May 2012 archive

Lake Breezes and Karma

IMG_0007resized

The cool breezes of Lake Michigan lured me to the lakefront trail yesterday morning.  Freedom from the stifling heat of car exhaust and crazy drivers, I relaxed and enjoyed the beauty around me.

These pictures are from this great old Polaroid Land Camera 250.  Very fun to play with.  :)

In the evening, I took city streets, where I witnessed a scene that first had me flaming mad and then had me cheering.

As I waited at a red light at a crowded intersection, a driver in a fancy SUV was turning left and inching into a crosswalk as a mother with a baby carriage crossed with the walk signal.  The mother was saying something to the driver that I could not hear, probably like, “Excuse me, I have the walk sign and I’m here with my baby.”  The driver responded by HONKING his horn, right in the baby’s face!  The mother did not budge and the driver then stepped on the gas to lurch forward and psych out the mother, who was standing no more than two feet away WITH HER BABY CARRIAGE!  (Who are these horrible people???)  As soon as she moved away, the driver sped down the street…

…for about 3 seconds.  A police SUV, which was two cars behind the offending SUV, immediately went after it with lights and sirens.  As a biked by, the SUV was pulled over and two police officers were exiting their vehicle.  The scene was so beautiful, I could have wept.  KARMA!

I think the driver should have been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, but at the very least I hope he or she received a citation for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.  Drivers need to know that they cannot get away with criminal behavior simply because they are surrounded by a ton of metal!

The Independence of Bicycling

20120522-BRA2080-R2-004-0A

Boy, was I happy to be riding my bike yesterday evening!  An extra-alarm fire at a furniture store adjacent to the L-tracks shut down the red, brown, and purple lines for several hours spanning the height of rush hour.  (No one was hurt in the fire.)  Mr. Dottie was on the brown line and had to walk the last two miles home, which is not so fun in near 90-degree heat, carrying a heavy work bag and wearing steel-toed boots. I, on the other hand, sailed along home with trusty Oma.

The scene biking past the L station was chaotic, with hundreds of people waiting for shuttle buses and car traffic jammed from road closures.  I may have gotten some envious looks from the poor commuters stuck on the side of the road.  Too bad Chicago’s planned bike share is not up and running yet – I bet lots of people would have tried it for the first time!

Bonus: enjoying the sight and smell of fresh flowers along my route.

While situations like this on public transportation are rare, I prefer to deal with them never.  The ordeal reminded me of the independence that the bicycle provides.  As long as I have my trusty bike and a slim stretch of road, I’m set.  (Just no thunderstorms, please!)

Good work, Oma!

Roll Model: Sam of Brown Girl in the Lane

A rare bird—female cyclist in San Diego

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Sam (also known as Beany) from Brown Girl in the Lane. Dottie and I have had the pleasure of meeting Sam in persontwice!—during visits to San Diego. If you’re wondering if she’s as idiosyncratic and charmingly acerbic in person as she is on her blog, the answer is emphatically YES! Sam is the only person I know who has moved cross-country by bike, and she always emphasizes how empowering and enjoyable riding a bike can be. We’re honored to share more about her with you. (For those of you who don’t know her blog, Sam doesn’t post photos of herself—but all photos in this post were taken by her.)

 

A rare bird—female cyclist in San Diego

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Comfortable, fun and quirky

How long have you been riding a bike?
Since I was 5. I’m 31 now. So about 26 years.

Describe where you live and cycle.
In neighborhoods with a lot of human activity (people walking, riding) and along the coast with the view of the ocean constantly at my side.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?
Every day I ride, I feel indescribably happy. The experiences I have on the saddle allow me to be truly in touch on a very visceral level with the city around me. It is a sort of attachment that I cannot shed. And one that I don’t want to.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
No. I found one bike shop that did, and then they up and moved to Portland (Velo Cult). Intentionally or unintentionally, I always feel stupid when I walk into bikes shops. And I don’t know a whole lot but the condescending attitude seriously ticks me off. So I revert back to how I’ve always done things: watching youtube videos and buying my supplies online.

A family ride

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I believe that the infrastructure issue is huge as it has been highlighted often. But women are constantly put down by not just the media (who tend to take their cues from leaders in the movement), but by men in general and that can be very demoralizing. I experience that on a near daily basis and since I’m fairly thick skinned I don’t notice it unless I take the time to really analyze it. I guess I’m a bit dead on the inside to really take stock of it. I think bike blogs written by strong women (like yourself and Trish) really serve to inspire. You look normal, and many women can relate to you and your interests. Between where we are now, and before we turn the U.S. into The Netherlands or Denmark, we’ve got to support one another.  I think I should write about this in more detail. [ed: in between submitting this post and us posting it, she has! Check it out.]

