Monthly Archives: September 2009

America Needs Traffic Justice: Pedaling Revolution

I read the book Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities by Jeff Mapes soon after it was published in the spring. I was going to write a review, but then David Byrne and the New York Times scooped me. Suffice it to say that anyone interested in reading this blog also would be interested in reading the book.

Senior Crossing Street in Miami Beach - PBIC Image Library

Senior Crossing Street in Miami Beach - PBIC Image Library

Mapes brings up many interesting points in the book – the kind that made me read and re-read, fold down the page, and want to talk about it with someone. I picked up my dusty copy this morning and started flipping back through the folded pages. My mind started sparking again, so I thought I would explore these ideas more through discussion here.

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Just Like Riding a Bike: Vintage Style I

This is the first part of a four-part series on vintage style. In part two, Trisha will discuss her vintage style and share some of the best places to find vintage items online. Part three will provide tips for buying vintage bicycles and the pros and cons of ownership. Finally, part four will profile a founder of a vintage shop who gets around the city on her vintage trike.

Why are we devoting a series to vintage style on a bicycle blog?  Vintage style and bicycling have a lot in common!  They are both sustainable, budget conscious, individual and fun. It’s no wonder so many bicyclists—including Trisha and me—gravitate toward vintage and thrifted fashion.

Thrifted Vintage Dress

vintage dress

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A Note to Chicago Cyclists

The last time I visited your fair city, there was quite the uproar about parking meters being removed. “Where,” the cyclists fumed, “will we park our bikes?”

As a cyclist in a city without much bike parking, and few parking meters, I have had to make do many a time with the nearest solid (and sometimes not-so-solid) object. So I present to you a gallery of inspiration for your parking-meter-less future. Good luck!

Defunct public phone

Defunct public phone. Probably more rare than parking meters!

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Tweed Ride!

Yesterday I rode with Chicago’s second Tweed Ride. I can’t resist calling it a jolly good time. It felt kinda like a reunion of the first Tweed Riders, along with many new faces. Lots of style and bicycle eye candy. Due to my packed schedule, I was able to stay only long enough to drink a half liter of Oktoberfest, take pictures, and ride a bit. Enjoy the results!

9-12 pub

9-12 dot tweed front

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Boulevard Lakefront Bike Tour

Not bacon lettuce tomato

Not bacon lettuce tomato

Today was Chicago’s annual Boulevard Lakefront Tour, organized by and benefiting the Active Transportation Alliance. The tour, Chicago’s longest-running bike ride, journeys along Chicago’s extensive boulevard system and parks in either 15, 27, 35, or 62-mile routes. A festival followed, with plenty of food, beer and music. This is the second major ride that Active Trans organizes. The other ride is Bike the Drive, which I wrote about here.

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Bikes Count in Nashville

My Tuesday afternoon was spent counting bikes and pedestrians going through the Belmont bike lanes. There are worse things than sitting on the grass on a sunny September afternoon, watching bicycles go by.  I have to admit being disappointed by the actual number of bike commuters, since I’d expected to see many more during that two-hour window—but it was still nice to know there’s more out there than I see on a typical commute.

Some pictures from the exciting life of a civic volunteer. Here’s hoping that my afternoon will help bring some bicycle and pedestrian support for Nashville.

Count sheet

Count sheet

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Cycling Is More than a Fashion Statement

Cynthia Rowley rides a bike

Cynthia Rowley rides a bike—might want to adjust that seat!

The New York Times has once again acknowledged cyclists—and once again, bikes are newsworthy only as a fashion accessory or style statement. I found this disappointing.

It’s true that bicycles are a thing of beauty and craftsmanship. Just like your choice of car, they have the potential to reflect your personality and make a fashion statement. And of course, bikes made by designers like Cynthia Rowley and Fendi remind people that hey, there are still bikes around, and sometimes people ride them.

But overall, I don’t think that the bicycle as accessory fad will have a long-term effect on cycling culture or make a significant addition to the number of bicycle commuters on the road. And it’s not because I am afraid of “wobbling fashionistas” endangering my safety—I’m happy to encourage anyone who wants to give riding a bike a try.

Here’s my reasoning: By making a bike seem like a luxury item or a fashion accessory, it takes away from the idea of the bicycle as a functional instrument that can be part of anyone’s day-to-day life. Yes, it can and should add beauty to that life as well. Yes, I personally prefer to cycle in everyday clothes, and I try to make those clothes fashionable. But  since a bicycle is meant to be a practical, useful tool for getting around, it’s not something you should buy on looks (or designer name) alone. Are the people who buy these bikes really getting something that fits their needs and lifestyle? If not, they’re not going to be riding longterm.

Perhaps this worry is pointless, since it’s likely that these designer models will only appeal to those who were waiting for a bicycle with enough bling to dazzle them into forgetting that riding it entails getting off the couch and turning off “Gossip Girl.” Those people will likely be perfectly content with a Rowley cruiser. But anyone who thinks these bikes are going to lead to a large increase in bicycle commuters and bike advocates is fooling themselves.

