June 2011 archive

Chicago’s “Crackdown” on Bicyclists

Last week, I logged onto the Chicago Tribune website and the headline proclaimed: Police Crackdown on Bicyclists: 240 Warnings, 1 Ticket.

That got the public’s attention. Readers left 340 comments on the article and recommended it on Facebook 1,000 times. The majority of the comments were ridiculously anti-bicyclist and rejoiced at the comeuppance.

And all of that is good. I’m totally cool with it.

Because the crackdown took place at the very intersection where the city is quickly constructing its first protected bike lane and bike box. NYC is experiencing an absurd “backlash” for its installation of protected bike lanes. Chicago is smartly working from the get-go to prevent that.

By conducting this crackdown, the city effectively countered the #1 instantaneous complaint drivers have about providing a safe place for people to cycle: that people on bikes don’t deserve anything because they do not follow traffic laws.

So maybe 1,000 people are cackling about cyclists on Facebook (probably from their iPhones while driving, but I digress). Awesome. I hope they spread the word far and wide that the police are enforcing traffic laws for bicyclists.

And really the “crackdown” consisted of bike cops and CDOT bike ambassadors thanking cyclists who stopped at the red light and educating cyclists who ran the red light. Another difference between NYC and Chicago is that Chicago’s crackdown may actually succeed in improving bicyclist, pedestrian, and driver safety, a difference that Bike Snob NYC noted. Bicyclists should stop at red lights and I wish more of them would.

I highly recommend watching this 1 minute news clip about the enforcement. Then tell me: crackdown? Not really, but please continue using that word with the masses, news media. Your hyperbolic headlines could only help.

What are your thoughts about bicycle “crackdowns” – are they ever a good thing? Where would you draw the line between educating cyclists and unfairly singling them out? Do you think “crackdowns” help with public opinion in support of safe cycling infrastructure?

Beautiful Bicycles: Kate Spade for Adeline Adeline Abici

Whew. That is a mouthful of a name.


So I just call her “Kermit Allegra.”

The first thing you need to know about Kermit Allegra is that, despite being one classy lady, she fits in pretty much anywhere. And she’s especially at home with me in Nashville.

I had ridden an Abici before and dreamed of one pretty much ever since. But superstitiously I feared getting one, because of Nashville’s hills and because reality seldom lives up to memory/dreams.

Well, the Abici ended up being one of those exceptions that proves the rule. Thank goodness. Despite being a single speed, this bicycle’s light weight and sporty geometry make it a pretty solid hill-climber and a joy to ride. The Kate Spade for Adeline Adeline Abici is a Granturismo Donna that has been customized by Kate Spade. Customizations are minimal, but include a rear rack, a front headlight with a vintage look, a special logo and, of course, the signature Kate Spade green color. The bicycle is priced at $1,100, vs. the $995 price tag for the non-Kate Spade Donna, which is a fair additional amount to pay for the addition of a rack and front light (although I have minor issues with both of these components).

The front light has a vintage look. It is battery-powered, which doesn’t bother me—but the fact that the button to turn it on, which is on the back of the light, is jammed up against the front fork (shown in the photo above) does. Perhaps this design flaw will be corrected in future iterations? There are plenty of attractive lights with a side switch.

I take consolation from the creamy ivory grips in marbled plastic and the classic ding-dong bell.

And the Brooks B17 saddle, which was comfortable for my 20-mile ride, the longest for the two of us yet.

The KS Abici’s rear rack is not the Pletscher that is shown on the product page, but something different and curvier. With the addition of rack straps, it is quite functional despite the delicate lines, though unfortunately there is no good place to attach a rear light.

The frame is lugged, with a delicate swoop to the top tube that is oh-so-Italian. The fenders and enclosed chain case make this an all-weather ride, while the coaster brake and front handbrake allow you to keep your hands free to sip a drink. (Drink holder is after-market.)

Kermit Allegra offers you a sweet treat

Kermit Allegra offers you a sweet treat

Despite my single-speed qualms, so far I have ridden this bike everywhere that I have ridden my Peugeot or Batavus—and then some. As someone who prefers to use strength over rapid spinning when it comes to pedaling, I haven’t found the single speed to be any more challenging than my geared bikes, even on the toughest hills. Sure, I’m not speeding up them, but I wasn’t doing that on my other bikes, either.

The reasons for this remain something of a mystery to me, since I have spent more time enjoying the effect than investigating the cause. I have read that there is some loss of power due to the friction between the chain and derailleur  when you’re riding a geared bike, but the reported loss percentages vary between 5% and 20% (and some claim it’s complete BS).

