Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fashion Friday: Nearly naked edition

It’s so steamy I can’t even think about real clothes this weekend, and since the hellish weather (aka pink blob of death) that’s enveloping Tennessee right now seems to be covering much of the country there’s a good chance many of you are feeling the same. So for this week’s fashion Friday, I’m dreaming of being on a boat with some Jeni’s ice cream. Pants optional. If you live somewhere that allows you to wear more than a bathing suit or underwear this weekend . . . can I come to visit?

Nautical heat wave

 

Not much on my plate this weekend other than the vain attempt to keep cool, but I am looking forward to fabric shopping with Lauren and a last-minute visit from my college roommate (yay K!). Also, to multiple cucumber-rosemary gin & tonics. And possibly frying an egg or toasting marshmallows on the sidewalk. Feel free to share your weekend plans or commiserate about the heat in the comments!

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A Long Summer Evening

I love how getting home at the end of the day can become extraordinary simply by bicycling with friends.  After this week’s Tuesdays on the Terrace event at the Museum of Contemporary Art, I biked home along the lakefront with my friends Sara and Holly.  At 8:30, the sun was setting, creating beautiful colors in both the sky and water.  Sara had the idea to stop along the way and venture to the edge of a pier for a beautiful view of the city.

Sara with her blue Pashley Poppy:

Holly with her green vintage bike:

Me with my Rivendell Betty Foy:

We took a bunch of photos and engaged in some general silliness:

Sara said she felt like it was one of those long summer nights of childhood, when the streetlights have come on but you’re not ready to go home home and go inside yet.

I totally knew what she was talking about.    Riding bikes with friends on a late summer evening is the best.


Do you ever get that feeling?

{p.s. Have you read about Grant Petersen’s visit to Nashville yet?  I want to read his book for the title alone – Just Ride!}

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An afternoon with Grant Petersen

Nashville was lucky to host Grant Petersen—of Rivendell Bicycle Works, makers of Dot’s beloved Betty Foy, among other bicycles!—on the last stop of his book tour for Just Ride, an opinionated collection of essays on the various reasons for/ways of riding a bike for pleasure. Parnassus Books was packed during the hour-long conversation, as Grant discussed the origins of his book and took questions from the audience—even store co-owner Ann Patchett was among the crowd. As the talk progressed, it became more of a conversation, with audience participation and laughter.

'Just Ride' displayed at Parnassus Books

Turns out that writing a book was his publisher’s idea—they called him up out of the blue in 2008. At the time, Petersen said, he didn’t know much about Workman Publishing, one of the biggest lifestyle book publishers in America. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting is paying for this book tour,” he joked.

photo by Kim Sherman

Like most books, Just Ride has an eventful publication story. Petersen went through three drafts. When he turned in his first draft, his Workman Editor David Skinner said “Somewhere in here, there’s a good book.” So he tried again, narrowing the topic to his opinion about various bikes on the road, and ended up with a book he laughingly called “Grant Petersen’s big boring book of bicycles.” Petersen didn’t like it, and when he admitted as much, his editor replied “Good. Nobody here likes it either.”

Trisha of LGRAB with Grant Petersen

Getting my book signed

Take three became Just Ride (eventually—settling on a title was equally full of back-and-forths), a book written in an informal but informed style that Petersen aptly described as “a friendly scold.” It’s an ode to “unracing,” the type of riding that most appeals to me and something that Petersen only discovered after spending six-and-a-half years racing bikes and about 20 more still riding like a racer.  As he put it, “Uniforms have an interesting effect on people. . . . When you put on the uniform of a professional racer, without even knowing it, you put on all the swagger that comes with it.” When you’re spending 10 minutes suiting up for a ride, he said, “You don’t want to do fun rides anymore…it feels like a waste, foolish.”

Petersen said that he found himself pushing himself out of the house in the morning and missing leisurely breakfasts with his wife and daughters in order to get his miles in before the heat of the day hit. He was embarking on the type of ride “you’d rather finish than start.” He wasn’t having fun.

 

most bikes greenhills has ever seen

The bikes outside Parnassus Books—thanks to Walk/Bike Nashville

Eventually, he realized that this philosophy was costing him and decided to indulge in “the luxury of being able to enjoy your bicycle.” Something just about everyone who reads this site surely believes in, right?

