Monthly Archives: June 2010

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Yesterday morning, I fell in with a group of cyclists commuting to work, about six in all. Half-way to work I lost them, as they ran all the red lights and I stopped for all the red lights. As I was waiting for one red light by myself, the group already far ahead, three guys on bikes zipped by me, barely pausing for the light. A woman in a small SUV waiting beside me (about my gram’s age) said, “It’s so nice to see one bicyclist follow the rules of the road – and look so cute doing it. I love your basket!”

My gut reaction was to protest and stick up for cyclists. I could have said, “And it’s so nice to have one driver be nice to me.” But I did not want to be snarky with the well-intentioned woman and, really, there was not much I could say in defense of bicyclists, given the display witnessed moments earlier.  Instead I answered, “Thanks!  I wish more cyclists would.”

We as cyclists need to shape up. There are too many of us in Chicago to continue ignoring traffic laws, especially red lights. I understand the argument that sometimes it’s safer to jump a light instead of idling among trucks, and I’m not going to pretend that I never treat a red light as a stop sign (and don’t even get me started on stop signs). However, there are too many safety, legal and PR reasons not to ignore red lights and general traffic regulations in the city.

On the bright side, lots of bicyclists ride safely and conscientiously. This morning’s commute was totally different from yesterday’s, as the mini-pack of female cyclists I fell in with stopped at all red lights and fostered a calm and happy atmosphere. However, the bad apples are the ones who stand out the most, be they bicyclists or motorists.

What do you think about your city – is it reaching a critical mass where lawless cyclists are embarrassing? Is it time to start putting more pressure on other bike riders to embrace both the rights and the responsibilities of the road? And if so, how do we avoid playing into the hands of the crazed, mouth-foaming masses who use cyclists’ red-light-running to excuse the most abhorrent driving behavior?

Will it ever stop? Yo, I don’t know.

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A Peek at the Batavus BUB

The Summer Games are getting really exciting, especially now that the prize-winning has begun! The Batavus BUB is our grand prize, very generously offered by Fourth Floor Distribution. I have several BUB photos that I’ll post periodically to keep you all motivated. Here, Mr. Dottie checks out a diamond frame BUB.

Mr. Dottie on the BuB

{Note that this is not the actual grand prize BUB, just one from the floor at Copenhagen Cyclery. The prize BUB is coming straight from Fourth Floor .}

Too bad Mr. Dottie is not allowed to win prizes – he and the BUB look pretty good together. Good luck to everyone else!

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Chicago Sun-Times

Today in the Chicago Sun-Times there is an article about the ease and fun of bike commuting, featuring yours truly, “Positive spin on the biking deal: Bike to work and zip past excuses such as weather, hygiene, attire.”

Images by Keith Halel, Chicago Sun-Times

Enough with the excuses, says Chicagoan Dottie Brackett. She’s been riding her bike to work every day for the past two years, and says it’s a lot easier than people think. Brackett, a 28-year-old lawyer, co-writes a blog (letsgorideabike.com) that includes how-tos on subjects such as cycling in the winter and cycling while wearing a business suit.

“People think you can’t ride a bike while wearing a suit, or a skirt and blouse, but you can,” she said.

Very cool! The whole article is super positive. (I only wish my skirt did not look so short – oops!)

There are also articles on riding safely on the Lakefront Trail, “suitable” bikes such as the Pashley, bike to work week and even a bit from Bike Snob.

If you want to thank Carol Slezak for writing such a positive article on bike commuting, her e-mail is cslezak@suntimes.com.

UPDATE: The article in the paper is quite big and there is a whole spread in a special pull-out section about bike commuting with the articles I linked to above. I’m very impressed with the Sun-Times and the reporter, Ms. Slezak.  (The picture on the left is not me.)

My Nashville Menagerie

Who says you need to live in the country to spot animals along your commute? Every day I see exotic wildlife:

pink flamingos are classic lawn decor: It's 5 o'clock in Margaritaville

these lions are fierce

Duck in the foreground, steer at the back

What curiosities have you found along your commute?

p.s. if you’ve noticed a change in the quality of my pictures in recent days, it’s all thanks to my Canon PowerShot S90, the new love of my life. Dottie, Greg and several of my other friends went in together to get it for my birthday—best surprise ever! I highly recommend it for dabblers like me who value portability and will never learn quite enough about photography to justify springing for a DSLR.