1951698-R2-052-24A
What I know for sure about this bike is that it suits me perfectly in myriad ways. The 47.5 cm frame makes all my other bikes feel too big. The bright, cheery color makes it impossible not to smile when you see it. The single-speed makes riding feel carefree and easy. The drawbacks: less than perfect lighting solutions; rack is not functional without the addition of straps.

If you, too, are looking for your bicycle soul mate, I recommend giving the Kate Spade Abici a whirl. At the very least, you’ll have fun.

Trisha on Rolleiflex

{If you couldn’t tell by looking at them, all photos were taken by Dottie.}

Kate Spade Abici for Adeline Adeline, as reviewed here.

MSRP $1,100 includes:

47.5 cm lugged steel frame
Front caliper brake
Rear coaster brake
Enclosed chain case
Ivory marbled plastic handgrips
Brooks B17 saddle
Front battery-powered headlamp
Rear rack
Fenders
Kickstand
Bell

Add-ons by me:
Rack strap
PDW Bar-ista

This bicycle was given to me in exchange for ad placement on this site. However, the views expressed in this post are completely my own.

You might also like:

Summer Joyriding Plans

So far this summer, I have been riding my bike about the same amount as during the winter.  That is to say – a lot.  I bike to work daily, of course, and to get anywhere else I need to go.  But I need to start joyriding, now that I can stay outside for longer than an hour without turning into a dotsicle.  :)

Me on a mini-joyride to Humboldt Park

I need to create a plan to enjoy the great outdoors with my bike during the next two months of warm weather.  I definitely want to go camping again, like last year. And I’ve always wanted to take the long ride to the Chicago botanic gardens.

Any other ideas?  What joyrides have you taken in the past and what do you have planned for this summer?

Nashville Bike Brunch – you’re invited

Conversations I’ve been having lately, along with Dottie’s visit in May have given me the final push I need to start a bicycling brunch in Nashville. Our first meeting will be on July 10, but subsequent brunches will take place on the first Sunday of each month, just like the Chicago bike brunch. Unlike the Chicago bike brunch, this one will be open to men and women alike. The location will rotate each week (suggestions welcome). Will you be there? Email me at lgrab [at] letsgorideabike [dot] com. Hope to see you at ChaChah on July 10!

 

 

You might also like:

Chicago’s First Protected Bike Lane + Bike Box

Yesterday, while waiting at a red light on my bike, a woman with a baby on the back of her bike rolled up and stopped next to me. I waved and cooed to the baby until he smiled. Then his mother said, “Say hi,” and he did, flapping his chubby little hand, eyes shining under his helmet. The light turned green, she told me to go ahead and I told her to have a good day.

My friend Ash's daughter, whom I photographed last week. Not the baby I saw yesterday, but equally adorable.

In an ideal world, sweet meetings like that would happen all the time. In reality, I very rarely see anyone bicycling on Chicago streets with a child. Even as more and more people, men and women, start bicycling for transportation, the venture still seems risky to most. The only way to get a substantial amount of people to bicycle in the city, especially parents with children, is to provide safe, separated infrastructure. Chicago needs protected bike lanes.

For 3 years I have been bicycling in Chicago on a daily basis. During this time, I have seen how easily and cheaply the city’s streets could be adjusted to accommodate protected bike lanes. (Easy and cheap relative to all the other construction projects going on. I know all of Portland’s bike infrastructure was created for the same cost as one highway interchange). This knowledge left me perpetually frustrated, because no one with power in Chicago seemed to care, despite the fact that bicyclists make up ~1/4 of the traffic along my commute route.

This week, Chicago’s disgraceful apathy has ended. All in the past 3 days, new Mayor Emanuel announced the first protected bike lane, CDOT started construction, and the scheduled complete date is next week. The city’s first protected bike lane will be on Kinzie Avenue where it crosses Milwaukee Avenue, leading into downtown. Currently, bicyclists make up 22% of the traffic along this stretch.

There are a few different ways bike lanes can be “protected.”  For this project, the street pattern will follow this order: sidewalk, curb, bike lane, painted buffer zone, parallel car parking, motor vehicle travel lane. While visiting the construction site, Steven Can Plan noticed that they are also building a bike box (where bicyclists can wait in front of motor vehicles at red lights) and a bike-only left turning lane at a big intersection.  Those are also firsts for Chicago.

You can watch the Mayor’s press conference below:

View more videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com.

[You have to sit through a car commercial before watching the press conference.]

Some choice quotes from Mayor Emanuel:

I want Chicago to be the bike friendliest city in the nation.

