A fun concept has popped up in Chicago this summer: people spots! These public areas, also called parklets, are created simply by reclaiming two to three on-street parking spots and setting up tables and chairs to encourage community.
I happened upon this people spot featured below while biking down Lincoln Avenue, conveniently located in front of Heritage bike shop and cafe. This people spot will be a permanent feature, except during winter for snow plowing purposes, and you can read more about this parklet here.
What a lovely addition to my neighborhood! I’m so happy that the Alderman and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce are embracing the vision of a people-centered community. Surely more of these people spots would help local businesses and property values, in addition to bringing residents together. Cities need more of this forward-thinking and action.
Have you seen people spots popping up where you live? Isn’t this such a fun idea?!
Big bicycling improvements are happening in Chicago! I heard that the city recently installed a separated bike lane on Elston Avenue, so I went a little out of my way yesterday morning to check it out.
The city calls the Elston bike lane “protected,” but as you can see below, plastic bollards do not provide any real protection from dump trucks.
But I am not knocking the lane at all. I love it! Biking down this wide industrial road with fast traffic is now easy as pie. Bikes have their own area and cars seem to respect it.
Intersections and parking lot entrances are marked with green paint to remind drivers to watch for bicyclists. Some stretches of the lane have car parking to the left, providing real protection from moving traffic.
Look at that wide open lane with the Sears Tower beckoning – beautiful!
After a while, the separated lane ends and turns into a buffered lane, which is also new. Although this design forces bicyclists to watch out for opening car doors and cars pulling out of parking spaces, there is a lot of breathing room that helps bicyclists feel more comfortable.
Finally, I turned on a side street for the last few blocks to my office. This is the only street on the route that does not have a bike lane, but it does boast the beauty that is the underside of the L train tracks.
Biking my entire commute on mostly separated bike lanes was awesome. I’m excited for the city to create more of these safer lanes. Mayor Emanuel recently said, “By next year I believe the city of Chicago will lead the country in protected bike lanes and dedicated bike lanes and it will be the bike friendliest city in the country.” Sounds good to me! (That is how a big city mayor should talk, in contrast to Toronto’s horrible mayor.)
I think an abundance of separated lanes in a city would result in a massive increase of everyday cycling – don’t you?
Lots of beautiful, beautiful Velib' bikes in Paris
But we know lots of you live in cities that already have a bike share. Will you tell us about it? We’d love to know whether you use your city’s bike share, and why. Responses may be collated and posted here.
I hypothesize that Cycle Chic’s true message and appeal is at its base, at least in North America, is that it seeks to normalize a gendered code of conduct that, sadly, still holds considerable appeal among both sexes. Its message is that bicycling can be a means of, rather than a barrier to, conforming to a certain set of standards of gender and class stereotypes. Access to these standards is far from universal.
In order to truly break down barriers to bicycling, it’s necessary to understand what those barriers are…Great things can certainly be achieved while wearing high heels, but never solely by doing so.
Elly Blue of Taking the Lane offers an incisive critique of the Cycle Chic ™ movement. While the site was an inspiration for me when I first started bicycling, I have come to feel similarly to Elly on the issue. Our goal with LGRAB is to present the message of everyday, sometimes stylish, bicycling within an atmosphere of inclusiveness and feminism – but sometimes I worry this does not always come through. I will try to keep Elly’s points in mind.
What do you think about the issue?
[Update 5:00 pm - Just to clarify, my thoughts on this apply very specifically to the site that Elly discusses in her article. My concern is not with photos of stylish cyclists - which were inspiring to me as a beginner - but with a mindset that holds up one narrow and exclusionary type of cycling as the only right way. I fully support the general movement of lifestyle cycling - obviously!]
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.
I missed the past couple of Critical Lass rides, so I was happy to catch up with the group for May’s ride. Coolest bicycling group in Chicago, for sure, including a couple of baby-bicyclists. We started in Roscoe Village and enjoyed a leisurely ride through Lakeview and Lincoln Park, ending at a Mexican restaurant for margaritas.
Many thanks to our fearless leader Ash, pictured first below.
