Monthly Archives: January 2009

Chance Meeting in the Bike Lane

On my way to work Friday morning, I met another woman with an Azor Oma just like mine.  I was coming into the loop and stopped at a red light when she meandered past me, looking oh so stylish in a long black coat with a fluff-lined hood covering her helmet.  I was shy about speaking up because I thought maybe she was a rich European who wanted to avoid me and my ugly blue fleece pull-over, but at the next light I said, nice bike.  Turns out she was a super friendly midwestern and we ended up riding side-by-side and talking for several blocks.  She bought her oma from the Dutch Bike guys, too, but from their Seattle shop before they opened in Chicago.  A huge wicker basket sat on her front rack from Basil, she informed me.

Wicker Basil Basket

Wicker Basil Basket

Love it! I’m thinking of getting a wire one that snow and rain could not fill up, but maybe I should get the classic wicker? So pretty.

Wire Basil Basket

Wire Basil Basket

Eventually we went our seperate ways. My morning was much brightened by the thought of how nice the streets would be if we got a bunch more women to join us in the bike lanes.

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Winter Critical Mass

Critical Mass Crowd

Critical Mass Crowd

Yesterday I rode in the monthly Chicago Critical Mass ride. There’s a lot of strong opinions on whether Critical Mass is a positive event.  I think so!  My first exposure to Critical Mass was before I started riding, in June 2007, soon after moving to Chicago from Nashville. Coincidentally, Trisha was visiting at the time. We were in a cab on our way to Second City and were stopped for 15 minutes while hundreds of cyclists streamed by. It was an amazing sight. I asked the driver was was going on and he explained that it was a bike ride that happened once a month. Once a month!? Wow. The driver was irritated, but I thought the whole thing was way cool, especially since we got to the show on time.

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Lunch in Midtown, or Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Yesterday I rode my bike from the office to lunch for the first time (I don’t go out for lunch a lot, and when I do, it’s often within walking distance). A 1.7-mile ride isn’t far, and though temps were only in the high 30s it was nice to get out in the middle of the day.

Jerusalem Cafe

Jerusalem Cafe

The restaurant* had such a great mural on the side that I had to take a picture. Unfortunately, they had no bike parking.

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Lunch in Midtown, or Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Yesterday I rode my bike from the office to lunch for the first time (I don’t go out for lunch a lot, and when I do, it’s often within walking distance). A 1.7-mile ride isn’t far, and though temps were only in the high 30s it was nice to get out in the middle of the day.

Jerusalem Cafe

Jerusalem Cafe

The restaurant* had such a great mural on the side that I had to take a picture. Unfortunately, they had no bike parking.

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Link List

Today Elisa of Bike Skirt linked to an interesting article on cyclists and traffic laws. Should they always be obeyed to the letter? Check out the post and add your opinion to the comments (I shared mine).

And if you’re in Nashville and are interested in making our city more walkable and bike-friendly, take this survey and share your opinions with the planning commission.

Check out this very cool project, the Thought You Knew Calendar, featuring Chicago women and their bikes. The proceeds benefit the Chicago Women’s Health Center (of Our Bodies, Ourselves fame).

If you’re in Chicago, check out the Bike Winter Art Show, running February 13-27.

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Link List

Today Elisa of Bike Skirt linked to an interesting article on cyclists and traffic laws. Should they always be obeyed to the letter? Check out the post and add your opinion to the comments (I shared mine).

And if you’re in Nashville and are interested in making our city more walkable and bike-friendly, take this survey and share your opinions with the planning commission.

Check out this very cool project, the Thought You Knew Calendar, featuring Chicago women and their bikes. The proceeds benefit the Chicago Women’s Health Center (of Our Bodies, Ourselves fame).

If you’re in Chicago, check out the Bike Winter Art Show, running February 13-27.

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Back to Nature

Riding through neighborhoods, I don’t usually deal with the same sort of traffic hazards that a lot of cyclists do. But we small-city folks face other dangers, as I discovered just last weekend. While riding home from our tune up, Pinkie and I were accosted by a horrible, slavering beast. I couldn’t take a picture because I was too busy pedaling for our lives, but it looked something like this:

RAWWR

RAWWR

Well, not really–but that would have made an awesome story, no? Had I lived to tell the tale, that is. But as a blogger I have a sacred duty to tell the truth (hate to be the first to corrupt the oh-so-trustworthy Internet) so I feel compelled to reveal that the dog actually looked more like…

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Finally CAR-FREE!

Sad Prius

Sad Prius

My tendency to anthropomorphize everything makes looking at this picture hard. Amos the Prius looks so sad and I genuinely feel a little remorseful. However, I console myself with the thought that he is now roaming freely around the Michigan countryside, no longer locked by himself in a cold city garage, never let out to feel the wind in his grill and glance smugly at other lower forms of automobile as they spew their filth. Yes, he is happy now.

