The sunny and warm weather is bringing people out in droves. As a result, I find myself having more interactions with my friendly (and maybe not so friendly) Chicago neighbors. I’ll start with the friendly-neutral interaction of the day.
(I cried like a baby the day Mister Rogers died)
On my way home I was riding near the middle of the lane on a busy road because a parallel parked car ahead had its door wide open. A driver on the other side passed me extremely closely. Lucky me, he soon had to stop at a red light and his window was open. Yay for warm weather and open windows! I got an incredible urge to talk to him, which I could not resist. (more…)
Last week my aunt sent me a link that I can’t resist sharing with you—since I have a feeling that many of our readers share my interest in (OK, obsession with) both cycling and women’s issues/history. And there’s even a bonus nod to France! The only surprise is that it took me this long to post the link.
Taking freedom by the bars
Rebecca Ramsey’s Wonders Never Cease focuses on one “wonder” per post, giving a brief history and presenting images collected from various sources. Her May 13 post highlights the bicycle—or, as the suffragettes dubbed it “the Freedom Machine”—and includes this stellar quote from Susan B.:
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
As Rebecca says, woo-hoo! Other highlights of the post include a history of Michelin tires, a lovely bicycle ad from the early 1900s and a clip of the bicycle’s precursor the Dandy Horse. So, during National Bike Month, take a moment to celebrate the unique place the bike has had in women’s lives.
Mary Pat Fabeck agonizes over the last minutes her 22-year-old son Tyler spent after being struck by a car while riding his bike in the Logan Square neighborhood a year ago.
“He bled to death and died within a half hour of being hit. That’s what I know of my son,” said Fabeck, through small sobs. “It took him a half an hour to die and that’s as long as it took him to be born.”
What a wonderful way to start the day – seeing Let’s Go Ride a Bike on style website extraordinaire Copenhagen Cycle Chic.
Trisha and I are working on Copenhagenizing Nashville and Chicago, one bike ride at a time. Using a bike for transportation is easy as pie and can be done by almost anyone – without a great level of physical fitness, death wish, fancy bikes, or expensive gear. So why don’t more Americans do it? The greatest obstacle is that most Americans simply don’t know this. We have few examples to follow.
That’s why Copenhagen Cycle Chic is so important. Images from the other side of the world work their way instantly to America and provide a radically different perspective on how to use bikes. Although the images portray the ordinary, every day lives of Copenhageners, the ideas they present to Americans are revolutionary. The more people see them, the more they understand: there is another, better way of living. And “hey city government, why aren’t you helping me use public spaces in a more peaceful and safe manner?” And “yo federal government, how about performing some legislative acrobatics to ensure that federal highway money induces states to address alternative transportation needs?” Because only when our streets are safer for cyclists – both subjectively and objectively – will any true Copenhagenizing be possible. Until then, look out for Trisha and me – we’ll be the-easy-to-spot odd birds, cycling around in dresses and high boots.
Though I would have loved to be there in person, I enjoyed visiting the Handmade Bicycle Show virtually. The pictures and descriptions of all the beautiful, handmade bikes were amazing, and it was refreshing to see so many bikes made for the kind of utlitarian riding that Dottie and I do.*
But as I scrolled through the winners on Cyclicious (pic nabbed from there as well), I noticed something — winner after winner was a man. The group photo at the end really brought it all home.
NAHBS winners — not a woman in the bunch
OK, so the winners were men, but surely there was at least one woman exhibitor at the show? A scroll through the list of names turned up several promising possibilities. Nobillette? Nope, a man’s last name. Parlee? Three men. Sadilah? No again, though that company’s owner named his business after his two daughters and I love his explanation of why he decided to do that.
Am I missing something? Why don’t women build bikes, when we know they ride them? Women make up only 10-20% of engineers, depending on the exact engineering discipline and which survey you look at, but I don’t think it’s out of line to expect that out of dozens of exhibitors, there might be one woman.
Don’t get me wrong, these men built beautiful bikes and I’m sure they deserved their wins (was especially glad to see the M.A.P. I was drooling over in Dottie’s post take a prize). But I’m thinking a woman who makes utilitarian, step-through bike frames especially for women might find a waiting market. Terry Bicycles are just for women, but they’re mass-produced. Natalie Ramsland, who hand-crafts her Sweetpea Bicycles, is a woman, but she wasn’t at the show. As she points out on her site, it’s especially hard for women to find bikes that fit, so why aren’t there more companies like hers out there? And why do the ones that exist seem to focus on diamond-frame bikes, instead of step-throughs**? I might have to get my dad to give me some welding lessons next time I’m home. . .
*Utilitarian pricing, not so much, but handmade rarely=inexpensive.
**Terry Bicycles does have a nice-looking mixte on sale right now.
I really want this shirt (see at link). Also, this related news clip is definitely worth watching. The best local news story I’ve ever seen on bikes, except a bit spoiled at the end with the whole “dead right” angle. I need one of those camcorders on my bike. Drivers very rarely pass me so closely, though. Is this type of dangerous driving more common outside of cities, where drivers are not used to seeing cyclists?
Yesterday I rode in the monthly Chicago Critical Mass ride. There’s a lot of strong opinions on whether Critical Mass is a positive event. I think so! My first exposure to Critical Mass was before I started riding, in June 2007, soon after moving to Chicago from Nashville. Coincidentally, Trisha was visiting at the time. We were in a cab on our way to Second City and were stopped for 15 minutes while hundreds of cyclists streamed by. It was an amazing sight. I asked the driver was was going on and he explained that it was a bike ride that happened once a month. Once a month!? Wow. The driver was irritated, but I thought the whole thing was way cool, especially since we got to the show on time.