Three ways to unrace yourself, according to Grant Petersen:

1. Dress down. Wear your normal clothes and dress for the weather, not for your bike

2. Ride a different kind of bike. You don’t need 30 gears.

3. Don’t have goals. “You work toward goals, you don’t play toward them,” said Petersen. “Riding a bike should be fun.”

Petersen stressed that everything in the book was his opinion, and his opinion only. “Nowhere in the book does it say ‘in my opinion,’ but all of it is.” Some of his more controversial essays, such as the ones on helmet use (hilariously, Petersen said he has worn his bike helmet in the car: “I’m afraid of driving.”) and Critical Mass have earned him some nasty emails from early readers, but he felt it was worth it to get his thoughts out there. He doesn’t expect everyone to agree with him, and he’s fine with that, saying that if you get something from at least 8 or 9 of the 89 essays in the book, it’s worth the price of admission.

I can say with certainty that readers of this blog will get more than that for sure. If you’re looking for a book to share with friends and family in order to explain why you ride the way you do, Just Ride would be a great choice.

After the talk, we rounded up about 15 of the people who had ridden to the reading despite the sizzling 100-degree temperatures and headed to Green Fleet Hub for a little afterparty.

The group, and Grant

There were a few Rivendells in the crowd.

Me and Le Peug

We ate chips and salsa, drank some Fat Tire and chatted. My new Po Campo bag was duly admired by all. I asked Grant if he had considered making a second women’s bike, and he said no…but then asked me what I would change about the Betty Foy. The sign of a successful businessperson, being willing to consider new ideas.

Bikes outside of Green Fleet Hub

Meeting one of cycling’s legends was definitely the highlight of my weekend. Thanks to everyone who came out as well as to Parnassus Books, Green Fleet Hub and Walk/Bike Nashville for helping to make it happen.

{photos in this post courtesy of Austin, Kim & Whitney, who filled the breach after my camera came down with a fatal lens error. Thanks!}

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Neighborhood Buffered Bike Lane

Another new buffered bike lane has been installed in Chicago, this one in my neighborhood along the business district.  Notice that with this lane the buffer zone is next to parked cars, while with the lane heading into downtown, the buffer zone is next to moving traffic.  Even with the buffer, cyclists still need to bike in the outer portion of the bike lane to avoid opening car doors.

There is a buffered lane on the other side of the street, too, and visually the bike lanes make up a big portion of the roadway.  This street has always been very bike-friendly with slow and light traffic, but the new buffered bike lanes make it even more so.  I consider this low-hanging fruit for CDOT, so while I am happy to see the improvement, I anxiously await improvements where they are most needed – on major routes.

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Roll Model: Lauren in Nashville

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 Lauren T., who rides here in Nashville. If Lauren looks familiar to you, it’s because she’s been a loyal attendee of bike brunches and events here in Nashville since the very beginning (well, that, and she wrote a terrific guest review of the Lululemon crops).  The photos she chose here do a great job of illustrating her lively, adventurous personality and the fun she has riding her bike. Not shown: Her penchant for colorful language, apparently reserved for those of us who have the privilege of knowing her personally! Read on for Lauren’s take on the bike scene in Nashville.

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

colorful, fearless, inventive

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been cycling for about 2 years. Of course, I had a bicycle when I was a kid, and I loved riding it everywhere, but I stopped when I got my driver’s license… and forgot everything. It is possible to forget how to ride a bike, I don’t care what anyone says! I had to re-learn in my back yard. I promptly rode straight into a bush and tipped over. Fortunately, it gets much easier after that :)

 

At bike to work day 2012

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

I do have a car, but I try to ride my bike at least a couple of times a week – for exercise, less gas consumption, a stress reliever, and also because it’s just fun. I only live about 5 miles from my office so this actually pretty feasible. A little less than a year ago, my truck died (like, needed a new engine died) during a long weekend… and I wasn’t nearly as bummed as I thought I would be, since I knew my bike would get me where I needed to go (and the public transit could pick up the slack!). I spent about a month getting around via bike and bus before I found a replacement truck… and the whole process was actually kind of fun! Not to mention I had the luxury of taking my sweet leisurely time in picking out something in my budget that wasn’t a piece of junk, instead of just grabbing the first deal that came my way. I’m not quite at the point where I’m willing to entirely give up my car, but I’m definitely heading in that direction!

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

As dorky as it sounds, the wonderful feeling I get from cycling is what keeps me going. I love the feeling of freedom, of propelling myself with the strength of my own two legs. And, you know, it feels pretty dang good to roll up at some giant festival downtown & lock my bike to the nearest rack – instead of paying $15 to park my car (and get stuck in traffic crawls when all is said and done!).

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?

In my city – absolutely! I think this city & all the little bike gangs around do their best to make sure everyone is included – both women and men. I’ve never felt stupid or looked down on for wandering into a bike shop & asking dumb questions. My commute has lots of interactions with male cyclists – the kind who are head to toe in colorful spandex on top of a really expensive bike – and we all chat each other up & offer words of encouragement. I may be rolling around on a spray painted Frankenbike, but I’ve never felt like I was inferior because of that, or because I am a lady cyclist.