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My Favorite Summer Cycling Outfit

The Outfit

Dress: Vera Wang
Shoes: Chloe

As summer comes to an end, I’ve decided on my favorite warm weather cycling outfit. I’ve worn it many times, including a 20 mile ride on Labor Day and a fast ride downtown today for a networking event. The dress is super light and airy with great ventilation. The pleated skirt drapes prettily and covers everything I want covered. Wrinkles never form. Sweat spots never show. Best of all, there is a shorter layer of fabric just below the waistline that flies up in the breeze and flaps behind me like a cape. Very fun :) The shoes are super comfortable gold leather flats. When choosing between this outfit or shorts and a tank top, this outfit wins hands down.

In a couple of months I will look back on this post in mourning, as I begin my winter ritual of layering wool leggings, pants, two pairs of wool socks, wool undershirt, wool sweater, wind breaker, two pairs of gloves, ear muffs, scarf, Russian winter boots, and safety glasses.

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Why Bike Lanes Are Bad For Drivers’ Expectations

Actually one of the widest bike lanes in Chicago

Actually one of the widest bike lanes in Chicago

Bike lanes are dumb in one major way: they outline the door zone and then tell cyclists to ride right there. But the door zone is not my beef at the moment. No, my beef is how bike lanes set bad expectations for drivers – that the cyclist must ride in the bike lane at all times.

  • Exhibit A: Like an icy slip ‘n slide. Chicago, December 2008.  I am riding outside of the bike lane because the snow plows and  salt trucks  ignored that precious slice of pavement.  A driver in a hooptie hooooooonks as he passes within a foot of me and yells, “Ride in the bike lane, you idiot!”  I throw my hands up in frustration.  Driver flips the middle finger.  I catch up at the red light.  Driver unrolls his window and yells again, “Stay in the bike lane, moron!”  I respond firmly, “I cannot ride in the bike lane because it is FULL OF ICE.  Please be aware of my safety.  Thank you.”  Driver drives off, as drivers do.
  • Exhibit B:  La la la I can’t hear you. Chicago, September 2009.  I am riding two inches outside the bike lane because the entire strip is the door zone.  A driver in a station wagon behind me honks…  Honks…  Hooonks…  Hoooooonks…  Hooooooooooonks.  I ignore him.  He passes me closely, even though he always had the entire opposite lane to pass.  I catch him at the stop sign.  He passes me closely.  I pass him as he’s stopped in traffic.  I feel happily smug.

These are only the most memorable and recent experiences, respectively.  I won’t offer my other exhibits, because it would get repetitive.  You all know the deal.

The problem is that bike lanes set bad expectations that cyclists are wrong if we ride outside the lines.  There are a gazillion reasons why we need to ride outside of bike lanes: car doors, broken glass, turning left, passing slower traffic.  All of this is perfectly legal.

Do the benefits of bike lanes outweigh the bad expectations they set?

Yes.  Without bike lanes, the same drivers would think cyclists don’t belong in the road at all.  At least bike lanes prove to these drivers that we DO belong in the road, even if just a strip. But we can do better. Perhaps sharrows is a good compromise?

[Okay, I edited this post to remove these portions. An attempt at sarcastic humor that obviously failed. No offense intended. I want the focus of this post to be bike lanes, not cyclists v. drivers.  I would love to hear people's thoughts on bike lanes v. sharrows.  "The biggest problem here is that drivers are dumb. That cannot be helped...I won't hold my breath waiting for drivers to become smarter, so I'll try to ignore them.  I bet that's even more annoying than my mere existence!  Score one for me."]

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Explore: Chicago’s Southport Corridor

Riding my bicycle has become a lifestyle, even when I am not on my bike. It’s all about slowing down and being a part of the city. To this end, I take time to enjoy all the nooks and crannies of my neighborhood.

9-6 cafe avanti

9-6 benefit

The Southport Corridor is a popular commercial street in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, not far from Wrigley Field and about a mile from Lake Michigan. The Corridor is not quite my cup of tea, with many boutiques where I would not shop and bars where I would not drink.  Despite this, the area has a lot to offer. I took all of these photographs in a one-mile stretch of the street.

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Zen and the art of…oh screw this! Can I ride my bike now?

Some people are into bicycle maintenance. They get a kick out of lubricating derailleurs and messing with thingamabobs. (See ecovelo) These are the same people who spend pretty Saturdays waxing their cars, if they own them. I am decidedly not one of those people. Quite the opposite. I neglect maintenance even when I know it’s wrong.

Sparkling Clean Oma and Betty

Sparkling Clean Oma and Betty

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Goodbye Summer

Now that Labor Day is over, summer is definitely coming to a close. But there’s still beauty to be found on my commute—here are a few snapshots of some interesting Nashville sights I might not have noticed while driving. (Apologies for the somewhat crappy snaps; my camera has decided this will be its last summer. In the meantime I’ll tell myself these cell phone pictures have an old-fashioned, Polaroid-like quality.)

