Yearly Archives: 2012

Bicycling on “Call the Midwife”

Call the Midwife, a BBC show now broadcasting on PBS, is the story of independent young women working as midwives in 1950′s London.  The portrayal of these women (the opposite of something like Grey’s Anatomy) is refreshing and I’m especially charmed by the shots of them bicycling around the city to and from jobs.

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Love the bikes, love the outfits.  :-)

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There is even a storyline about one of the midwives learning how to ride a bike as part of the job.

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Here is a fun behind the scenes look at the role of bicycling in the show.

Watch Behind the Scenes – Riding Bikes on PBS. See more from Call the Midwife.

“I find it really freeing. It makes you really happy, riding a bike…I really loved it.”

Anyone else enjoy watching Call the Midwife?

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Kirsten Dunst Rides a Bike!

Kirsten Dunst stars in some of my favorite films: Virgin Suicides, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Marie Antoinette, and Melancholia.  I’m also a fan of her personal style.  Naturally, I was excited to stumble upon these photos of her riding a bike.

kirsten dunst bike

kd bicycle

{photos via pinterest}

Looks like she’s in NYC?  I wonder if she cycles with some regularity.

This photo has me daydreaming of summer…

See also,

Kerri Russell Rides a Bike!

Rachel McAdams Rides a Bike!

Adele Rides a Bike!

Famke Janssen Rides a Bike!

Ellen Page Rides a Bike!

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Happy Holidays!

I hope you all are having a lovely holiday season!

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I’ll be back to work (and bicycling and probably blogging) the day after Christmas.

{Photo from this post last year}

Chicago Loop’s First Protected Bike Lane

GOOD NEWS!

Chicago now has a protected bike lane going through one of the busiest areas of downtown, the first of its kind in the central Loop district.  The lane is on Dearborn, a one-way street that formerly had three travel lanes and two parking lanes.  My experience bicycling on this street was always pretty scary: drivers exceeded the speed limit and constantly changed lanes with no warning and there were often conflicts with turning vehicles.

With the new protected bike lane, everything is different.  Dearborn feels miraculously safe.

Dearborn now has two main travel lanes, two parking lanes, and a two-way protected bike lane.  The protected bike lane is directly next to the curb, separated from car traffic by the parking lane and bollards.  The two-way bike lane allows bicyclists to use Dearborn to go both north and south, while cars can go only north.  Bicycle-specific stoplights are included at every intersection, next to the regular stop lights.  Conflict with turning cars is now eliminated, as cars may turn left only on a green arrow.  When the bicycle light is green, the car turning arrow is red and vise versa.  The turning arrow is activated only when a sensor picks up the presence of a waiting car.  Brilliant!

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Two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn

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Stop light for bicyclists and dedicated left turn arrows for drivers

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Lots of bicyclists enjoying the lane

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Martha of Bike Fancy approves

The Dearborn protected bike lane opened for use on Friday. Here is a video I made of the inaugural ride.  I cut out the time waiting for stop lights and increased the speed twofold.  If you pay attention, you’ll see a clueless SUV driver ride in the lane for a block.  The final part of the video shows the crappy bike lane after the protected bike lane ends.  I hope the city extends the protected lane further in the spring.

Prior to the inaugural ride, there was a press conference.  The speakers included our kick ass CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein and Mayor Emanuel.  For those really interested in the wonky side, here is a video of their speeches (and you can sometimes see me in the background looking very serious).

Here is an illuminating video that Active Trans put together, showing the before and after conditions.

Hat tip to the always-excellent Grid Chicago for making me aware of these videos and for their top-notch reporting on the Dearborn lane and other Chicago developments.

I am so, so, so hopeful about all of this! All I want to do is get to work and back safely, efficiently and happily on my bicycle – finally, those in power are investing in this as a worthy goal. I look forward to more serious improvements in the spring when construction season restarts in Chicago.

PLEASE say thank you to the politicians for the Dearborn protected bike lane.