Lauren in a cycling jacket she sewed

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?

I don’t see much of a gender gap – maybe I’m just oblivious to it. Wouldn’t be the first time!

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?

I think the single most important thing we need here is education – lots and lots of education. Education for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. We all need to learn how to share the roads – they are there for all vehicles, not just ones that use gasoline :) I’d say that the majority of my problems from cycling around in the city are from driver ignorance — whether they are passing too close because they don’t know better, or maybe they didn’t know they couldn’t park in the bike lane, and even a lot of the road rage toward cyclists. Nope, me cycling in the street is not illegal, sorry!

Lauren at the Tour de Fat

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

Oh, yes! I really do think we are heading toward a more sustainable lifestyle – and bicycling is definitely a big part of that. Seeing all the progress that my city is pushing toward pedestrians & cyclists absolutely makes me feel optimistic about the future.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Starting out can be intimidating & scary, but it will get easier the more you ride! You don’t need something overly fancy/expensive to start, just make sure you have the seat at the right height & that you feel comfortable on your bike. I started out by riding in circles around my block (and tipping over every single time I tried to turn the bike, haha), and then working up to tiny ½ – 1 mile rides down the road – until I was at the point where I could comfortably ride all the way to my office. I was very timid when I started – I wouldn’t even bike around my neighborhood solo, too scared! – but now I’m kind of fearless. I’ll bike anywhere, for any distance, and I’ll even do it in a skirt! Yeah!

Final words?

My riding mantra is, “If I was in a hurry, I’d take my car.” Slow down and enjoy the ride! Otherwise – what’s the point? :)

Thanks Lauren! For more about Lauren, visit her sewing blog, Lladybird, and be wowed by her stitchery talent. She’s currently helping me sew a skirt.  In the three months I’ve been working on it off and on with her, she’s completed approximately a dozen outfits. 

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Tuesdays on the Terrace

Have I mentioned that summers in Chicago are the best?  ‘Cause they are!

Last week, I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art for Tuesdays on the Terrace, a free event with admission to the exhibits and the back garden, where a jazz band entertained and people enjoyed fresh grilled food and drinks.  I lounged on a blanket with my friends Chika and Linda, enjoying the outside ambiance.

The museum is right by Lake Michigan and Chika walked me to the lakefront trail at the end of the evening.  Coco is a bit too big for her, but I think they make a lovely pair.

I enjoyed my bike ride home in the evening, totally content.  Bicycling with the fresh air and sunset and skyline is the best way to end a Tuesday.  Certainly better than a usual mid-week bike commute.

I plan to go to as many Tuesdays on the Terrace events as possible this summer.  After all, the event is free!  ;)  No reason not to take advantage of all the culture Chicago offers.

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Bikes and the City Print

I am a long-time follower of the always beautiful, original, creative, and intelligent Bikes and the City, but I only recently realized that the fabulous blog-runner, Meli, has original bicycle prints for sale.  I immediately chose this fabulous orange and yellow San Francisco bicycle print for my home.

The print now hangs framed on my living room wall.  Love!  The fact that it’s from Meli makes it extra special.

You can get your paws on a print of your own here.

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Fashion Friday: Star Struck

This amazing skirt by Shadowplayncy inspired me to build a whole Fashion Friday look around it. The cotton sateen skirt is hand-sewn in New York City and printed with real images from the Hubble Telescope.  All of their space-inspired pieces are jaw-droppingly beautiful and unique.

I’m also really into these studded leather flats by Marc Jacobs.  If you look closely, you can see that the toes have little mouse ears, eyes, and noses!  A fun craft project would be turning a cheap pair of flats into mice.  Another would be putting orange accents on my Dutch bike, calling it Hermes, and reselling it for $4,650.  :)

I would wear this outfit on a night bike ride (sunglasses becoming a headband after sunset) to view the International Space Station as it passes by this weekend.

{Dorothy Perkins gold top, $49, Star skirt, $138, Marc by Marc Jacobs mouse shoes, $250, Mathias Chaize star earrings, $110, Chloé square sunglasses, $143, Bicycle Hermès Surprise, $4,650}

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Simplicity

Although not directly bike-related, I am compelled to share with you this beautiful short film.  Created by Julia Warr, the film features Maia Helles, a 95 year old Russian ballet dancer, as she shares her secret for a long and happy life: simplicity.  The running time is only four minutes – please do watch it now; I’ll wait.

Beautiful.  I want to remember Maia and try to make little changes in life to foster the kind of happiness she displays.  If I could be assured of having half of her health and serenity in my later years (maybe even toodling around on my bike still), I would not fear growing older as much.

{I found this film via the always thoughtful and lovely blog Silent Storyteller.}

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Summer 2012 Jerk Season

The good side of biking Chicago

Welcome to Jerk Season aka summer!