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Drumroll please . . .

We have the winners from Part I of the LGRAB Summer Games!

Watch the video for a dramatic reading of the names, complete with curious cats and me trying to pronounce “Clarijs.” Or just check out the snap below. Colleen, Linda, Dale & Beany, we’ll be in touch to get your mailing addresses—congratulations.

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Holga Carnival

Here are some more pictures of the pop-up carnival I posted about last week. I shot these with my Holga – an all plastic, twenty-five dollar camera. No batteries required, only film. The results are not photo-shopped or altered in any way. They’re far from perfect, but that’s what I like about them.

Thank you for putting up with another non-bike-related post (although I did bike there!). Now back to regularly scheduled programming, including the announcement of the Summer Games Part I winners…

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LGRAB Summer Games, Part II: Learning Experiences

Well, the first phase of the LGRAB Summer Games is over, and we have had a blast reading and sharing your incredible, inspiring entries–more than 50, at last count! We’ll be drawing for the first round of prizes tonight, so be sure to get your entries in by noon today if you want to be included.

The Learning Experiences portion of the contest starts today, and I’ve been looking forward to this one. Even non-bike owners can participate, since two of the events don’t necessitate having a bike of your own. My bikes are especially excited at the prospect of me performing a maintenance task. I am especially excited about test-riding a different type of bike: drop bars, here I come.  Ladies and gentlemen, your challenge awaits.

June 7-June 27: Learning Experiences

  • Perform a maintenance task — big or small!
  • Decorate your bike
  • Read a book about cycling
  • Carry a load on your bike — groceries, etc.
  • Test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride

Prizes for this round (to be awarded to anyone who plays in Part II) include a Mark’s Rack from Rivendell, a canvas utility pannier from Minnehaha and a Bates Crate. Winners will be determined by random drawing on July 29. As always, email us your blog links or your stories and photos using the subject line “Summer Games Part II Entry” (and don’t forget to check out our Flickr group). Don’t forget that you must complete two events in each round to be eligible for the grand prize of a Batavus BuB. See our original post for complete details.

Thanks to all the sponsors and players! You can drool over the complete prize list here.

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Tolstoy in the Park

Unless I’m riding my bike or spending time with friends, you can bet that I’d rather be reading a novel. Especially Russian novels, which I studied in college to earn a degree in Russian literature.

Reading in the Park

My attachment to Russian literature began as quickly and simply as my attachment to bicycling. During my junior year of high school, I randomly grabbed a book off the library shelf – The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy. This Tolstoy guy was like nothing I’d read before. His direct approach to life’s most important questions through perfectly executed plot and vivid characters swept me away. This Tolstoy guy wasn’t fucking around.

The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories

My first semester of college, I enrolled in a Russian language course and almost immediately decided to major in Russian literature, instead of my vague plan for American literature.

Now I’m a lawyer, but I fill my free time as much as possible with reading novels. That is, when I’m not riding my bike, taking pictures or blogging. Sometimes, like today, I combine all four activities.

Bike, book, camera

Recently I finished reading War and Peace for the first time.

Voina i Mir- Po Russki

No, not in Russian! In English.

War and Peace: Epilogue, Part II

There is a reason War and Peace is called the greatest novel ever written: it is the greatest novel ever written.

War and Peace: Best. Novel. Ever.

Now I am reading – for the fourth time – Anna Karenina. I decided to leave behind my much-marked-up copy from college (how I marked my books up! instead of relaxing and letting the words flow over me) for the new translation by husband-wife duo Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Anna Karenina - New Translation

My Old Marked Copy: Anna's Decision

Pevear and Volokhonsky are the masters of Russian translation (I’ve also read their versions of W&P and Dostoevsky’s Demons and The Adolescent). Take this pivotal passage from Anna Karenina.