Although you seem to enjoy life in San Diego, you often express frustration with its dominant car-culture and poor infrastructure. If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
Have a car-free day once a month. Have people ride, walk or transit everywhere. My frustration stems from the lack of empathy from the drivers. If everyone knew how annoying it is to get buzzed or honked at, I think people would be more considerate. [ed: WORD.]

Standard Tap: one of Beany's favorite watering holes

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
It is scary, intimidating and annoying. Especially at first. My motivation is financial—I hate spending money. But the after effects have been tremendous. Riding gives such a wonderful feeling of independence—you can go anywhere you want to, on your own power. That is such a powerful feeling. Being outside on a bike—I feel so powerful, so happy, so inspired (I get some of my best ideas when I’m out on long rides). I’m very shy, so I tend to do things alone. So if you’re like me, I’d urge you to just try it out. Give riding a shot in a safe, protective environment and see how you feel. Don’t do something you’re uncomfortable doing. If you have a friend or a partner you trust—try riding with them. Ride with someone who is patient with you and your limitations. Be stubborn, and keep trying. If you have concerns about your body or your lack of fitness, try a little bit at a time. Although I ride every day, my body is not a svelte, lean, muscular machine. Like many women, I have my own body image issues, but I ignore them because the joy I derive from riding trumps all the negative thoughts in my head.

Final words?
I dream of a day when the number of people riding are split 50/50 between men and women. I want to be lost in the crowd of women.

____________________

 

Thanks to Beany! Everyone should check out Brown Girl in the Lane for more San Diego cycling stories.

October’s Brunch and the Urban Adventure League

20120528-IMG_0023resized

Today I developed a long-forgotten roll of B&W film and discovered the pictures from October’s women-who-bike brunch.  If anyone was wondering why I never blogged about October’s brunch, that’s why.

Enjoy.  :)

At this brunch we had special guests from Portland: April and Shawn from the Urban Adventure League.  They were at the end of a long bike tour that took them from Portland through Vancouver, Montana, Minnesota and finally Chicago.  Shawn is also the writer of the comic Ten Foot Rule, among other publications.

The women-who-bike group makes special exceptions for men who are visiting from out of town, especially if they biked.  :)

Fashion Friday: Memorial Day picnic

summer picnic feature image

Happy three-day weekend, U.S. readers! On actual Memorial Day, I will be “running” a 10K. So I’ll have to get in all my relaxing on Saturday and Sunday. My daydreams today at work will be about pulling on a comfy T and a pair of shorts (while I love cycling in dresses, shorts can’t be beat when you plan to be sprawled out on the grass), grabbing that book I’ve been meaning to read and a few snacks, and pedaling over to the park for some rest and relaxation.

 

Summer picnic
Summer picnic by trishap featuring summer short shorts

Scotch & Soda summer short shorts, €76
H&M leather sandals, £13
Pastel shades, $32
Affinage Fine Cheese Indulge Italian Cheese Deluxe Gift Set, $120
Design House Stockholm Carrie Bicycle Basket, $79
Bring Up the Bodies, $15

Cheese, wine, a good book, a bicycle with a basket to carry it all—it’s pretty simple, but I’m not sure there’s a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Other weekend plans: swinging by the thrift store to pick up a few casual (and possibly, disposable) clothing items for Bonnaroo. Oh, and deciding which iteration of the gradient nail trend I’m going to go with for next week. I like this monochromatic look with glitter! How are you spending your weekend?

Review: Ortlieb Bike Shopper Pannier

BRA5569-R1-047-22resized

While test riding the Civia Twin City, I also tested the Ortlieb Bike Shopper rear pannier.  My Basil pannier, designed to fit my large Dutch rack, did not fit the Civia’s smaller rack, so Jon gave me the Ortlieb to go with the bike.  The hooks on this pannier can be adjusted to fit any size rack.

The pannier is waterproof.  This is the main attribute, as most of the panniers on the market are only water-resistent.  Personally, water-resistence has been adequate for my needs, as my cargo has never gotten wet, even in thunderstorms, and I always keep a plastic bag handy for extra emergency protection.

The second stand-out attribute of the pannier is the mounting system, which Ortlieb calls the “QL2″ system.  This allows you to attach and remove the pannier with barely any effort and with only one hand by pulling on a small strap handle, while the pannier remains securely attached otherwise.