On Saturday, I set off on my bike, in a great mood, to the theater to watch Moonrise Kingdom.  I was biking on a busy but reasonable two-lane street, outside of the door zone, three feet from parked cars.  Suddenly, from far behind me I heard a honk, then two more as the car came closer.  HONK!  HOOONK!  HOOOOOOONK!  The car passed me extremely closely, as the driver screeched out the open window, “MOVE OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY, BITCH!!!”

I maintained my line and did not react at all.  About 30 yards later, I passed her and the many cars stopped in traffic in front of her, soon arriving at my destination.

The experience was unpleasant – obviously, like any sane person, I would prefer not to be assaulted while traveling – but I have to remember that there are always awful people in the world, whether I am driving or bicycling.  I had to deal with her for only a few seconds, while she is trapped in her own anger always.  It would have been nice if a police officer had magically been around to pull her over, but such is life.

Now I can add “bitch” to the list, along with “retard,” “asshole,”  and “moron,” drivers have yelled at me for no reason.  Not too bad, in four years of daily Chicago bicycling, but I prefer bicycling in the winter, when drivers keep their windows closed and I cannot hear their crazed screeching.

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New Buffered Bike Lane

On my way to work yesterday morning, I spotted a road crew laying down paint to buffer the existing Wells Street bike lane.  In the photo below, parked cars are usually next to the curb, the bike lane was already to the left of the parked car area, and the addition is the striped area to the left of the bike lane.

This new “buffer” is nice to see, but not so much when considered as part of Chicago’s overall bike plan.  I first heard that Wells would be getting a buffered bike lane one year ago and I expected something more – something that would actually protect cyclists from moving traffic and from opening car doors.  This new painted buffer is better than nothing, but not a big step forward.  More painted lines are not going to get new people on their bikes.  Considering Wells is a hugely popular route for bikes (seems to me there are more bicyclists than cars during rush hour), I would like more to be done to ensure bicyclist safety.

I feel like I should not complain, because the new mayor is taking bicycling seriously and accomplishing a lot and seeing progress is exciting.  But if he is serious about making Chicago a first-class bicycling city, safe for citizens aged 8 to 80, painted stripes are not going to cut it.  If actual protection is not feasible with the space and budget, at least fill in the lane with green paint, put up more signage, and ticket drivers who park in the bike lane.

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Roll Models: Sara of Full Hands

Every Tuesday we will profile an inspiring everyday cyclist—a weekly series called “Roll Models.”  

This week’s Roll Model is Sara Armstrong of Full Hands. Dottie and I have been following Sara’s blog since we first started writing our own, and her spirited accounts of life on two wheels with her husband and three sons in New Haven, Connecticut, are entertaining and inspiring. The Armstrongs are such dedicated cargo bike enthusiasts that they’ve even designed their own cargo-bike themed T-shirts (my favorite slogan: think inside the baks), and they recently participated in the Five Boro Bike Ride in New York City. Read on for Sara’s story in her own words.

Collecting the Christmas tree by bike

Describe your bicycling style in three words.
Style? Hard to describe anything about me as “style” as I am all about comfort, practicality and ease. Oh, that’s three words! Mama of three are my other three essential bike riding descriptors.

How long have you been riding a bike?
Outside of my suburban childhood bike jaunts, I did not ride much as adult until February 2009 when our first cargo bike, a Dutch bakfiets, joined our family. For the past three+ years, we have been committed family bicyclists and our bicycle stable has grown to include other cargo bikes: an Xtracycle Radish and a Yuba Mundo.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?
We ride. That’s just how we get around. Bicycling has enriched my family’s life immensely. On the practical side, it has allowed us to remain a one-car family. On the unexpected-benefits side, bicycling has made us much more in-touch, involved and aware community members. When out on our bikes, we notice so much more than we did when we were always in the car. We engage with more people, some of whom we likely would not have had much contact with if we were not bicycling throughout our city. We can stop easily when something catches our eye, investigate what suddenly interests us, and never need to worry about parking! Bicycling is fun and freeing.