And, really, so am I! We almost never drove that car. Maybe once a month or so. Besides the bikes (transportation choice #1) we have a great public transit train and bus system in Chicago. There’s also the i-Go car sharing system, with a Prius always at the ready only a block from my condo, regular rental cars, and taxis. So after thinking and talking and talking and thinking, my husband and I finally put the Prius up for sale in the beginning of November. This weekend, we got our very first serious inquiry. This is a hard economy in which to sell a car, even a Prius! Our price was low and kept getting lower. We sold for a lot less than we originally planned, but the market spoke loud and clear.

Here is what we save:

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Precipitation

It’s been an exciting two days weather-wise here in Nashville. Yesterday I was all suited up and ready to ride, when I walked out my door to realize that…it was pouring down rain (one of the drawbacks to living in a first-floor condo is that you can’t hear rain on the roof!).

Today I woke up certain that the snow they’d been forecasting would finally be here. I pulled back my bedroom curtains when I woke up to reveal…nothing but water. Rain again? I was sitting at my computer in the study, sipping coffee and checking email, wondering if I would have to take the car to work again, when I glanced out the window to see this:

snow! snow! snow!

snow! snow! snow!

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Elevated Train and Elevators

Tonight I took the Oma on the el for the first time. Bikes are allowed on the el train any time except rush hour, with a max of two bikes per car.

Waiting for the Train

Waiting for the Train

A friend and I saw Spamalot at a theatre downtown and she did not have a bike, so I rode the el home with her. [note to Spamalot - please stop singing your lame songs and stick to the Monty Python script!] Oma was frustrated and confused; she did not understand why she had to stand still and wait for 15 minutes. Luckily, the train was not crowded – she took up A LOT of room. With the kickstand down, she’s sturdy as an ox and I held onto the saddle to keep myself steady while standing up during the ride.

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Is that a burrito in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

A guest ditty from Mr. Dottie (aka Greg). Sadly, no pictures of burrito-stuffed pockets.

Mr. Dottie's Sweet Ride

Mr. Dottie's Sweet Ride

I rode 20 miles today.  While taking the lake front bike path home at 6pm I decide I’m hungry, so I hit the streets. I walk out of Chipotle fifteen minutes later with a huge burrito in my left jacket pocket and a bag of chips and salsa in my right pocket. Back on the streets. Once I see Southport I realize I’m going to need something to wash down that hot salsa in my pocket. I walk out of Galleria Liquors several minutes later with a twelve pack of Goose Island and get some looks from passersby leaving the El station as I strap the box of beer to the back of my bike rack – those looks always make me chuckle. Back on the streets. My pockets are bulging out with Chipotle goodies, more goodies on my back rack are giggling with every bump, and I’m happy as a clam.

Only on a bike can picking up dinner become such fun.

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Shared Lanes, Buses, and Creepy Trees

Chicago Marked Shared Lane

Chicago Marked Shared Lane

This is a random picture from my ride home, an example of a “marked shared lane” in Chicago. They put these where the road is pretty wide, but not wide enough for an actual bike lane. This sharrow is from Lincoln Avenue, which is a long diagonal street that cuts northwest from downtown. This avenue alternates between sharrows and bike lanes. The sharrows make me feel a little better and make it clear to cars that I belong. They certainly helped me feel more comfortable when I was starting out riding in traffic, an important factor for getting more people on bikes.

Uncooperative Bus

Uncooperative Bus

I took a picture of this bus with the intention of saying that cyclists should stay behind a bus at a stop light. When the light turns green, the bus will be ready to go and you don’t want to play leapfrog with a CTA driver. (This advice would not apply if you’re super fast and cooler than I, but for most people puttering around the city, it’s a good general rule.) However, as soon as I took this picture, the light turned green and the bus didn’t move and I realized that it was sitting there completely empty. So I went around it. Damn bus.

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Dahon Debriefing

I kind of slacked off with the Dahon D7HG Vitesse reporting thing toward the end of last week. It’s been an interesting ride. For what it’s worth, here’s my overall assessment. But first, little bit of context here that probably won’t surprise most people: I don’t know a ton about bicycle mechanics. It is entirely possible that I am not giving enough weight to the marvel of engineering that is a folding bike, or the quality of the gear hub, or some other mechanical component…

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Neighborhood Biking

Yesterday I went over to check out the new bike shop in my neighborhood, Halcyon Bike Shop. Pinkie’s chain had started sounding like a flock of birds, so I stopped by thinking I’d pick up some chain grease, and ended up bringing her back over for a quick overhaul (I had been running errands in the car and didn’t have my bike the first time around).

OK, there weren't actually this many guys outside the shop...

OK, there weren't actually this many people outside...

Poor Pinkie felt a bit out of place as we squeaked our way through the crowd of hipsters on well-maintained, customized bikes out front…but I told her not to worry, they were friendly.