Related:

My ride on the Elston Avenue protected bike lane
My ride down the Kinzie Street protected bike lane
The importance of protected bike lanes

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Returning to the bike after a crash

I got back on my bike last Friday.  The morning was beautiful.

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I felt great during the whole ride, including the bits on the street.  Thank goodness for the Lakefront Trail, where I don’t have to worry about cars.  I’ll be taking this route much more from now on, since my peaceful side-street route turned out to be not so peaceful.

Last night I took city streets home – a similar route as usual but avoiding the intersection – but it was too soon.  I was fearful and started crying a bit for no reason as I went along.  Typing that out is embarrassing, but there you have it.  I’ve always been super defensive and cautious, but now I feel like I cannot trust any intersection situation no matter what.  Plus, I think the night and everything felt too similar.  I’m back on the Lakefront Trail today.

For anyone who’s gone through something like this, how did you feel getting back on the bike?

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Nashville Bike Brunch + B-Cycle Test

Well, Nashville’s bike share finally launched on Thursday. I didn’t make it to the launch (whose idea is it to have these things in the middle of the day downtown??) but I feel like being the very first person to sign up for a year’s membership gives me some street cred anyway.

B-Cycle signup

Signing up for B-Cycle at the 12South Winter Warmer

On Sunday, we had a bike lunch at the very bike-friendly Kay Bob’s Grill and Ale near Vanderbilt (they volunteered to host AND they have a brand new bike rack!). Jonathan and Stephanie get points for biking all the way from East Nashville…our next brunch has got to be a little further their way. As we ate, we noted a couple of B-Cycle riders cruising down 21st—an encouraging sign for the program. Of course, the mild weather didn’t hurt: It was easily 60 degrees.

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Lauren and me

Lauren and me

Whitney, Stephanie & Jonathan

Whitney, Stephanie & Jonathan

$2 beers and delicious flatbreads were had. Then we strolled down to the closest kiosk to check this whole bike-share thing out.

Nashville or Paris?

Nashville or Paris?

The kiosks were the simplest ones I’ve used yet. Plus, if you’re a member, you can bypass them completely and just hold your pass up to the release point and checking the bike out that way.

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And unlike in London, I didn’t snag my tights/bruise myself trying to wrestle the damn bike out of the…holster, for lack of a better word.

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As I said before, these are fairly heavy, sturdy, 3-speed bikes. But the seats were easy to adjust and the same bike fit all of us with ease.

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They sent me a little text once I had successfully returned the bike, and I also got an email receipt detailing my activity—a nice touch.

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While we were at the kiosk, a handful of people stopped to check out the bikes and ask questions about how they worked—proof that a bike share has the power to make people think about cycling as transportation. Though I wouldn’t say that 21st Ave. is my favorite street to bike on (nor is Wedgewood, for that matter, though once it turns into Blakemore it’s OK), this station is one that will really up the program’s visibility. I can see myself using it on days I don’t bike to work if I have to run a lunch errand.

If you’re in Nashville, have you used the bike share? You can join here or find more details here.

 

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Another Friday

One week ago, I began my Friday morning at Heritage Bikes

For a quick breakfast…

With my friend Elizabeth…

Then we biked to work together…

And 10 hours later Elizabeth was picking me up from the ER and ferrying Coco and me home.  (She also happens to be the organizer of Chicago’s Ride of Silence).  Thanks, E!

Today I plan to get back on the bike for the first time.  Circumstances forced me finally to change Betty Foy’s flat tire, so I’ll be riding her.  :)

Happy Friday!

 

 

 

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Cheers to Community

Thanks so much to everyone for your support this week!  Every comment and email means a great deal to me.

I have not told anyone outside of my bicycling circle about the hit and run.  I want to avoid hearing – from now until the end of time – “I can’t believe you’re still riding your bike” and “OMG be careful!!!”  This would come from a place of kindness and concern, but I just don’t want to hear it.  So I am very grateful for all of you and for my women-who-bike group: people who really get it.

Here are some photos from Decembers Women-Who-Bike Brunch a couple of weeks ago.  Strong, fabulous women who are leading the charge and having fun doing it.

