Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if cities were built to support bicycles, rather than cars? For five hours every year, Chicagoans experience this utopia during Bike the Drive.
Bike the Drive is an annual event organized by the Active Transportation Alliance, during which the city closes the main scenic highway through the city, Lake Shore Drive, to motor traffic and opens it up for cyclists. Nearly 20,000 bicyclists participate! The huge turn-out demonstrates how hungry people are for cycling, if only they could feel safe on the streets.
Lake Shore Drive via Bike
Lake Shore Drive via Bike
The massive number of participants is amazing, and also the diversity of participants. Sure, there are lots of roadies and daily bike commuters, but also thousands of families with children, middle-aged suburbanites and elderly couples. I imagine a lot of people dust off their old bikes specifically for this event. Hopefully, the ride will remind many of how much fun it is to ride a bike and inspire them to continue to ride.
I rode a total of 50 miles – this dress was airy and hid my padded bike shorts
Greg at the south end of the route, Museum of Science and Industry
Riding companions Dean and Elizabeth
After the ride participants enjoyed a festival in Grant Park, complete with a pancake breakfast and live music.
Grant Park Festival
Grant Park Festival
Again, I must emphasize that this event demonstrates how many people would love to ride bikes more often, if only they felt safe doing so in the road. The following videos convey more than words can say. The first video is from last year; the second is from this year. The endless flow of bicycles in both was consistent along the entire route.
A hidden gem in Chicago is Clark Park. Mr. Dottie discovered this park while running, tucked behind an awful strip mall-parking lot development. The park includes a baseball field, forest preserve and kayak rental to flow down the river – if you don’t mind the signs warning you not to make skin contact with the water. The best feature of the park is the bike trail, especially the section with “sweet” jumps for mountain and bmx bikers. The area shown below is tucked in the woods and has a secret garden feel to it.
After some Googling, I discovered that the park sits on the grounds of the former Riverview Amusement Park (1904-1967), which for a time was “the world’s largest amusement park, with a massive roller coaster, a double ferris wheel, a tunnel of love, a water slide, a parachute drop, and carnival games of skill and chance, among many other things.” How cool is that? Very. Chicago is full of little treasures like this, waiting to be discovered.
I’ve never been allergic to anything in my life – no food, medicine or plant could get me down. However, this spring I’m wondering if allergies have sprung upon me. For most of April, I had a terrible headache that went away temporarily only when I took Advil Allergy that someone gave me. She said I probably have allergies, and that she never had allergies until her late 20s, either. Now the headache is gone, but all week I’ve had a terrible scratchy throat. This started hours after I frolicked in the park below, where an astonishing amount of dandelion seeds wafted through the air and piled up in gutters.
Among the Enemy
Woe, does this mean I have allergies? Could it be exacerbated by riding my bike everywhere? Maybe it’s from city pollution mixed with heat?
If allergies are the culprit, does anyone have advice for medicine or a home remedy?
Portland gets a lot of attention as a hub for “bike fun,” but that city certainly does not corner the market.
Balloon Biker Jami
Chicago has its fair share of bike fun, thanks to people like our latest Roll Model, Balloon Biker Jami Krause. Read on to learn what inspires her to ride, her advice for new bicyclists and what’s up with the balloons.
How would you describe your bicycling style in three words?
Exuberant, adventurous, utilitarian
How does the bike fit in your daily life?
I use my bike for everything. I commute daily to my day job, go grocery shopping, visit friends, go on trips and socialize.
You have a part-time business, Balloon Biker. Tell us about this!
I do balloon twisting for all kinds of events. Birthday parties, festivals, store openings, restaurant patron appreciation…really anything. I also do deliveries of bouquets or special sculptures. With enough time, I can make anything out of balloons.
Naturally, I can make a balloon bicycle.
If it’s at all feasible to bike to the event, I will do so. I also sometimes do street performance and use my bike for transportation for that.
Given enough time I can make anything from balloons. My website has information on hiring me for events.