The Norton Critical Edition translation by Gibian:

That for which nearly a year had been Vronsky’s sole and exclusive desire, supplanting all his former desires: that which for Anna had been an impossible, dreadful, but all the more bewitching dream of happiness, had come to pass. Pale with trembling lower jaw, he stood over her, entreating her to be calm, himself not knowing why or how.

The Pevear and Volokhonsky translation:

That which for almost a year had constituted the one exclusive desire of Vronsky’s life, replacing all former desires; that which for Anna had been an impossible, horrible, but all the more enchanting dream of happiness – this desire had been satisfied. Pale, his lower jaw trembling, he stood over her and pleaded with her to be calm, himself not knowing why or how.

A Perfect Afternoon

So what are you waiting for? Get your paws on some Tolstoy!

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Sunny Side Up

Given that Jerk Season has become our most commented post in record time, I figured I’d take this opportunity to highlight the sunny side of cycling. The sunny side is much bigger than the dark fringes!

On Wednesday, I had the great pleasure of meeting Cherilyn of Bike Bliss. She, her husband and their 3 sons were visiting Chicago as part of their mini Midwestern tour. A beautiful family all on bicycles! She and I broke away for a leisurely ride along the lakefront and a great discussion of how important the online community is for supporting people – especially women – who may not have a supportive network in their hometowns.

Cherilyn of Bike Bliss

Last Sunday, me, Greg, Amanda, Arielle and a whole fun group enjoyed a picnic dinner party in an urban park. My rhubarb-discovery summer continued with Amanda’s delicious homemade rhubarb pie.

Arielle and her bike Ruby

Amanda, her boyfriend and their bikes

Amanda's Rhubarb Pie

Amanda's awesome picnic basket

I’ll put these rides down as my “Schedule a bike date with a friend or partner — dress up!” event for the Summer Games :)

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Back from NYC

I just came back from spending a week in New York City. Though I didn’t get to actually ride a bike during my time there like Miss Sarah (damn you, work responsibilities!) I did enjoy observing the bicycles and boring my non-cycling companions with comments on the NYC cycling scene.

Such as the dominance of front-attached wire baskets.

wire baskets were the order of the day

There were also scads of folders, not many helmets, and crazy peeps who did things like run red lights. Many crappy MTBs in midtown, but vintage 10-speeds and even a few Dutch bikes dominated Villages East & West. Also saw a some cruisers, like the one belonging to this trilby-ed gentleman in Washington Square Park.

wash sq cyclist

Manhattan riders can’t be daunted in the face of four-lane traffic.

cyclists ready to go

Then there were idyllic scenes like this one. Seriously, two dogs, a chalkboard menu, and a bike?

I got a chance to dip into the Museum of Arts and Design for Bespoke, the handmade bicycle exhibit.  Mike, your bikes looked great! I did snap a picture of the A.N.T. memorabilia before realizing that, oops, photos weren’t permitted in the exhibition.

I also took the opportunity to fall in love with the beautifully lugged bicycles of Peter Weigle. (He has a few pictures of the exhibit here.) I just love the geometry and style of classic French randonneurs, and his components and colors are perfection. I think I need to trick out Le Peug in this style.

Tried to meet up with the folks at Bowery Lane Bicycles, but after trekking all the way out to Alphabet City and chatting with their neighbors, turned out we’d mistaken the dates and they were out of town. At least I got to see a guy with two parrots in a cage strapped to his chest. Totally worth it.

Though I’ve been to NYC before, this is the first time I’ve spent more than a few hours outside the Javits Center. It’s expensive, noisy and crowded but I think it might be love.

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Jerk Season

I am tired. Of aggressive and ignorant jerks. Guys in Land Rovers who pass dangerously close. And then roll down the window to lecture me on how I’m not supposed to be riding in the middle of the (small one-way) road. Because they are faster. Therefore I should move over. Never mind that riding up against parked cars is the most dangerous way to ride in the city. They need to pass me and that’s all that matters. Because they are so fast, even though somehow I catch up with them at the red lights.

They tell me to “share the road.” Which means stay the fuck out of their way. Because they have “their side” and I have “my side.” Which apparently is the gutter.

I wish. I wish I wish I wish that these guys (always guys) would leave me alone to get home in peace. And that I could stop my blood from boiling every time they bother me. Stop myself from reacting. Why do I let them get to me?

