Yearly Archives: 2011

Nashville’s November Bike Brunch

Our last Nashville bike brunch was on November 13. We decided to ride downtown and check out the new Fleet Street Pub. The day was sunny and warm, but the wind gusts (40+ mph!) kept the crowd small.

Kermit Allegra and I met Whitney on Belmont Boulevard. I had a while to wait, so I amused myself by taking a few photos. The wind was so strong I had to hold onto the bike at times to keep it from falling over!

Kermit Allegra coyly shows off her new basket



Still, we made it downtown, as this photo of Whitney can attest.

Whitney on Broadway

Tourists and traffic meant walking the bikes most of the way to Printer’s Alley.


Where we found the Fleet Street Pub . . .

 

and Lauren! New friend Sarah also joined us.

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations on crafting, cycling and thrifting had me so absorbed that I forgot to take a picture of my beer or delicious meal until it looked like this.


 

 

If you live in Nashville and would like to join our bike brunches and themed rides, send me an email! December plans are still up in the air, but I’m planning my long-discussed Rhinestone Cowboy Ride for January 14. :)

 

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Mild November

Wow, only five more days until December! Hard to believe that winter and the year’s end are so close. Chicago’s weather has been mercifully mild and is predicted to remain so through the rest of November. I’ve been getting along fine with cashmere sweaters ($6 at the thrift store) and wool mittens.

This pair of fingerless wool mittens is convenient for fiddling with my bike lock and flipping off drivers (only once, I’m doing better!).

This is my favorite time of year. I’m spending my Thanksgiving holiday reading books (on book #3 today), cooking, and eating, but I also have a couple of LGRAB podcasts, a video, and a bike review in progress – hopefully for next week.

I hope everyone else is having a mild season and enjoying the holiday!

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Farmer’s Market Ride

Last Thursday I went to a meeting at the Farmer’s Market before work, and it made for a good opportunity to show you a couple of their new(ish) bike racks that were installed last summer. I chose to lock Kermit Allegra to the cornstalks, which were functional enough as well as pretty.

 

The tomato bike racks, I’m sorry to say, have not garnered such good reviews.

I’m sure the reason will be obvious to anyone who rides: the only way to secure your bike is by threading a very thin cable lock through the tiny holes of the tomato seeds.

Just another example of poor bike rack placement or design trumping the best of intentions.

On a more positive note, I was at the market to get an advance look at a “share the road” campaign that Metro Public Works will be launching in Nashville next spring—right around the time the city is set to extend its bike share program. More details on these developments as they move forward . . .

 

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Unsafe cyclists: what do you say?

I can’t stand it when other bicyclists pass me on the right. It’s unsafe. Unfortunately, it happens often because there are so many bicyclists and cars in Chicago. I spend a lot of energy trying to ride outside of the door zone (not always successfully); the last thing I need is for a bicyclist to pop up next to me in that dangerous space and take me down with her.

My fancy door zone collage

Yesterday as a woman did this, I said, “please don’t pass me on the right.” She said, “sorry,” and continued on. I have made the same statement to several bicyclists in the past and she was the first to respond. I kinda felt like a jerk. Irrational?

Generally, I feel like I should speak up when someone’s action directly affects my safety. Now I am wondering: should I bother saying anything at all when someone passes me on the right? I don’t want to be overly pedantic or annoying and I don’t want to tarnish anyone’s bike ride. Plus, my speaking up probably has little practical effect, except to raise my stress level. (Do people really not know this is dangerous?)

I’d love to hear what others think on this matter. Do you ever speak up? If so, has anyone ever responded to you? Do you think it does any good?

p.s. For a full discussion on why bicyclists should not pass other bicyclists on the right (or the left for Brits), check out Adrienne’s excellent post on Change Your Life. Ride a Bike!

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November’s women-who-bike brunch

The Women-Who-Bike group has been coming together for brunch every month for over a year now.  November’s brunch was number 13.  There were 20 of us, a great mix of regulars and new faces, plus Trisha.  I was especially excited to have a group of teenage girls and their mentors from West Town Bike’s Girls Bike Club.   (Much more about them in a future post!)