Speaking of the role bicycling plays in the city, he pointed out three factors for the future:

1) another means of transportation
2) people can do it with safety
3) as we attract businesses to Chicago, an integrated biking system to and from work is essential to the type of workers I want to see in the city of Chicago.

He noted that bicycling is:

Both an economic development essential tool and it adds to a quality of life that is essential to the city.

This particular project is only 1/2 a mile. But the Mayor announced that Chicago will build 100 MILES OF PROTECTED BIKE LANES OVER THE NEXT 4 YEARS!

Yes, you read that right: 100 miles of protected bike lanes.

Obviously, I am excited about these developments. My approval is conditioned on the city following through with its promises here, but for the first time since I started bicycling in Chicago 3 years ago, I’m seeing real and positive change.

I encourage everyone in Chicago to write the Mayor and thank him for his trailblazing support of safe bicycling infrastructure. Also, even more importantly, reach out to your Alderman to state your strong support for protected bike lanes and bike boxes. On June 21, I will attend an Active Trans Social with my Alderman Waguespack to voice my support. You can attend or organize a social in your neighborhood with the help of Active Trans.

{For much more detailed information on the Kinzie Avenue project, check out Steven Can Plan. He’s been doing an excellent job of reporting on this project and others around the city.}

{For more information about cycling with children, check out Kidical Mass.}

June’s Women-who-bike Picnic Brunch!

Sun, women, bikes, brunch, sangria, fresh mown grass = a perfect Sunday morning.  This month’s women-who-bike brunch was a picnic on the lakefront, with everyone bringing a dish to share – and boy were there some delicious baked goods!  Although Chicago has scores of great brunch restaurants, the picnic was so much better than being cooped up indoors.  After about 8 months of cold, Chicagoans know how to enjoy the summer!

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves now.













Thank you, awesome women, for choosing to spend your Sunday morning with the group!
As always, women in the Chicago area who would like to join the brunch (or one of the happy hours – next one on Monday, June 13) should email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.
Hope to see you there!  :)

Bill Cunningham New York by Bike

On Wednesday I met up with friend Sara by bike for al fresco dining – sushi and champagne (love BYOB restaurants!). After dinner, we loaded up on cheap candy at the drug store and then went to the Music Box Theater to watch Bill Cunningham New York.





Bill Cunningham is a film photographer for the NY Times who rides his bike everywhere, documenting street style. He is an eccentric, in most ways true to himself and down-to-earth. Not at all a fashion industry type of person. The portrait of him was fascinating, funny and touching. When the film ended, I felt like clapping – and everyone in the audience did, so I did, too! It was that kind of movie. Highly recommended.

Has anyone else seen this or other good bike-related films lately?

Year of the cicadas

You may have heard that Nashville was the proud host of a 13-year cicada brood this spring.

Kermit Allegra does not enjoy insect infestations

After nearly three weeks of incessant mating calls, which at times were audible indoors over air-conditioning, things are finally winding down. Now, the dwindling cries of the male cicadas are almost drowned out by the crunch of their carcasses along my commute.

It’s preferable to scenes like this

and being bombed by swarms if I happen to step under the wrong tree.

Like any trying time, the cicada invasion produced some interesting art.


But overall I’m happy to be on the “die” end of their life cycle.

You might also like:

Summer Geek Gear

Summer heat has finally come to Chicago. Although fresh summer cycling is possible, especially if I ride super slowly, with temperatures in the 80′s F, riding in gym clothes is now easier than riding in work clothes. This week I traded my chic suits and tweed skirts for geeky bike commuter gear.

I described my full “LGRAB team kit” last year and this summer it’s pretty much the same, albeit with new sunglasses (am I the only one who always loses sunglasses?).

When I arrive at work, I pop into the ladies room and freshen up with an Action Wipe before putting on my work clothes.

But – oops! On Wednesday I totally forgot to carry a change of work clothes with me! I rifled through my office and unearthed a wrinkled blouse and skirt that had been waiting for a trip to the dry cleaners. Crisis averted, although I looked like a ragamuffin all day.

Getting into the routine of packing extra clothes will require an adjustment period. :)

Has anyone else changed their bike commuting routine for the summer (or winter, for Aussies out there)?

Cover girl

What’s the only thing more exciting than Time Out Chicago doing an issue about cycling? Time Out Chicago doing an issue on cycling with Dottie and Oma on the cover!

 

The five creative bike ride ideas are focused on everything from late-night urban assault rides to doughnut shop tours (That one’s in my future the next time I’m in town.). Seeing a mainstream publication do bike-focused issue does the heart good—Chicagoans, prove that bikes on the cover sells magazines and pick one up!

1 2