I am a woman peacefully riding a happy bike. In a dress. In the dark. In the rain. In my neighborhood. What is their problem?

Five months of daily winter riding – not one problem with a driver. Now in the summer all the jerks come out. Maybe Chicago is too aggressive for me. This type of scenario should not be normal.

{I was planning to use these pictures to talk about my lovely ride to see the Evelyn Evelyn / Amanda Palmer show. Too bad all of that changed one block from home.}

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Social Cycling Week 2 Roundup

Two weeks into the Summer Games and the entries are really rolling in! Reading every story is like unwrapping a little gift. Hearing how much fun everyone is having simply by riding bikes makes us so happy. See for yourself by checking out the pictures below. We encourage you to click on the links to read the full stories, visit the participants’ blogs, deepen the dialogue and spread the bike love!

Go on a bike date with a partner or friend–dress up!

Husband and wife touring Prague on two wheels (Academichic), a Portland bike date (Portlandize), a tex-mex bike date (Biking in Heels), a Friday night bike date while the kids are at a sleepover (Biking and Baking), a bike date picnic in Toronto (Bikeroo in TO), bike date with a friend (Via Velo), a bike date to the theatre (Portlandize), sunset on the beach (…After Coffee), and a sunny beach date (Space Rider Gal).

Ride with your family


Cycle Chic Sunday with mother and daughter in L.A. (LA Cycle Chic), Family bike date in Edmonton, Canada (Girls and Bicycles), three sisters in Iowa (Bike Bliss), family ride to Kindergarten open house in Toronto (Fletcher Five, Toronto), and an inspiring ride with little nieces (Knitting Lemonade).

Go on a group ride

Tweed Ride! (ZOMGBicycles), the Tour de Cure (Bike Skirt), a bike to work day group ride (Biking in Heels), a Lovely Sunday Ride (Biking and Baking), Chrissy’s first group ride (The New Me), ride to Portland farmer’s market (Portlandize), a critical mass in Canada (Carolyn’s Flight of Fancy), a blessing of the bikes group ride (Via Velo), New York City friends group ride (Thoughts of Mint Green), a symphony of bells for bike lanes in Toronto (Duncan’s City Ride) and more bells on Bloor (Because I’m Not Dutch), a Napa Valley group ride (No More Bad Town), a rainy breakfast ride with friends (Pedal and Coast), Texas Thursday night social ride (More than Rainbows), a lake house group ride (My 2010 is Here), going Dutch in Toronto (Duncan’s City Ride), and Tweed Ride! (Rose Read).

Leave a friendly note or say “hi” to another cyclist

A creative and fun sunflower seed bike note (Fletcher Five, Toronto), x-tracycle inner circle communication (Slow Bike Madison), saying hi to bmx teenagers (Girl on a Bicycle), leaving a fantastic note for a fantastic bike (Fashionable Academics), love note to an Electra Ticino (Knitting Lemonade), a bike date and red light chat in Vienna (Cycling Is Good For You), and chatting with an awesome older biking lady (My 2010 is Here).

It’s not too late to start–the Social Cycling event is going on through June 7. Check out our Flickr pool for more inspiration.

If you don’t see a link to your entry here, and you blogged about it, email us at LGRAB (at) letsgorideabike (dot) com with the details. If you don’t have a blog, no problem! Simply email us your picture(s) and story. We will be highlighting the entries we received via e-mail later this week!

Read the Week 1 Roundup here

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Pop-Up Carnival

While on a quiet solo bike ride around my neighborhood on Saturday, I stumbled upon a pop-up parking lot carnival. This was quite a gift from the Chicago gods, as I love carnivals and their childlike, old-fashioned and slightly creepy vibes. These pop-up carnivals are also a fun way to re-use public space and bring the community together. This one was surreal, placed on a busy road between a massive grocery store and a strip mall.

During the last two years of bicycling in Chicago, I have discovered and appreciated so much interesting “stuff” that I never would have noticed otherwise.

Do you ever feel that your bike is a key to a much cooler and more unexpected world? If not, I suggest that the next time you’re bored, you head out with your two wheels and a sense of adventure.

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