At the Five Boro ride


What inspires you to keep bicycling?
Much of the time, it is just as easy to bicycle locally than to drive, often more so. One point of inspiration is certainly my children. I like that they see bicycling as a valid, and even normal, form of transportation. Perhaps they will not grow up to be bicycle commuters themselves, but they will always know that a bike can take you where you need to go.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world—shops, outreach, group rides, etc.—feel welcoming for you as a woman?
I feel extremely lucky as the bicycling world here in New Haven has been very welcoming. Our local bike advocacy group, Elm City Cycling, has a number of very active women. Our local bike shop has a female bike mechanic. In fact this shop, The Devil’s Gear, has been incredible cheerleaders and champions of our family bicycling adventures. Even though I still cannot always talk the ‘technical’ bikey stuff, the folks there have treated me with respect and helped out whenever I needed it. And truthfully, our local bike shop is one of the few stores that it is easy to go into with three boys with me! The Devil’s Gear people put up with my guys’ high energy, innumerable questions, and unquenchable desire to test out every bike horn, numerous times. However, the truth is that I don’t attend Elm City Cycling meetings or most monthly Critical Mass Rides, but not because I don’t feel welcome as a woman. The timing of these events just does not work out with my life as a parent of younger children.

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?
I honestly am not sure what to make of the gender gap. I do know a number of women who as mothers are responsible for much of their kids’ transport, getting them to school, activities, birthday parties, etc. Many of them cannot even begin to imagine that is doable by bike. Cargo bikes have allowed my family to do many of these same things, but I have three children and if my husband were not willing to be out there hauling the boys by bike too, and I had to be solely responsible for getting my sons to all the places they need to be, we would be in the car. Of course, this is more of a parenting issue than solely a gender one. Fathers who take on much of the activity/school running would face the same car vs. bike dilemma, especially with multiple children.

Biking to the first day of school

I hesitate to make any sort of statement about perceived dangers of bicycling and risk aversion and linking that to one gender or the other. My mom was an incredibly tough woman (seven children in 10 years!) and my five sisters are extremely strong and brave. I have, however, heard from multiple female friends that they would be more apt to bike commute if our city had bicycling infrastructure that made them feel more comfortable out there on their bikes instead of having to ride always on the streets with car traffic. I have no doubt though that there are men who feel the same.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?
While I am thankful for my city’s investment in painting sharrows on many local roads, I must admit that I do lust after those protected bike lanes that are in some other cities. Then I would feel more comfortable with my older sons riding for transportation, not just for recreation. My nine-year-olds are quite capable bicyclists, but our city’s infrastructure does not allow them to ride themselves easily to school as our route takes us right through downtown. We have been working on street riding on the weekends when the car traffic is lighter, but during the week we are still mostly hauling them on our cargo bikes.

And while I know this question asks for just “one thing,” I must mention that I would also magically like to change many drivers’ attitudes about driving a car. I would love to see all drivers recognize what a big deal it is to drive a car—that it is a primary activity that requires vigilance and concentration, not a secondary activity to talking on the phone, texting, doing one’s hair, whatever. This would improve all of our lives: drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike. And to be clear, I, too, drive a car, so I try to live up to this standard.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?
I do feel quite optimistic about the future of bicycling. In the past three years since we became family bike commuters, we’ve seen quite a noticeable increase in bike riding in New Haven and a very active family bicycling community grow on the Internet. The more of us out riding, I know it prompts others to think, “Hey, maybe I could do that, too.” We are no longer the nutty family out there on our cargo bikes (OK, maybe we still are) as there is a real cargo bike presence in town here. Sure, some folks still react in amazement and ask tons of questions when they see us hauling our kids on these cool bikes, but now we get hear more of, “Hey, nice Xtracycle!” or “Wow, you have a Yuba!”

Bicycle towing


Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?
Two basics for me: Find a bicycling buddy and start small.

When figuring out riding, reach out to another bicyclist. Perhaps you can go for a ride together before you strike out on your own or before you add kids to the mix if you are a family bicyclist. Maybe this bikey friend can help plan a good route to get to the library that doesn’t take you on streets too busy with auto traffic. Ask to try out another’s cargo bike. Ride together to camp or school drop-off.  Even if you cannot find a cyclist right down the street, go ahead and reach out to others via the web. When we first started family bike commuting, the folks we met through the Internet were invaluable. We asked their advice and looked to them for inspiration. We have found fellow bike folks, both local and virtual, to be extremely generous and open to our many questions.

To quote from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s blog, Fast Lanes,

“High gas prices are hitting American families in their wallets and pockets pretty hard these days.  But did you know that more than 40 percent of urban trips in the United States are less than two miles, yet 90 percent of those short trip are taken by car?”

Go ahead and plan to take a bike ride once a week to start. Think about one of those less-than-two-mile trips when you normally might take a car. Find a route on streets where you are comfortable riding. The more you are out there on your bike, the more you’ll feel comfortable doing on your bike. Likewise, the more bicyclists out there on the road, the safer it is for all.  So take that one trip to start. Make sure your gear is in good working order and you have all those provisions you need, kids’ snacks, sippy cups, etc. including a U-Lock (really, make this a part of your investment).  However, it doesn’t matter how long you ride for or how far you go, just give it a try.