If you are in Chicago and would like to join our Women-Who-Bike brunches, please email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.  If you’re not in Chicago, I encourage you to join – or start! – a local social bike group.  The benefits of community cannot be understated.

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Hit and Run

To begin: I’M OKAY.  But on the way home from work Friday, I was hit by a car.  The driver ran a stop sign and struck me with the front left of his car.  The force crumpled the front of my bike, slammed me counter-clockwise into the side of the car and then onto the pavement.  The driver kept going.  There were a lot of witnesses and some extremely nice people came over to help me. They called 911 and provided statements to the police that I was doing everything right.  An ambulance came and brought me to the ER.  I have some pain and bruises, but am otherwise okay.  Coco the bike is in pretty bad shape.

Apparently, the driver of a silver/white car had swerved to the right (illegally – only one lane each direction) around another car waiting at the stop sign, barreled through the intersection, and sped even faster to escape as soon as he hit me.  There was no way for me to anticipate or avoid such recklessness.  That was after I stopped completely for my stop sign (four-way stop), waited for two other cars to go before proceeding, and almost made it through to the other side.  Unfortunately, no one got the license plate number.

My view – car came from my right:

Driver’s view:

The police officer who took my statement at the ER said this would be passed to the major crash unit.  They can check video surveillance from a city camera a block away, but I’m not expecting anything.  Although this person should be thrown in jail and never drive again and I wish I could get some money for Coco, I’m really not worked up about the driver.  I don’t have the energy for that kind of anger.  The extreme kindness of everyone else involved – the witnesses, police, fire department EMTs, doctors, my friend who drove me to pick up my bike later – was much more powerful than one driver’s cruelty.

Of course, I will continue to bike, once I’m feeling better, although I’m sure I’ll be more anxious and I will never bike through this intersection again.  Sadly, no amount of caution can protect you from a reckless driver with no regard for human life, whether you’re in a car or on a bike, but life must go on.

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Fashion Friday: Holiday Glamour

Tis the season: This weekend I’m going to no less than four festive events, which means I need at least four festive outfits. No spoilers on my real-life outfits, but they’ll probably involve glitter and sequins and satin and velvet and lace. Though alas, not a gold Brompton.

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I’ll post my actual holiday outfit once it has made its debut; in the meantime, anyone want to share theirs?
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United By Blue Organic Canvas Bags

We receive a lot of emails and press releases about bike-related products and campaigns, but this one really stood out to us: Organic canvas and leather bike bags by United By Blue.

United By Blue, which has an established business producing canvas bags, recently created a prototype bike bag line that’s ready to go into production with the help of Kickstarter funding. Basically, by contributing to the campaign, you are purchasing one of their bags pre-production – and the dollar amounts look reasonable in comparison to similar bike bags on the market. As a bonus, for every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups.

$25 gets you the Organic Handlebar Pouch.

$60 gets you the Organic Handlebar Bag.

$90 gets you the Organic Pannier Bag.

All of the bags come in four beautiful colors.

If, like me, you do not need another bike bag but would like to support the effort, you can give $5 or $15.

UNITED BY BLUE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN

{We received no compensation for this post.}

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Fashion Friday: Heels on Wheels

“Heels on Wheels” is a phrase that makes me cringe when used in the media to describe women riding bikes.  Since, you know, women should not be defined by a shoe type.   Yet here I go, using the phrase.  In my defense, this is only one post in a blog filled with varied topics about women and bicycling.  Also, the rhyming is irresistible.  :-)

Moving along to the point, a couple of Sundays ago the weather was unseasonably warm and as I headed out the door to a baby shower, I threw on an old pair of heels instead of my usual flats.  I rarely wear heals, preferring to tromp around the city with the steadiness of a mountain goat.  But I’m going through a wardrobe purge/overhaul of sorts and figured I should give these heels one more chance before throwing them in the ebay pile.

Turns out they are actually quite comfortable, provided I don’t stand for a long time.  And biking in them felt pretty bad ass.  The shoes created no logistical problems; as you can see in the photo below, there is plenty of contact between the pedal and the sole.  So these survive the purge, even though I probably won’t wear them often.