Even though the shop has only been open about six weeks, it seems like it’s already part of the community. Between the guys riding outside and the customers inside, there must have been about 15 people there during the course of my visit, in addition to the resident dog and cat (love stores that have pets!). Since I normally would go a week without seeing 15 people on bikes, it was a welcome change to see so many people interested in cycling.

While I waited, I looked around front of the shop. They had about 20 reconditioned bikes for sale. Most of the ones in stock were medium-frame men’s road bikes, with distinctive vintage looks, priced between $350 and $600 dollars. They sell new and used parts (I may go back for some fenders) and some handmade and vintage bicycle accessories, including some very cute hats.

We left the shop about 15 minutes later, having spent $15 on a tuneup that made the ride home a lot easier — perhaps a commuter bike should get some attention more than once a year? I realized during my awkward conversation with the very nice mechanic that I know more about working on my Mustang than I do my Schwinn. He said they’re going to get some community classes on bike maintenance going soon, and I will definitely be signing up.

ETA: I came across this series of video tutorials on BicycleTutor.com that looks like a great intro to maintaining your bike—can anyone suggest other resources?

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Neighborhood Biking

Yesterday I went over to check out the new bike shop in my neighborhood, Halcyon Bike Shop. Pinkie’s chain had started sounding like a flock of birds, so I stopped by thinking I’d pick up some chain grease, and ended up bringing her back over for a quick overhaul (I had been running errands in the car and didn’t have my bike the first time around).

OK, there weren't actually this many guys outside the shop...

OK, there weren't actually this many people outside...

Poor Pinkie felt a bit out of place as we squeaked our way through the crowd of hipsters on well-maintained, customized bikes out front…but I told her not to worry, they were friendly.

Even though the shop has only been open about six weeks, it seems like it’s already part of the community. Between the guys riding outside and the customers inside, there must have been about 15 people there during the course of my visit, in addition to the resident dog and cat (love stores that have pets!). Since I normally would go a week without seeing 15 people on bikes, it was a welcome change to see so many people interested in cycling.

While I waited, I looked around front of the shop. They had about 20 reconditioned bikes for sale. Most of the ones in stock were medium-frame men’s road bikes, with distinctive vintage looks, priced between $350 and $600 dollars. They sell new and used parts (I may go back for some fenders) and some handmade and vintage bicycle accessories, including some very cute hats.

We left the shop about 15 minutes later, having spent $15 on a tuneup that made the ride home a lot easier — perhaps a commuter bike should get some attention more than once a year? I realized during my awkward conversation with the very nice mechanic that I know more about working on my Mustang than I do my Schwinn. He said they’re going to get some community classes on bike maintenance going soon, and I will definitely be signing up.

ETA: I came across this series of video tutorials on BicycleTutor.com that looks like a great intro to maintaining your bike—can anyone suggest other resources?

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Obama / Oma

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Obama without the "ba" is Oma :)

I saw this on EcoVelo and had to make one of my own. Fun procrastination when I’m supposed to be working! You can make your own here, thanks to the ever-cool Paste Magazine.

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A Note About Neon Safety

"Bike Commuter Kit"

"Bike Commuter Kit"

I recently saw this Bike Commuter Kit at Fleet Feet.  Contents: reflective ankle strap, reflective vest, reflective stickers, blinky lights, body wipes.  Okay, there’s nothing wrong with this kit if that’s what you’re into.  Certainly, wearing a reflective vest does no harm.  I never wear them because I do not see value in them in the well-lit city.  I’m sure others would disagree and that’s fine.  But wearing this stuff does not mean you will be safe.  Neon yellow is not a magic safety bubble.  Twice in one day this week I saw cyclists almost get creamed by entering intersections when their lights were red.  Both of these men were covered with neon. 

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A Week of Cycling

Lakefront Trail Plowed

Lakefront Trail Plowed

In response to my question whether decisions not to ride were supported by reasons or excuses, the Village Scribe said that the answer lies in what you do the next day and the day after that and so on. I like that! This week I biked to work all 5 days, plus a 6th day to the theatre. So missing a week of riding due to extreme cold and traveling out of town for work does not make me any less of a “cyclist,” whatever that means. Cylicing is always my first choice when circumstances permit. That’s enough for me.

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Bike Theft (or, the short history of Janis the Jamis)

The Late Great Janis the Jamis

The Late Great Janis the Jamis

Three weeks ago a great tragedy befell my household – two bikes were stolen from my garage, my sister’s Specialized Globe and my Jamis Commuter. One might think that keeping bikes in a locked garage would be safe and that locking the bike with a cable in the garage would be super safe. If in Chicago, one would be wrong. The theives broke in through the back door of my neighbor’s attached garage, through which they could access my garage. Those two bikes, my car bike carrier, and my floor pump were stolen. As my luck would have it, my neighbor’s unlocked bike (that she never, ever rode) standing next to mine was untouched.

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Dahon, Day Three – I voted

dahonvote

If you’re in Nashville, I hope you did, too.

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