Official website for the City of Aurora, Illinois. Mayor Robert J. O'Connor

This story by Heather Gillers was entitled “Inspectors on Bikes Effort is Rolling Along.” It was published in the September 21, 2005 edition of the Beacon-News and is posted here with permission from the Beacon News.

Inspectors on Bikes Effort is Rolling Along

City inspectors and meter checkers here are mounting bicycles in a program that’s the first of its kind in the state, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner announced Tuesday after months of preparation.

Inspectors, who search the city for code violations like broken windows and unlicensed vehicles, “will get a better perspective on a bike than they will just driving by,” Weisner said.

Since he mounted his bike for the first time two weeks ago, city inspector Jeff Chesnutt said he has spotted infractions invisible from the window of a moving car. Bicycling slowly down a city block, Chesnutt said, he catches parking and trash violations hidden in back yards.

The bike program is the brainchild of city inspector Allen LaFan, who started using a bike for work in March and bought yellow Lance Armstrong “Livestrong” bracelets for co-workers who stepped up to join him.

Bicycles don’t just help city inspectors do their jobs, Weisner and LaFan pointed out. They save gas money and keep city employees in shape.

“We needed some exercise,” said meter checkers Gabriela Maya and Joevon Burns, who have wireless printers strapped to their bikes so they can print tickets for errant parkers.

Meanwhile, the environmental benefits of the program please Weisner.

“All the collar counties have some air-pollution problems,” Weisner said. “By setting an example in reducing emissions ... we’re doing the right thing here.”

The city plans to expand the program. Up to nine more employees are scheduled to begin riding bikes by the spring, LaFan said, and Weisner said next year’s budget will include funding for the program.

So far, the city has spent $2,700 on three bikes, LaFan said. Three more bikes were donated by the police department, and the city also paid for helmets, bike shoes and gloves. But LaFan estimates that the amount of money each inspector saves on car maintenance and gas in one year will exceed the cost of his or her bike. The bike program may eventually expand far beyond Aurora city limits. The Illinois Association of Code Enforcement, a group of city inspectors from across the state, wants to pay for LaFan to present the program at a national inspectors conference in Florida next month. “This is a very innovative program,” said Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois Bicyclists.

The reactions inspector-cyclists have been getting from residents suggest that it is a popular program.

LaFan said he’s often approached by intrigued passers-by while doing inspections on his bike.

“They’re always very inquisitive about the program and pleased when they think about it,” he said. “At the end of day, it’s saving them tax money.”