Now I’m drawn to the idea of stiletto heels in theory and what better way to play with this idea – sans wasted money and sore paw pads – than incorporating it into my Fashion Friday collage of imaginary outfits.  :-)  Now that the weather is straight-up cold, I winterized the concept.

{collage details}

I like this outfit because of the overall librarian feel (carried through to the Bowery Lane bike with its leather, cork, and wood), but with a kick of awesomeness from the heeled suede boots.  (Manolos are supposed to be the most comfortable heels, right?  Anyone have $600 I can borrow?  No?  Jerks.)  Of course, the stylish leather gloves would have to serve merely as the lining under my ski mittens with warmers.

So what say you: are you a heels on wheels type of person?

p.s. I really want that Everlane tote, made in Texas of Illinois canvas, priced at only $35!  (Everlane is my new style love, borne of a very cool concept.)

 

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Warm woolen mittens…stuffed with Grabbers

I love warm woolen mittens.  They are cozy and perfect for crisp fall weather.

(and whiskers on kittens! because why not.)

But woolen mittens are not cutting it any longer, as December approaches.   My fingers and toes are extremely sensitive.  While other cyclists seem to get by fine with a regular pair of gloves, my fingers and toes start to freeze/burn after ten minutes in 30 degree temps, even wearing wool glove liners with down-filled ski mittens (fingers) and wool socks with leather snow boots (toes).

The only solution for me – I’ve tried everything over the years – is warmers.  I buy Grabber brand (made in the USA and non-toxic) by the caseload from Amazon, making them 50 cents a pair.  A fair price to avoid daily misery and still much less expensive than the L train.

A pair lasts long enough to use for the morning and evening commutes, if stored in a ziplock bag during the day.  Grabber also makes toe warmers, but they are pricier and not as warm, so I save them for my regular shoes and  stuff hand warmers in my roomy snow boots.

Now if only I could get Amazon to deliver them in brown paper packages tied up with string…

How do you keep your fingers and toes warm during winter?

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Kerri Russell Rides a Bike!

Check out Kerri Russell casually riding a Gazelle in NYC.  I was so excited to see these photos on Pinterest!  I love seeing people in the public eye who bike to get around.  Her relaxed but chic style goes perfectly with bicycling around town.

Anyone know what panniers those are?  Very classy!

See also,

Rachel McAdams Rides a Bike!

Adele Rides a Bike!

Famke Janssen Rides a Bike!

Ellen Page Rides a Bike!

 

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Made in the USA

Deciding to ride a bicycle for transportation in a place like the US, after years of driving a car everywhere like everyone else, required that I step back and really question the system that I’d accepted all my life.  Through this, I realized the absurdity of using a ton of metal to carry myself a couple of miles.   This one change has naturally led to reconsidering other aspects of modern society.

Fresh on my mind, following Black Friday, is consumerism.  I love a good sale and I am far from a minimalist, with my collections of tchotchkes and overflowing bookshelves, but I feel that objects I bring into my home should have meaning and reflect my beliefs.  I do not always live up to this standard, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy clothing that was made in the USA or another country known for craftsmanship and decent working conditions, like the UK, France, Italy and Canada.  I know this is a complicated issue and many lives are improved by factory jobs overseas, but I personally feel better spending my money in a way that does not support corporations’ race to the bottom.  (See “Garment Workers Stage Angry Protest After Bangladesh Fire” and the Clean Clothes Campaign.)  Of course, I am lucky enough to have the time and resources for this, but so do most Americans.  No one is perfect (I’m typing this on an Apple computer, with its Foxconn manufacturing issues, after all) but that should not stop us from thinking about the issue and making small changes where we can.

Finding products that fit my criteria is, unfortunately, harder than it sounds, but prevents me from buying a lot of crap – avoiding fast fashion and focusing on quality over quantity.  And over time, I’ve built quite a nice collection.  Last Friday, I realized that everything I was wearing was made in the USA.  This made me happy.  :-)

My silk blouse and wool skirt are by Steven Alan, boots by Samantha Pleet for Wolverine (a birthday present), tights by Commando (the most comfortable ever), underthings by All USA Clothing, and earrings by Chic Gems.