The system is hard to describe, but it totally works wonders, so I made a quick video to demonstrate.  Note that I was able to detach and reattach the pannier all while holding a camera with my other hand.

Unfortunately, this ease of use does not extend to the plastic zipper, which is ridiculously hard to open and close.  I had to use both hands and pull hard just to get the zipper to slowly move.  Perhaps this gets easier over time, but over the course of three days and at least 10 tries, it did not.  Another awkward thing about the pannier is the way the shoulder straps simply dangle when the bag is mounted.  They are not long enough to get caught in the wheel, but the design should have been improved to provide the straps with a home.

The inside is large and holds about as much stuff as my Basil Design Shopper.  There are a few interior pockets to hold your keys, cellphone, and other objects you need to access easily.  I do not like how the bag narrows at the bottom, but I guess that is to prevent heel strike, although I’ve never had a heel strike problem with other panniers.

The pannier comes in several different colors.  I had the ice blue-gray color, which is the prettiest by far.  (Other options include neon green and black.)  I would like to see Ortlieb apply their awesome mounting system to panniers that are more attractive.  I am not interested in carrying into the office or the store a bag that looks like athletic equipment.  I consider a commuting pannier successful when the design allows for an easy transition from the bike to the rest of my life.

I must point out that all the photos on Ortlieb’s website are of men, making the company look out of touch with the current sea change in bicycle commuting.  As in – women do it, too!  Of course, Ortlieb is entitled to focus their market narrowly, but that does not mean I have to like it.

Overall, the Ortlieb Bike Shopper pannier is a high-quality and functional bag with an excellent mounting system that makes attaching and detaching the bag a breeze, even one-handed.  Unfortunately, this ease disappears when dealing with the zipper and arranging the awkwardly dangling straps.  For someone who absolutely needs a waterproof bag and is willing to invest $100 (a fair investment for years of bike commuting), the Bike Shopper is a good choice.  But if a water-resistant bag is good enough for your purposes, there are many other options that I would recommend, especially if you desire a bag that transitions from the bike to the office with more aplomb.

Urban Gardening by Bike

20120522-BRA2080-R1-048-22A

I am a city girl, but sometimes I complain about not having a yard and google Asheville farmhouses.  A classic “grass is greener” situation.  In reality, I have never displayed a green thumb and barely use my only outdoor space, a small wooden balcony.  Admitting this to myself, I decided to embrace what I have fully, instead of uselessly dreaming of what I do not have.  The result is my new urban garden!  My south-facing balcony gets strong direct sunlight for most of the day and finding plants that thrive in such an environment was easy.

On Saturday, I biked to my neighborhood garden center (Fertile, for locals) and loaded up on flowers: roses, begonias, daisies, and a window box for mounting.

To transport the plants, I simply zip-tied to my front rack a wine crate that Mr. Dottie found in our alley (free!).  This served the purpose splendidly.  The plants were packed in enough that they did not jostle or fall over.

Back at my condo, I transferred the flowers to bigger pots with more soil.  Lucky for me, I snapped up several terra-cotta pots that my neighbor left in the basement when she moved (free!).  These were a big score, as transporting heavy pots would have been difficult.

I learned via gardening blogs that I need some larger material at the bottom of my pots, below the soil, to help with drainage and avoid root rot.  I had enough wine corks for the first pot, but then I was at a loss and not up for another trip to the store.  Mr. Dottie came up with a plan to collect rocks from under nearby L tracks, which sounded kinda gross, but after only a few handfuls each – and after picking out the broken glass – we were set (free!).  :)

On Sunday, I returned to the garden center for herbs and vegetables.  Same bike set up as before.  I got sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, tomatoes, and banana peppers!

 Mr. D stuffed another flower box in his pannier.

Then we got back to work potting.  Getting my hands in the dirt – like a kid again – was fun, even though the dirt came from a bag.  (I was able to buy organic potting soil from the nearby grocery store, allowing me to walk home carrying the bags and avoid loading the bike up.)

Now I have a real live urban garden – complete with herbs, veggies, and flowers.  Once I prove to myself that I can keep these guys alive, I plan to go back for more.  And I’m working on some seedlings (green beans, catnip, flowers) that hopefully will join the rest of the gang outside soon.

As a final touch, I scored two barely-used patio arm chairs from Craigslist, which the seller delivered for a small extra fee.

I could not be more excited about my tiny urban garden!  Now I can sit outside and enjoy my personal oasis.  :)

Plus, I’ve already roasted a chicken using my own herbs – delish!