I was so busy eating and gabbing, I managed to take pictures of only a few of the women, so this is merely a sampling of the awesomeness.  :)

I must give thanks to Bleeding Heart Bakery and Cafe on Chicago Avenue.  Even though they don’t take reservations, they accommodated our large group, plus the food was delicious and our waitress was super sweet.

 

If you are in Chicago and interested in joining us for brunch, we meet on the first Sunday of the month.  Email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike.com to get on the mailing list for the details.
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Bike-friendly driving

Seeing a bike on the road in Nashville is still a relatively rare occurrence. One of the most frequent comments I get from people when they find out I cycle for transportation is that they just don’t know what to do when they encounter a bike on the road. Generally I’ll mention a few of the most frequent car offenses (veering ahead of me just to turn right; dooring), and say that an easy rule of thumb is that they should behave as they would if the bike were another car—or a tractor or other slow-moving vehicle.

But. If you or someone you know is a driver who’d like further instructions on how to behave when you encounter a cyclist, this article from the blog of the UK site Car Buzz is an excellent resource (just be sure to swap “left” for “right” since they drive on the other side of the road). It urges drivers to put themselves in the cyclist’s place as the more vulnerable road user and informs them of instances where accidents between cyclists and drivers are most likely to occur (which makes it a good read for new cyclists, too).

Posted just yesterday, the article has been making the rounds on bike blogs. It’s refreshing to see a site that focuses on helping people find cars treat cyclists as legitimate traffic and not a nuisance. My favorite tip:

Get on a bike!
Not until you experience what it’s like to be a cyclist on a busy road will you truly be able to empathise with them and realise how careless drivers can be at times. Cyclists can too be careless, but it usually ends in them getting hurt, not you!

Not to get too touchy-feely on a Friday, but the world could use more instances of people being willing to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

 

It’s that time of year…

When I start to look like the Red Barron -

And I have to remove and carry around a bunch of layers and accessories -

Before I look like myself again.

Is everyone else pulling out their hats, ear muffs, gloves, scarves and coats? (Snow is in today’s forecast!)  Or are you smarter than me, living in a warm climate? :)

Here’s our advice on dressing for winter biking, if anyone needs it.

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Bike Lane Love in the New York Times

It’s too bad that so many New Yorkers still complain about the bike lanes’ contribution to the inconvenience of urban driving instead of promoting them for their obvious role in helping solve the city’s transportation miseries, and for their aesthetic possibilities. I don’t mean they’re great to look at. I mean that for users they offer a different way of taking in the city, its streets and architecture, the fine-grained fabric of its neighborhoods…On a bike time bends. Space expands and contracts.

Check out this beautiful article about New York’s bike lanes, Pleasures of Life in the Slow Lane, by Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times. (Hat tip to reader David B. for forwarding it to us!) As Chicargobike said in her post about the article, the prose will make you swoon.

Reading a glowingly positive article about bike infrastructure in the mainstream media was refreshing and a lot of the author’s optimism can be applied to Chicago or any other city that’s beginning to take bikes seriously. I was especially interested to read that “London has lately turned into a bike capital too.” I’d love to hear what any Londoners out there think about that statement.

Speaking of New York, I found a little bit of NYC in downtown Chicago yesterday.  There is a new Magnolia Bakery on State Street.

I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, Chicago already has lots of delicious cupcake bakeries and doesn’t need New York’s second-hand ideas.  On the other hand, CUPCAKES!  :)

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Chilly but cozy in Chicago

Hello, there! Sorry for the week’s break from posting. I have a bunch of topics piling up, so there will be more frequent blogging now.

Trisha is visiting Chicago again (for a work conference) so we got to commute downtown together this morning and afternoon. We enjoyed our ride on the Lakefront Trail. The weather created a gloomy but atmospheric setting, with misty rain, fog and a placid lake. This effect was exaggerated on the way home, since it was raining a bit and completely dark by 4:30 p.m. due to daylight savings time (I hope everyone has good lights!).