(Hint on Steven Alan: twice a year he has online sample sales.  The fall sale just ended, unfortunately.  My skirt was $30 marked down from $225!)

As Mr. Dottie pointed out, the only exception to the outfit above is me: made in Germany.  And here is my wonderful mother who made me, visiting Chicago for Thanksgiving.  :-)

In regards to bicycles, I have one made in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in Taiwan.  As much as I absolutely love my Betty Foy in every way, part of me wishes that I saved my money longer to buy a made in the USA frame, like a Sweetpea or ANT.

How do you feel about this issue?  Do you have any shopping rules to counter thoughtless consumerism?

If you have tips on favorite businesses that manufacture in the USA, please share in the comments!

{p.s. another good way to shop – and cut down on waste – is to go for vintage style with secondhand savvy.}

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Sunday Ride

Good morning!  To all Americans, I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving.  :-)  And now we have to go back to work.  :-(

Traffic was light in the city during the holiday, making it the perfect time to ride a bike – as long as you manage to avoid the drunk drivers.  But I have not been on my bike in 5 days because my mom was visiting from North Carolina.  She enjoyed taking the L train.

The previous Sunday was my most recent joy ride.  My friends Sara and Glenn and I biked down the Lakefront Trail to see a movie, then back up the Trail to meet Mr. Dottie at a cozy Scottish pub - a great way to warm up after a chilly ride.

Saw the first outdoor holiday lights.

Enjoyed warm coffee drinks.

Coco and Poppy spent some quality time together.

Did you enjoy a holiday joy ride?

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Lite (not) Brite

Early nightfall claimed another victim last week.

I had planned to ride to the Walk/Bike Nashville social last Wednesday night after work. Though in a part of town I don’t visit often, the venue was only 4.5 miles away from my office, the night was relatively mild, and I had prepared by wearing the right clothes.

I considered taking the Bat, with its generator light in front, but it starts feeling heavy if I ride more than 10 miles or so. I decided to take Kermit Allegra, since the Mini Monkey Light is impossible to miss and I also have a great fender taillight that I installed over the summer. And I’d just replaced the batteries on my headlamp, which had been burnt out for a while.


Unfortunately, my headlamp was not up to snuff on the dark side streets I’d mapped out (to avoid busy roads at rush hour). At worst it was as above; at best it was as below, when the inadequate streetlight was broken by individual house lights.

 

I rode this bike most of last winter without an issue, but I think this was the first time I’ve ridden it in the dark, alone, on side streets that I was not familiar with. On my route home, and on the routes I use for most places I go regularly, there might be a few dim blocks, but I am so familiar with them that I know whether a shadow is a pothole or a branch or a crack in the concrete. In those circumstances, light that functions mostly to let me be seen is workable, if not ideal. Not so on these roads. When I realized I had passed two miles braking for obstacles (imagined or real), I decided it was time to turn around, go home and get my car.

West End traffic on the horizon

 

Lights that illuminate the street well have been elusive for me. I find that handlebar lights don’t have a wide enough beam, and front fork lights are often diffused by the fender, as displayed above. Again, these issues are workable if I keep to familiar and/or busier routes, but it’s frustrating to have my rides limited in this way. What front light do you use that allows you to both see and be seen? I’m thinking of trying a side wheel mount light like the one on Dottie’s Oma, which works on the dark sections of the Lakefront Path.  If anyone can recommend an aftermarket front light worth considering, I’m all ears. Money is…well, it’s an object, but I’d rather spend $50 on a light that works than get five crappy ones that don’t end up helping the situation.

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Lost and Found

I’ve had the worst luck losing stuff lately – and the best luck finding it again.  Last Wednesday, I arrived at work and went to lock my bike as usual.  I reached for my u-lock…

…but instead of hanging on the rack as shown above, the lock was simply gone.  Yeesh!  I reasoned that the lock must have popped off the rack at some point during my commute and  wheeled the bike into my office for safe-keeping.  On my way home that evening, I stopped at J.C. Lind Bike Shop for a new lock.  I needed one ASAP, since I was meeting my friend Sara for dinner and a movie, and I’ve been wanting to upgrade to an Abus chain lock.