Final words?
Just have fun! While many can point to the numerous benefits—financial, health-wise, environmental, etc.—of bicycling, when I am out there on my bike, I am often just having fun. Riding is a joyous experience.

{ Thanks Sara! For more on biking as a family of five, check out Full Hands. }

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Comparing Routes on Bike to Work Day

Chicago’s Bike to Work Week took place last week, with Friday as the grand finale “Bike to Work Day” and a big rally downtown.  I had an early meeting and could not attend.  I simply celebrated by … biking to work.  Imagine that.

Biking to work

The day was a little special, incidentally, because I met up with my friend Elizabeth for the morning ride to work.  We took the most direct, major route, which is not so bad in the morning.  There was plenty of opportunity for chatting.

Elizabeth in the morning

In the evening, Mr. Dottie happened to be leaving work the same time as me, a rare occurrence, so we met up for bike home together.

Mr. Dottie in the evening

I made him take my quiet side street route and he thought it was more stressful than the busy-but-direct route.  He reasoned that all he had to do on the busy route was stay straight and stop for stoplights, while on the twisty side street route, there was a lot of turning, plus potential car conflicts at every block in the form of four-way-stop intersections.  I can see where he’s coming from – cars have a tendency to “not see” bikes at those intersections – but I am more stressed by what I cannot control on the busy route: cars barreling behind me at a fast speed and parked car doors flinging open.

Interesting to consider the choices through someone else’s perspective.  What kind of situation do you think is more stressful?

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Symphony in the Park

There is so much to do – for free! – in Chicago during the summer.  I try to do as much as possible, since culture is the reason I choose to live in the city.

Last Wednesday, my friend Chika and I attended the opening night of the Grant Park Orchestra, a free outdoor symphony in downtown Chicago’s architecturally stunning Pritzker Pavilion.  The pavilion lawn spreads out under the sky, perfect for enjoying a picnic in the fresh evening air.

Of course, I biked to work that day, so I biked to the concert after work.  The shopping bag on my rack held picnic supplies.

The fresh air, music, and company made for a lovely evening.  Bicycling home into the late sunset was the perfect end to the night and – as usual – half the fun.

I really cannot think of a better way to spend a Wednesday evening in the city.  And all for free, except the optional cost of wine and cheese.

The next free Grant Park Orchestra performance is Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony this Wednesday.

How are you enjoying the summer on your bike?

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Fashion Friday: It’s heating up

Yesterday I had my first truly hot ride of the season. Not complaining, since we usually reach 90 degrees well before June 15, but it means that I need to choose my outfits a little more carefully (and ride a little more slowly) if I want to avoid being a sweaty mess when I reach the office. I also could start leaving earlier, but that’s crazy talk.

I like the idea of a sundress with a built-in bra (one less layer!). Top it with a blazer, and you’re totally work-appropriate. Knit blazers like this one are great because they can be wadded in your pannier or basket with no harm done. They’re also washable. I have a beloved black one that lives at the office most of the time.

Biking the long hot summer

 

What are your strategies for cycling through the long hot summers? Do you carry a change of clothes? Ride at a snail’s pace? Stay inside watching Paul Newman movies? Let us know in the comments.

 

Grant Petersen: coming to Nashville!

Mark your calendars, boys and girls: on Sunday, June 24, Grant Petersen will be coming to Nashville as part of his book tour for Just Ride. He’s doing a reading at Parnassus Books at 2 p.m. Afterward, anyone who wants to can ride with Grant back to Green Fleet Hub in Edgehill Village for a little reception.

If you don’t know who Grant Petersen is, he’s the founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, the makers of Dottie’s gorgeous Betty Foy. Before starting Rivendell in 1994, he worked at Bridgestone Cycles. Through it all, he’s focused on building bicycles that are beautiful, practical and unique. Just Ride is a collection of essays that celebrate this aesthetic—and the pure joy of riding your bike. You can read an excerpt at the Atlantic’s site.

Thanks to Walk/Bike Nashville, we will have bike racks set up at Parnassus for this event. If you want to join a group ride over, meet at Sevier Park (the Kirkwood and 12th corner) at 1:15 on Sunday.

See you on Sunday, June 24!

 

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Reporting Dangerous Cab Drivers

Last night, riding down a quiet neighborhood street at the end of a lovely bike ride home at dusk, I watched in horror as a cab driver right-hooked the bicyclist in front of me.  That is, the cab driver passed me and the other bicyclist and then – with no signal or other warning – turned right in front of the bicyclist, striking him with the car and knocking him to the ground.  I do not want to say too much at this time, in case there is a hearing or other legal action, but I clearly saw it happen, screamed, and rushed over.  The driver stopped, poked his head out, saw that the bicyclist stood up, and drove off – but not before I memorized his cab number.  The guy on the bike seemed basically okay, but you never know with shock and adrenaline.  I made sure he took my information, in case he discovers injuries or decides to file a complaint and needs a witness.  Another bicyclist also gave his information and a car driver offered.

