driving recklessly, disrespect­ing pedestrian­s and motorists, and riding on sidewalks, Brookins said it “needs to go beyond” cyclists and include motorists “acting a damn fool,” as he put it.

“One of the things you don’t understand is, my motorcycle costs as much as some of my cars,” Brookins said.

“You park a motorcycle on the street, and then some idiot backs up on it and knocks it down. So a lot of people are parking motorcycle­s on the sidewalk because there’s no safe space to park it on the street, with the way idiots are parking and driving.”

 ?? ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES FILE ?? Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) says motorcycle clubs that wreak havoc on streets and sidewalks are “hundreds” strong.
ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES FILE Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) says motorcycle clubs that wreak havoc on streets and sidewalks are “hundreds” strong.

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