While at Jon’s shop, I also picked up a new Cat Eye front blinkie light.  My old Cat Eye also popped off my bike a couple of days ago and shattered.

Am I the only one with stuff popping off my bike left and right?  Maybe I need to secure stuff better, but part of the problem is the awful conditions of Chicago’s streets.  Potholes galore.  Well, would this … thing … pictured below even count as a pothole?

This has been there for years and I can never go around it because traffic’s always whizzing by on my left.  Right next to this monstrosity is where I found my u-lock the next morning.  A kind bicyclist, I assume, moved my lock from the street to the sidewalk – or maybe it really popped that far??

So now I am the proud owner of one bike lock too many, but I’m sure it will come in handy one day.

My u-lock is not the only thing that I lost and found that day.  I also forgot my helmet under my chair at the restaurant where I met my friend for dinner.  I didn’t realize I was missing my helmet until hours later, after a movie and drinks.  By 11 p.m., the restaurant was dark.  But as I unlocked my bike, the owner, who was about to drive away, popped out of his car and said, “You forgot your helmet, right?”   He unlocked the restaurant, went in, and appeared a couple of minutes later with my helmet.  Very kind of him!

Now let’s see if I can go a few weeks without losing anything else.  :-)

 

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A Day in the Urban Outdoors

This time of year, lots of people spend their weekends hiking or taking drives to look at autumn colors. Which is all well and good, but you don’t have to leave the city to spend an active day out of doors.

On Sunday, we had a bicycle brunch at West End Café.  It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the high 50s.

Lauren, Stephanie, Jonathan, Whitney, Sten & Jessica

Newlyweds! Jess & Sten got married on November 3.

 

Lauren knitted her sweater.

I pulled the Bat out for the day.

Afterwards, most of us went downtown to check out the Mayor’s 5K. Stephanie and Jonathan left before the start, but Whitney had registered and Lauren and I decided to walk along with her.

Walking a 5K in boots while carrying a purse? Why not?

We felt a tad out of place, not being clad in sweats, tennis shoes or t-shirts, but walking such a short distance in city clothes is really no big deal. Besides, who could miss out on the chance to enjoy city streets closed off to car traffic? Not this trio.

After the 5K, we ate some free snacks and checked out the Bcycle terminal…bikes TK next month.

Finally, pricing is revealed!

Then we went to get our bikes for the ride home, stopping to admire the picture they made in front of the red trees and new courthouse shining in the late afternoon light. Who says you can’t enjoy fall color in the city?

Whitney and I took the long way home to check out the new 28th Ave Connector, which has a protected bike lane. I was too busy enjoying the ride/huffing on the uphills to take a picture of my own, not that you get much of a chance for photos on a ride that’s only just over a quarter of a mile, but here’s one from WSMV (click for more details on the connector, if you’re curious).

Image courtesy of WSMV, obviously!

When I got home after my 5-hour outdoor day, I headed directly to the couch. Where I’m fairly certain someone else had been for the entire day.

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A Week of Fall Outfits

Here’s an overview of my outfits last week, before setting off to bike to work in temps of 30-40 degrees.  I expect to wear these same outfits over and over again during the upcoming months.

Tuesday: Chloe trench, cashmere sweater, Celine pants, boots.

Wednesday: trench, Chloe dress, tights, boots.

Thursday: trench, cashmere sweater, wool skirt, tights, boots.

Friday: red trench, cashmere sweater, Burberry skirt, tights, flats.

(Most everything I bought used, some on clearance.)

The photos reveal a consistency in my fall dressing: cashmere, wool, tights, and leather boots.  I know I’ve said this many times before, but these materials are excellent for cold-weather cycling.  There is no reason for me to wear technical clothing.

Do you have a cold weather cycling uniform?

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