Hello World, part 2

Hello, I’ll be the other contributor to this blog.  I live in Chicago and ride my bike to work daily (a 14 mile round trip) plus pretty much everywhere else I go.  It was not always so.

In June 2008, following the brilliant footsteps of my co-blogger Ms. T, I began riding a bike to work.  I say “a” bike instead of “my” bike because I did not own a bicycle at the time.  Other than the occasional beach cruiser rental while on vacation, I had not ridden a bike since junior high. 

There are a lot of cyclists in Chicago, though, and a combination of seeing them everywhere, hearing about Trisha’s biking, and often walking by my neighborhood bike shop put the idea in my head that maybe I could ride a bike, too.  At the end of May, armed with my “stimulus” check, I purchased a bike.   I told the owner of the shop that I was thinking of maybe, possibly, perhaps trying to ride my bike to work downtown.  She told me that it was totally doable, grabbed a Chicago Bike Map and showed me the best route to get from my house to the lake front bicycle path, which would take me along Lake Michigan straight to downtown.  I was feeling pumped up, until I rode the bike home and around the block a bit.  I was nervous, wobbly, and absolutely ridiculous.  I thought I had wasted hundreds of dollars on a bike that I would never be able to ride around the block, let alone downtown.

Not ready to give up, I turned to my default activity – I read.  A lot.  About when to take the lane, what the door zone is, proper signaling, everything.  Bicycling blogs were – and still are – the best source of on-the-ground information for cycling in the city.  The next day, my husband and I rode our bikes to the lake front bicycle path.  After 1.5 miles of white-knuckled (for me), totally quiet and peaceful side-street riding, we got to the bike path.  Then something clicked: simply riding my bike down the crowded lane was the most fun I’d had in years.  I’ve had a lot of fabulous food, fun vacation, wine consuming, good friend fun in the last few years, but this simple bike ride was somehow different.  Later the same day I had a dentist appointment a couple of miles from my house.  I decided to ride my bike instead of take the bus or drive.    I felt self-assured and confident.  I met drivers’ eyes.  I firmly maintained my position in the road.  It was pretty cool.  Once I realized that I could control a lot of the situation by riding calmly and defensively, I was set.  I rode my bike to work that Monday and  I’ve been riding like that ever since.

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