This reminded me of the story Steve Vance recently shared on Grid Chicago about his hearing against a cab driver who threatened and endangered him.  Steve was meticulous in documenting the incident and following through, resulting in a $500 fine, $40 court costs, and 8 hours of training for the driver.  (I encourage you to read the whole story – fascinating.)  Reporting cab drivers for dangerous driving is easier than reporting other drivers, because there is a mechanism set up to respond to complaints.

After a collision, shock and adrenaline and even embarrassment may push someone to hurry off and put the incident behind him or her, but gathering as much information as possible is so important, just in case someone later needs or wants to use the information.

The Active Transportation Alliance has information on what to do after a crash, including a crash hotline and a crash support group.  Also, here is some past advice for reporting dangerous drivers.  If you see a collision, I encourage you to try to gather information and make sure the victim has a way to contact you as a witness.

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Roll Model: Martha Williams of Bike Fancy

I am very excited to share this week’s Roll Model: Martha Williams of the fabulous blog Bike Fancy, showing “people looking good on bikes.”  Martha, a professional photographer for Time Out Chicago magazine, has created a unique website that goes far beyond simply posting snapshots of bicyclists on the street.  She flags each person down, introduces herself, makes an intentional portrait, and follows up with an email interview.  There is no wonder how Martha earns the trust of strangers on the street: she is one of the sweetest and most welcoming people I know.  If anyone can put you at ease while taking your picture to share on the internet, it’s Martha.  She is also an experienced transportation bicyclist.  Read on to learn more about Martha, biking fancy, and the importance of Vitamin D and divided bike lanes.

Martha and her bike

Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Surprisingly stylish schleper

How long have you been riding a bike?

Well, I’ve been riding a bike in Chicago over ten years. I learned to ride a bike in third grade, which was shamefully late for a suburban kid. Our neighbor (who was the same age) taught me and my twin sister when she found out we didn’t know how to ride. I have a big family and buying two bikes and teaching two kids to ride a bike was too much at the time. After that, we borrowed our older sisters bike, and then went straight to ten speeds, no kiddie bikes.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

I’ve modified my job to be doable by bike. I commute most days, in all weather. I also ride my bike to most of my photo shoots for work. I feel much more efficient when I can ride. I can get from my office, to the North Loop, then Taylor St, and end in Wicker Park in half the time it would take to ride public transportation or drive.

Martha and her bike

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I don’t know if it is mental, experiential, physiological, physical, or church-of-the-wheel-spiritual, but biking makes me indescribably happy. So the selfish pursuit of happiness is my inspiration. Also, less pollution, great light that changes everyday, not getting a Vitamin D deficiency, saving money to travel!

Tell us about Bike Fancy - how it came to be, your goals for the site, and what you’ve learned about the Chicago bicycling community through the process.

When I started Bike Fancy I was full-on in love with riding my bike in the city, and I wanted to find a way to share those feelings. At first I thought that I might write a first person account of riding in the city, but I realized there were people already doing that really well (Dottie and Trisha among others!), I’m not a great writer, and I am really not interested in my own perspective, at least not in a way that could sustain a blog. I was familiar with the Copenhagen Cycle Chic blog, and was completely obsessed with the Sartorialist. I had also photographed for Time Out Chicago’s public eye article (where I am a photo editor) on occasion. I realized that because I was riding around the city most days that I was uniquely positioned to document cyclists. I really wanted to address the cycling gender gap in a positive way, and show that anyone can ride a bike in the city. No need to be an athletic person, wear special clothes, or be a dude.

Fancy Cyclist Anne

I have loved getting to know the Chicago bicycling community through this blog. I have met lots of interesting people, learned about inspiring organizations, and built lots of relationships. That said, I randomly stop strangers so that I can include people that don’t consider themselves part of the cycling community. In Amsterdam and Copenhagen there is no “bicycling community,” because everyone rides a bike. I love that in the span of a few weeks I could stop a brand new rider, an experienced rider from a local racing team, and everyone in between.

Fancy Cyclist Sojourner

I have lots of goals for the site, but firstly I’d love to make a sleeker design for the site with a few more bells and whistles. Secondly, I feel constantly challenged to show a diverse range of women: age, race, neighborhood, body type, social group, etc. My goal is always to find a diverse range of fashionable women, but I’m only one person. Also, I love to travel, so photographing as many places as possible is up there.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. – feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the general bicycling world feels very welcoming.

Fancy Winter Cyclist Cheyenne

What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get more women to bicycle?