Ever the optimists, we used this as an excuse to tuck into a Scottish pub for fish & chips and whiskey. That’s one reason to like colder weather!  :)

Trisha and Coco

Me and Betty

Lakefront Trail

Sadly, the rain is supposed to pick up tomorrow and we’ll probably be taking the L train.

More tomorrow!

Brewery Bike Tour in Fort Collins

I’m back in Chicago! Can you believe it’s November already?

During my Denver vacation, I spent a day in nearby Fort Collins, Colorado.  Melissa, Chanh, Mr. Dottie, and I went on a bike tour of the city’s breweries. Melissa mapped out an ambitious plan to hit all seven, but a late start, early return time for the bikes, and a lot of beer sampling lowered that number to three.

Our first stop was the Fort Collins Bike Library to pick up free bikes. That’s right: free.  The Bike Library is a non-profit that lends out bikes like a library (get it?).

The Bike Library is located in a small hut in the middle of the downtown pedestrian plaza. Once we signed a waiver and provided credit card information, we were free to pick out the bikes.  Many were unrideable due to needed repairs, but lucky for us, several were left in good condition.

I scored a Jamis Commuter, the first bike I owned as an adult.  This was a very nice version, complete with 8-geared internal hub, chain guard, fenders and generator lights, although it made a crazy noise and the fenders were bent up.

Melissa tried out the bakfiets (awesome!)…


But went with a cute blue cruiser.

Chanh and Greg chose/were left with red single speeds.

Our second stop was CooperSmith’s Brewery, since it is next to the Bike Library and has a pub where we could eat lunch. Also, beer!

Then we set off down the road to our next stop, Odell Brewing. The ride was quick, but most of the route was along the shoulder of a two-way street with faster traffic. Someone with less experience riding among traffic may not be totally comfortable with this route (along Lincoln) but we found a more enjoyable back-streets route for the return trip.

The beer at Odell was AMAZING!  Easily among the best beer I’ve ever had, especially the Bourbon Barrel Stout.

I think we managed to taste them all.

Our final stop was New Belgium Brewery, which appropriately had a wide bike lane outside.

And its own small fleet of branded bikes.

I’m a big fan of New Belgium, both for its Tour de Fat/bike advocacy and its delicious beer.

Uh, yeah, we enjoyed our beer. :)

Fort Collins is not only breweries, though. Before heading out, we spent some time walking around the cute downtown area.

It is very pedestrian friendly.  ;)

We played with the interactive street art.

Surely, this fish was meant to be ridden.

Definitely this bike piano was meant to be played.

Fort Collins is an awesome little town.  We had so much fun and I’m happy we spent a day there.

I highly recommend a visit if you’re in the area. What could be more fun than bikes and breweries?

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The automobile trap

Last week I had to go to a friend’s house that I couldn’t bike to after work. There was a drizzle, it was rush hour and the maybe 10-mile drive took more than half an hour. By the time I got there I was doubly ready for that glass of wine (and I know a lot of people have longer commutes than that). It made me grateful to have the option of cycling or even walking to work, and sad that it’s something so many people don’t have. This feeling was only intensified by reading an article on Time’s website (via), that went beyond the psychological effects of commuting to explore the financial impact. It was an interesting read in the wake of my recent flirtation with a car-free life. The article, in a nutshell:

The study estimates that a family earning $50,000 to $60,000 per year pays around $10,000 annually in automobile costs—including gas, insurance, and other related expenses. According to the Department of Commerce, that family is paying more for transportation than health insurance or taxes.