Does anyone else have an urban garden?  Or do you have an actual yard with an actual garden??  I’d love to hear stories and tips.

{Two helpful blogs I used as resources: Urban Organic Gardener  and Life on the Balcony.}

Bonjour mardi!

frenchbraid

French braid.

 

French bike.

Maybe it was seeing Goodbye, First Love (aka Un Amour de Jeunesse) on Sunday night, but today I felt the urge to dust off poor, neglected Le Peug and take him to work today. When going back to this bike after a break, I’m always surprised by how nimble it is.

My camera is still hiding somewhere and taking Panda snaps with the iPhone in glaring sunlight is terribly awkward (mine’s a plain old 3G without a front-facing camera). So apologies for my quizzical expression. The crown braid is actually a terrific cycling hairstyle; watch for a tutorial soon. It’s easier than you might think! Until then, check out the trailer for Goodbye First Love. It’s the kind of movie that stays with you and gets better the more you think about it.

 

 

You might also like:

Roll Model: Jools of Lady Velo

Jools and her Pashley!

As part of the new LGRAB, every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”

This week’s Roll Model is Jools, aka “LadyVelo,” who blogs about her adventures on two wheels in East London at Vélo-City-Girl. Jools sets the bar pretty high when it comes to cycling in style—and she’s only been at it two years! Read on for a glimpse of the London cycling life.

Jools and her Pashley!

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Stylish, leisurely, fun!

How long have you been riding a bike?
I’ve been riding my Pashley for just over two years (two years and two months to be exact!)

Describe where you live and cycle.
I live in Newham in East London, which is now famous for hosting the 2012 Olympic Games! As I cycle to work (also in East London) I do ride around the area a lot. Improvements are being made around here for cyclists, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the cycling infrastructure around here. When I’m out with The Boy on our bikes, we often cycle across London for our Coffee & Cake Saturday rides, which is ace! Getting around London by bike is the best way to really see and appreciate the City!

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
Bicycling has had a huge effect on my life: It’s been a fantastic way to meet new and likeminded people who enjoy the freedom of cycling… and who also enjoy mixing fashion with two wheels! My levels of fitness have also improved since getting my Pashley and starting to ride again… it’s been amazing.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
In my honest opinion, I find that the smaller / independent bike shops are always more welcoming to women riders. Some of the larger chain bicycle shops seem to be heavily geared towards men, which is a pity as there is a huge female cycling demographic out there. When it comes to group rides, women are being catered for with rides organised by the likes of Breeze Network, who are reaching out to female cyclists wanting to get back on the saddle—encouragement is key.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I really hope to see the day when there isn’t a “Gander Gap” in cycling when it comes to media attention / getting more women cycling….

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
The current CS Cycle Highways we have. I’d make them wider and adopt a similar style to those in Berlin

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I do feel optimistic about the future of cycling in London. Although it may feel like a tough battle at the moment, so many people / organisations / bloggers and such are campaigning for improvements here . . . voices will be heard and changes will be made.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Go for it! Do some research and look into getting a bike suited to your needs, and go at your own pace. Between me taking up cycling again in March 2010, there was a 10-year gap—it’s NEVER too late to start riding! It’s also very likely that there will be women-only cycle groups in your area—check them out and go on group rides or rides with friends to build up your confidence if needed…

Final words?
Be safe, be happy & enjoy being on your bike! x

 


 

Thanks for sharing your story, Jools! For more, visit her at Vélo-City-Girl or on FB or twitter.

Nashville’s Bike to Work Day

suits

On Friday, Nashville celebrated Bike to Work Day along with most of the rest of the country.


Nashville’s event was in our Public Square, in front of the relatively new courthouse.

As in most cities, people rode in from all parts of town to partake in coffee and breakfast, and to meet other cyclists.

Maybe nothing out of the ordinary, except that Nashville’s Bike to Work Day this year was the biggest ever.

The bike racks were full and the crowd was ready to be addressed by Mayor Karl Dean, who had biked in himself.

After a donut, a banana and some conversation I headed in to work with a group of friends. It was a great way to start the day.

See Lauren’s blog for another take on the day (she kindly shared her pictures since my camera is hiding somewhere)—and the official Nashville Bike to Work FB page has some great pics too.

Cycling is really taking off in Nashville these days—it’s so exciting and fun to see the number of cyclists on the street and at events like this growing.

Did your city bike to work last Friday? How’d it go?

1 2 3