Often I’ll attach balloons to my helmet at group rides and it always makes people smile. This past weekend I helped out with the new Kidical Mass ride. It was great to see so many kids enjoying helmet décor.
Has Chicago’s bicycle culture changed since you’ve been around? If so, how?
I’ve only really been riding for 3 year, but things have changed a little bit. I think that The Chainlink is a great resource for finding rides and riding companions. I’ve met some really great people through that and have gone on some amazing rides. My perspective has also changed. I’m a lot more confident and have begun organizing my own rides and events.
Jami's Sea Creature
What inspires you to keep cycling?
It just makes sense. Within the city it’s usually the best way to get around. I don’t have to worry about parking or about the train and it’s easy to stop and do errands.
I’ve also met some amazing people through biking. If I were to stop cycling it’s like a third of my social circle would be much harder to see.
It’s great to have pedal powered adventures. I’ve gone on several bike camping trips and I love that. I’d really like to do a long distance tour, supporting myself by making balloons along the way.
Jami on her Halloween bike
What advice would you give others, especially women, who are interested in or new to cycling?
Just try it out. Other than a bike, a helmet and a lock, you really don’t need anything special. You don’t need to be in-shape or to have the latest and greatest of anything. I’m a plus-sized woman and have had no problems. If I can do it, really anyone can.
You can start with a visit to the store, or to a friends or to the park. It’s very easy.
As for fashion…it’s really about your own comfort levels. I wear what I’m comfortable in. You can dress nice if that’s what you like to do…or you can wear normal jeans, or office clothes or yoga pants. Heck you can even wear spandex if that’s really what you want to do.
I’d really recommend trying out some group rides. Join The Chainlink and see what is coming up. Think of the rides as a party…sometimes you need to approach people and strike up a conversation. Just like at a party, not everyone is going to be friendly or interesting. This was something that I struggled with at first, but now I see the same people over and over again and really find it a welcoming community.
Thanks so much, Jami!
Jami and I started talking at a stop light on our way to work a few months ago. From there we moved on to email, which resulted in this profile. Isn’t it so much fun to meet people while riding?
As I mentioned in my last post, we’ve been enjoying everyone’s LGRAB Summer Games entries–on Saturday I decided to join in the fun by taking a small group ride through my neighborhood. The ride started out at my friends Erin & Scott’s house near Edgehill Village. Destination? Local popsicle shop Las Palatas.
Katie and me, ready to go
Erin and Scott have road bikes (Scott brand!), but they got along just fine with Katie’s and my vintage wheels.
If you ever come to Nashville, be sure to seek out Las Paletas. This small local business is run by sisters who spent time in Mexico learning authentic paletas recipes; pure fruit & sugar deliciousness, along with flavors like Mexican Caramel, Hot Chocolate and Cucumber and Chili. They have a sign now, so they’re a little easier to find.
Girls and popsicles
The new 12South & Paris development also houses Greenlight Market & Deli, a small store full of local, organic–and reasonably priced–delicacies.
We browsed, then rode back up 12th to Erin & Scott’s. At the last minute, Katie and I decided the ride wasn’t over yet, so we rode back down to one of my favorite watering holes, the 12South Taproom. A beer was just what the doctor ordered at the end of a hot summer ride.
One of the things I love about cycling is the ability to really get to know your neighborhood. Every day I get on my bike I feel lucky to live in a neighborhood that is worth getting to know.
Last week I talked about riding slowly to avoid sweating and last year I talked about fresh summer cycling. However, when the temperature is 90 degrees, changing into work clothes after the commute may be simpler than worrying about sweat marks and riding super slowly, especially when you’ll have to duck into the bathroom to freshen up anyway. Such was the case today, when I “kitted out” after suffering through a terribly sweaty ride in my work clothes the day before.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to introduce my LGRAB team kit.
As always, I have the Nutcase helmet and Po Campo bag. I might get a breezier helmet for the summer to cool my head better – a sporty helmet with lots of air vents. In the alternative, I’ll ride my Dutch bike on the bike path more often to forgo the helmet. Sweaty hair is my least favorite part of bike commuting (well, after cars).