Pampas grass against a blue sky

Pampas grass against a blue sky

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The Bike Commuter Stereotype

Let’s face it: bike commuters are stereotyped as fringe, eccentric, a bit odd.  Even in Chicago where there are plenty of cyclists, I am an anomaly as a bike commuter.

"This is what a bike commuter looks like"

"This is what a bike commuter looks like"

The reaction I get from most people is easy to predict, as I watch their stereotype confront reality.  Usually, they are surprised and slightly impressed.  The average Chicagoan is aware of bike commuters, so that big hurdle is cleared from the start, but people are surprised because I am a fairly quiet and unassuming female – I don’t fit the stereotype. There are always questions.

The most common:

  • Aren’t you scared of cars? You do wear a helmet, I hope?
  • You didn’t ride here in that skirt, did you??
  • But not during winter, right???

Some people are “hip” to the bike commuting “trend.”  Their questions tend to be:

  • Cool, where do you shower and change clothes?
  • You didn’t ride here in that skirt, did you??
  • But not during winter, right???

Once they learn that I ride in skirts and through the winter, they are shocked and confused. I love talking about cycling – obviously!- but even I grow weary of answering these questions.

I want to know from all of you:  What reactions do people have when they learn you are a bike commuter?  What questions do they ask you the most?  Which of your characteristics contribute to the way people react? How about your geographic location?

Finally, assuming this stereotype prevents a lot of people from considering bike commuting, what can be done to revamp our image, short of enlisting Don Draper’s assistance?

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Tweed Ride and More British Fun

Mark your calendars for Chicago’s Winston Tweed Ride this Saturday, September 12. Everyone should come! I didn’t know anyone on the first Tweed Ride, but I still had a blast. The kind of people who dress up in tweed and ride to bars on bicycles are bound to be friendly.

Leaving from The Globe Pub @1pm, we’ll make our way at a genteel, civilizing pace to the 89th Annual German-American Festival in Lincoln Square. And of course we’ll be stopping in some damn fine bars representing British allies during that unpleasantness in the 30s & 40s!

In celebration of the British, here are some images from Trisha’s and my trip to London in April. Previously, we posted on London cycle chic, cycling infrastructure and tea time.

P1060365

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Dutch Style Inspiration from Oma

I decided that it is finally time for me to write a review of Oma for our Beautiful Bicycles series. She and I have been together for nearly a year! For the occasion I put together an outfit and hairstyle inspired by her roots. Granted, I know very little about Holland – this is my interpretation of a vintage Dutch look, pulled out of my imagination.

9-4 outfit

9-4 dress

9-4 vintage dress

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Something There Is that Doesn’t Love a Crosswalk*

If you guessed “Nashville drivers”—you’re right!

Despite the fact that the law states “Traffic should yield to pedestrians when the are preparing to cross or crossing the street at a marked or unmarked crosswalk,” and the presence of brand-new, neon yellow signs helpfully pointing out the crosswalk I use every day during my commute, drivers rarely yield to pedestrians in this city.

The Beatles would have had to wait ages to cross the road if they'd tried to take this picture in Nashville

The Beatles would have had to wait ages to cross the road in Nashville.

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Vintage Fun

Trisha and I are working on a short series about vintage and thrifted style – bicycles and clothing!  In the meantime, here’s a taste of my vintage fun for today. I wore an outfit centered around a vintage ’80’s (yes, ’80’s is now vintage and we are all old) skort I recently acquired. This is the kind of clothing that I love and that my sisters would wrinkle their noses at in disgust and ask why I insist on dressing like mom.  Oh, and I got a haircut – bangs!

here

Outfit for toodling on bike
Vintage '80's skort
H&M t-shirt
Marc Jacobs flats
Marc Jacobs sunglasses
Fairy necklace from Celtic street fair
Nutcase Starburst helmet

I stopped by Haystack Vintage, one of my new favorite shops, and spotted this extensive collection of vintage bikes outside. So cute, but they all look so small!

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An Inspired Use of Public Space: Chicago’s Millennium Park

My “funemployment” exploration of Chicago continues (thanks to Calitexican for introducing me to the term). Yesterday I headed downtown on Oma to meet with the client in my pro bono case. Afterward, I headed to the 24.5 acre Millennium Park. Although the park is in a prime downtown location, bordered by Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue, until a decade ago it was nothing more than a railroad bed. The existing park was built over the tracks. Unlike the neighboring Grant Park, which is comprised primarily of unadorned grass and trees, Millennium Park is a wonder of cultural attractions.

Oma in the Park

Oma in the Park

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Featuring: Martha and Her New Oma

Fellow Chicagoan Martha (chibikegal) commented that “after stumbling onto your lovely blog, I was motivated to re-start my search for a beautiful bike.” Soon she purchased a shiny new Azor Oma made by Workcycles, the same as mine. She very kindly responded to my request for pictures and her cycling story. Read on for the goods, including a bike-themed wedding cake, $10 train station bikes, and a glimpse of Henry of Workcycles as a high school student.

Martha and Her New Oma

Martha and Her New Oma

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