Well I think those statistics are a few years old and if they were done now you would see the gap narrowing. That said– I do see a lot more men out there, and I am looking! I think women, generally speaking, are more risk adverse and cycling in a city with limited infrastructure can be really terrifying. I think most people want a stress-free commute and getting buzzed by a giant truck, or left-hooked by someone talking on their cell phone is not “stress-free.”

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it be?

Divided bike lanes! I ride State St. a lot and there is a perfect amount of space for a 2-way bike lane right down the middle of it. It could go all the way from 95th to North Ave, but I’d be happy with a lane from Roosevelt to Kinzie.

Fancy Cyclist Tracy

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

For sure. I think it is a no-brainer, especially with rising gas prices, the obesity epidemic, and increased urbanization. Also, I’ll share a little secret— a lot of people find it addictive.

Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start slow, know where you are going so you can feel confident and calm.

Final words?

I think I wrote too much already : ) Okay I take that back. I am in the market for a new bike. Under $800, a fast lady frame, upright handlebars, a rack that matches the frame. I’m looking at the Linus but might just do a vintage custom build. Taking recommendations!

Martha at work

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Martha!

Visit Martha at Bike Fancy to see new portraits several times a week. 

Bike Bits: Happy Monday!

Happy Monday! How was your weekend – bike much? I rode my bike a lot, as a means of getting from place to place. In my party shoes!

Often there are a lot of stories that catch my attention but I never get around to blogging. Usually, I share these through the LGRAB Twitter account. I think every Monday we’ll share some of these together in one post. Does that sound good? I have a lot of bits to share this morning. I would put in even more, but I have to get to work!

I found this video from a blog post on BicycleDutch demonstrating how the city of Utrecht set up a construction detour for bicyclists.  Makes me sad for Chicago and North America in general that Utrecht’s detours are 1000x better than our permanent bike infrastructure, but mostly I was mesmerized by the huge flow of people riding bikes.  Chicago’s been talking a lot about building an infrastructure to service cyclists “from 8 to 80″ – fully separated and protected paths is the (only?) way to get there, as this video demonstrates.

Contrast with this scene of one of Chicago’s most popular bikeways leading up to one of the very few protected bike lanes, where cyclists are forced to ride amid car traffic and merge left under a dark bridge. Simply seeing the type of bicyclist featured here – almost all young males on fast bikes – is telling. You can read more about this section at Grid Chicago.

Also on Grid, a great write-up on the class I taught last week for the Chainlink’s Biking Semester. (Thanks for stopping by, John!)

Fun news last week – the USPS has released a new forever stamp series of bicyclists. The copy is all about the health benefits of cycling, such as “reduces obesity” and “improves muscle tone.” The bicyclist who most resembles me is the little girl on her tricycle. Found via Cyclelicious.

This is Bike to Work Week in Chicago. I’ll be interested to see if there are more bicyclists than usual. Here’s a little video that beloved local brewer Goose Island put together to promote a PSA contest in connection with bike week. There’s great Chicago bike scenery that shows what a lot of my rides look like.

I noticed that Anthropologie is selling bikes on its website in the Hobbies & Leisure section (love that!) – and not any bikes, but the beautiful Abici Sveltina Donna and the Bowery Lane Breukelen. Interesting! I like the idea of bikes being integrated into the regular lifestyle shopping experience, especially to catch the eye of someone who would not normally venture into a bike shop. But I wonder how many of these they actually sell?

What bike stories are on your mind this week?

June’s women-who-bike picnic brunch

The first Sunday of June was an absolutely gorgeous Chicago day.  The women-who-bike met for a picnic by the lake.  Much fun was had!  Check out all the awesome women and their bikes!

Sara with her new Pashley Poppy and amazing red pants.

Chika – her first time biking in a dress!

Jen and her badass bakfiets.

Amy is serious business.  :)  Preparing for her first RAGBRAI this year!

Seri rocking the all black ensemble and preparing for her fourth (!) RAGBRAI.

Megan’s cool.  Coordinating her bungie straps to her sandals?  Yup, that’s how she rolls.  :)

Shelley on her way to tend her organic pop-up garden.  (Way more advanced than mine!)

Stefanie shows how to do summer blues!

Krystle looking Parisian chic!  (Fun fact: we first met when she recognized me outside the grocery store.)

PINK!  Christina shows how to do high-vis.  :)

Araidia and her adorable gingham skirt with clever leggings.

Me and Coco.  Read more about biking in this long dress.

Our beautiful patch of Chicago, in the shade of a majestic old tree.

Prosecco!

Berries!

Muffins!

A fabulous morning.

If you’re a woman in Chicago, join the next brunch – a picnic in Grant Park downtown!  Sunday, July 1, 10:30 a.m.  Email LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com for the details.

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