I wear these crochet and leather fingerless gloves for longer hot rides with my Betty Foy. The combination of sweat and cork grips causes callouses otherwise.
My first summer of riding, I bought a lot of clothes specifically for commuting. Any old summer dress or tank and short combo would do, but I like Patagonia’s skorts (looks like a skirt with shorts underneath) and tanks with build in bras. Anything in merino wool is also good.
Keen cycling sandals are ugly as sin, but keep my feet cool and are odor resistant – a huge benefit when they’re sitting around my office all day. They have built in things on the bottom to connect clipless somethings. I ignore those.
Essential eye gear, of course.
The whole shebang.
My skirt and blouse were rolled up in my basket, but I’m gonna start leaving some suits in my office, along with my work heels.
Whether you prefer to ride in work clothes, casual clothes or special cycling clothes, it’s all good. Mix it up. Experiment. Just do what works for you.
Anyone else making accommodations for the heat (or cold, for the Australians out there)?
One week into the Summer Games, things couldn’t be off to a better start. We continue to be amazed and impressed at the number of people who are playing along! If you need some inspiration, here are links to the entries we’ve gotten so far.
Kara of Knitting Lemonade and her friend bikepooled to work in matching helmets!
Leave a friendly note or say “hi” to another cyclist
This one is a little harder than it sounds–we cyclists move fast and not everyone carries a pen and paper in their panniers! Still, Sox at Pedal and Coast managed to snap a pic of the cyclist she said hi to at a red light.
On Saturday for the first time I visited the Lincoln Park Zoo. Of course, we rode our bikes there. The zoo is free, located just north of downtown by the lake. The size is impressive for a free attraction and it’s a fun way to spend the day, especially for families with children.
Some exhibits were a little sad, especially the intelligent gorillas. I’m not sure how I feel about zoos in general, but the beauty of the space is undeniable, especially in the middle of a city as big as Chicago. I enjoyed spending the day outside with nature and with my friend Marisol from high school, visiting from North Carolina. A good thing about living in Chicago is being a hub for visitors
After the group ride on Wednesday – cycling no faster than 12 mph – I realized that I was not sweaty at all. That was a pretty big deal, especially for a 10 mile ride in 70 degrees, since I tend to sweat while riding. I’m no rocket scientist, but I managed to put together that if you ride slooowly, you won’t sweat. This is not exactly breaking news, but it’s a good reminder of the different riding options out there. I’m not a “fast” rider, but I usually push myself just enough to break a sweat.
During my morning commute, I decided to test this on my own. Without the constraints of a group ride, I had to remind myself continually to slow down. Usually in the morning when riding Betty, I enjoy riding fast and really working my legs and lungs. The slower pace was enjoyable, though. I was able to take in the scenery of Lake Michigan and turn my face up to the sun. And, like magic (a really obvious card trick, perhaps), I arrived at work after my 6 mile ride sweat-free.
I wouldn’t want to be so relaxed in my riding every day, but slow riding is handy if the weather is warm and you really need to look presentable immediately upon arrival. How about you – do you take it super relaxed or push yourself and deal with the consequences later? Or maybe you either sweat or don’t sweat no matter what?
Today I participated in the annual Ride of Silence. The Chicago ride, organized beautifully by my friend Elizabeth, paid special tribute to cyclists killed on the city’s roadways. The ride visited several ghost bikes along the 10 mile route. Two of the ghost bikes are new in the past year – Jepson Livingston and Liza Whitacre. I know of two other fatalities in the last year, a 12-year-old boy and 13-year-old boy in separate incidents.
Clint Miceli’;s Ghost Bike on LaSalle Street
A Mother’s Message on Clint’s Ghost Bike
In 2008, there were 1,043 traffic fatalities in the state of Illinois. 27 of the fatalities were bicyclists, 5 in the city of Chicago.
My Ride of Silence post from last year is here. As I discussed before, I participate in the ride to support the families of the victims – the bicycling community’s support means a lot to them.