Author Brad Tuttle goes on to explain how this happened and why, unfortunately, there’s not much the average American can do to change their situation. Many people chose to live in communities outside the urban core in the days of cheap oil because houses were more affordable, or because the schools were better. Now the current economy, job and real estate markets make it nearly impossible to move closer to where you work or work closer to where you live. Public transportation? Sure, if you’re in one of the 10 or 12 cities in the country where comprehensive public transportation exists. If not, you either don’t have the option at all, or exercising it would make your commute even more difficult. The only flaw in this article was that he didn’t mention the option of bicycles as transportation—but the things that keep people from using public transportation are often obstacles to cycling as well.

And that’s if you even want to try, or are willing to acknowledge the financial impact of driving. Most people look the other way exactly because of this catch-22 situation. Or because driving is, quite simply, the most convenient way of getting around for probably 90% of the population. Or because they just hate thinking about money, and figuring out the exact cost of owning a car is a complicated thing. I actually love road trips and I have a sentimental attachment to my current car because my dad rebuilt it for me. But having the option of whether or not to drive it, at least on a daily basis, is so valuable to me. Much is made of the equation of car=freedom, but how much freedom has the automobile culture given people when it comes to choosing their mode of transportation? Maybe economic pressures are finally going to make that start to change.

Interpreting Signs

I’ve been puzzling over this alteration to one of the bike warning signs here in Nashville for some time now, and I’ve decided it’s time to turn it over to you readers.

Is this a statement about cycling scofflaws?
Is it meant to convey something along the lines of “bikes rule, cars drool”?
Or is it just random vandalism?

Feel free to vote on my ideas or share yours in the comments. Happy Friday! Happy Halloween!

Past deep thoughts about Nashville’s bike infrastructure.

B-cycling in Denver

Mr. Dottie and I are in Denver this week vacationing and visiting Melissa and Chanh. We’re staying at a B&B downtown and so far we love the area. Today was devoted to B-Cycling. We picked up a couple of bikes a block away and made our way across town to the Platte River Trail, where we biked several miles, stopping for lunch and an excursion to the flagship REI store.  We biked about 12 miles total for the day.

B-Cycle is Denver’s bike share system.  There are 500 bikes at 51 stations, mostly serving the downtown area.

The bikes are fully outfitted for city riding, with 3-speeds, drum brakes, skirt guards, chain guards, baskets, generator lights, fenders and adjustable quick-release seats. Very comfy.

You swipe your membership card (which we borrowed) and the bike of your choice is released.

After paying a membership fee, using a bike is free for the first 30 minutes, $1 for the hour, and thereafter $4 for every half hour, to encourage short local trips. We managed to spend no more than $4 all day by docking and re-releasing our bikes as often as possible.

And then we were off! The trail is lovely – paved, scenic and well-maintained.

The fall colors here are gorgeous.  So beautiful.

We stopped by a cool bike shop/coffee shop, Happy Coffee Co., that had this great mural outside.

Then Mr. Dottie had to infuse the ride with adventure and bomb up this hill with his little B-Cycle. Pretty impressive for a 3-speed city bike. We’ll have to find some real mountain biking later this week.


We loved our adventure on the B-Cycle and are enjoying biking in Denver.  The past couple of days have been warm, but it’s supposed to snow up to 10 inches tomorrow!

Now back to vacation…

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The stylish Ms. Coco

When I was in Chicago, I got to ride Coco. Somehow, Dot and I overlap on the bike size spectrum—just enough so that I can ride most of her bikes as long as the seatpost is alllll the way down and I’m willing to dismount at all stops. Anyway, the lovely Coco and I got along just great while I was there.

Not sure what is up with my hair here. Or why I’m trying to kill myself by balancing on the bike, but sometimes I get a little giddy when I’m having my picture taken.

Every time I ride in Chicago I discover all over again how different it is to ride somewhere that’s FLAT. So flat. Like, the “hills” in Chicago feel like speedbumps flat. It’s a totally different thing. No coasting, but no real exertion either, unless you want to be a speed demon.

(Which, in case you just stumbled on this blog today, we don’t.)

Instead of hills, Chicago has potholes. Thank goodness for sprung saddles, Coco’s big balloon tires and posting skills, is all I’m saying about that.

But the best thing about riding bikes in Chicago is sharing the street with this lady.

I’ll be back in November for my first (Chicago) winter cycling effort in a couple of years. I have some winter boots and plenty of wool tights. Keeping an eye on the weather report to see if I need them—we’ll see how it goes (and so will you, I’m sure!).

Appreciating Late Fall

The past two days have been rainy and super windy, so I’ve taken public transportation. The L train is no fun compared to my bikes, but I’m grateful for its convenience when needed. The combination of bicycling and access to great public transportation is what allows me to live without a car

Happily, today is sunny and dry, although 39 degrees – brrr.

I’ll not complain about fall weather too much, because I know what’s coming.

Gotta remember to appreciate the present.  Happy Friday!

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Who is the A-hole? Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…

This is a post where I get to use our “a-holes” tag.

Yesterday morning, during the portion of my commute where I have to use a busy road, I approached an intersection (Wells & Division) with the green light and I kept a sharp eye on opposite traffic to make sure no one turned left in my path. That is a common occurrence because drivers either don’t pay attention or think they are fast enough to dart through, so I’m always looking out for it.

I entered the intersection and the opposite driver, who had a clear view of me, began to turn left at the same time without warning. I started breaking, but I wasn’t sure if I could stop in time, so I called out, “Don’t go! Don’t go!” I’m loud and his window was open, so he stopped and as I went by a split second later, he yelled out his window, “Then hurry up, Asshole!”

Can you believe that? Crazy times!

But I will continue to use my outside voice when necessary to ensure my safety. By the time I arrived at work, I was mostly zen about it, telling myself that he must be a miserable person, whereas I only had to deal with him for a few seconds.

I did stop at the store afterward to buy this amazing Icelandic chocolate bar before going to work. Chocolate is my friend.

And it helped that I had the witty banter of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me whispering in my right ear.

You may have noticed that I was a bit bundled up. With temps in the low 40’s, biking in a suit sans sweat is no problem, and now I have to add earmuffs, a scarf, wool tights and gloves. Not just any gloves – my fingers get very cold, so I had to break out these huge Thinsulate reindeer gloves. They’re so silly looking, they make me laugh.

Mean drivers, cold weather, whatever.

I will still be out there, enjoying my bike rides. :)

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Video: Biking in a Protected Lane

A couple of weeks ago, I shared photos of my bike ride through Chicago’s first protected lane on Kinzie Avenue. I love this lane, so now I’m sharing the experience with all of you. Sorry for the jumpy video – the ride is more peaceful than it looks, but Chicago’s streets are bumpy and I was holding the camera in my hand.

Enjoy!

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Soak up the sun

This weekend may be one of your last to soak up the sun without simultaneously shivering (especially if you’re in Chicago).

 Jump on a bike and enjoy the ride! :)

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Introducing LGRAB Podcasts!

Trisha and I have started a cycling-themed podcast series!  We’ll talk to creators of sites and bicycles we like, other bloggers, each other and more.

I encourage you to subscribe to the LGRAB Podcasts for free via iTunes to stay up-to-date on all future podcasts.  Simply click on the link, then “view in iTunes” and “Subscribe.”

Our first podcast is an interview with John Greenfield and Steven Vance, co-creators and writers of Chicago-based sustainable transportation blog Grid Chicago. Both have past insider experience working for the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Active Transportation Alliance, and their mission with Grid is to be a platform for critical analysis and thought on issues related to progressive and sustainable transportation.

  

{L: Steven Vance, R: John Greenfield.  Photos courtesy of Grid Chicago}

In the podcast I chat with Steve and John about writing Grid, how to make your voice heard by those in power, and the future of bicycling infrastructure in Chicago.  We had such a great conversation, I had to edit almost an hour and a half down to a more manageable 27 minutes.

You can listen to the interview below or visit our iTunes page to download the podcast.

Visit Grid Chicago
Visit our iTunes page

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With videos like this . . .

It’s amazing that cycling didn’t catch on for all kids in the 1990s. :) {Via}

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