We got rained on a little during the ride, but hail and lightening waited until we were safely at the restaurant and finished by the time we departed for our rides home. The goddesses were on our side.
Our friend Melissa (the one who put together the first Critical Mass ride in her old suburban town) is settling into life in Denver, where she moved partly to make living an active life easier.
Recently, BikeDenver put together a photo booth event, We Bike This Town: Portraits of Bicycling in Denver, “to create a collection of portraits of our bicycling community to help us show our elected officials and decision makers who their decisions are affecting.” What a great idea!
Attendees were given a word bubble to write down a personal bicycling slogan. Melissa, with her new Raleigh named Black Beauty, came up with the slogan: “It just makes sense!” I agree!
Other slogans I saw looking through the portraits: “Bikes make life better,” “To ride or not to ride…there is no question,” and simply “I <3 Bikes.”
I would have to go with the original LGRAB slogan: “Life on two wheels: Simple. Stylish. Fun.”
On Sunday, the Chicago Women-Who-Bike gathered for our April brunch. Although we had to cancel a planned picnic at the last minute due to the weather (never trust a Chicago forecast), a great group of both regulars and first-timers gathered at the back-up location.
Beth (on the left below), a first-timer, is preparing for a charity century ride in June and learning how to use clipless pedals. My hat is off to her! Those are two bikey things that I have never tried before. I love how her Fuji manages to be both utilitarian and attractive while primarily being sporty. You can follow her adventures at YAY BETH!! (tagline: “cheer me on, damn you.” ha!).
Jenny (on the right below) is a regular and she rides the most lovely Globe I’ve seen. The Carolina blue frame and cream tires are so gorgeous, right? Especially with her brown leather boots. I’m impressed by how far the Globe has come as a utilitarian and classy bike in the past few years.
Araidia and her lovely vintage Raleigh are regulars. I swooned over her shellacked cork grips for a bit (she shellacked them herself and they look so much nicer than my pre-shellacked ones) and we noticed that our 3-speed Sturmey Archer shifters are almost identical, even though hers is over 30 years older than mine. Ariadia designs and creates beautiful Love Letter Slips and we made plans to go thrifting together soon!
Chika (on the left below) joined the group for the first time. I was amazed to learn that we both grew up in North Carolina, went to the same college (the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and graduated the same year, 2003! Meeting a fellow Tarheel in Chicago is so rare, let alone one from my class. Very cool!
Lucy (on the right) lives near the restaurant, so she walked and I got a photo of her with her cool shoes, instead of her bike. :) Cute skirt plus leggings plus sneakers = perfect early spring outfit.
Ann was another first-timer. She rides a WorkCycles Fr8 with two child seats, one on the front and one on the back. This badass setup is rare in Chicago and I realized that I spotted her one morning in Lincoln Park last year, biking her children to school. I blogged about the sighting at the time, saying this:
I passed a woman going the other direction who was riding a Dutch bike with flowing hair, carrying a baby on the front and a toddler on the back. It was so beautiful, I could have wept. She must be Dutch or something, although I would love to be wrong. Anyone know a regular Chicago mom who throws down like that? I was tempted to turn around and catch up with her to snap a picture, but figured that would be weird.
I love that I ended up meeting her all this time later at my brunch, and I’m happy to learn that she is American!
We also had a very special guest visiting from NYC, Kim of Velojoy, a “growing online resource for city cyclists and those who may be considering riding in the bike lanes for the first time,” written by an all-female team. Connecting with people from around the country and world through the love of bicycling is the best. I’m so glad Kim contacted me and and now I’m excited to visit New York again soon.
I pulled out Coco for the morning. I’ll be riding her a lot this spring, I’m sure. Such a sweet and happy bike. :)
Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of everyone who was there (Seri, I’m looking at you!).
Of course, the women-who-bike brunch is also about food. My favorite dish at Ann Sather, a Swedish diner, is the Swedish pancakes with lingonberries. Yum!
Our next brunch will be the first Sunday of May and we’re also having a happy hour next Wednesday, April 11. If you want in, email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com and I’ll add you to the mailing list. Don’t be shy – we’re a friendly bunch!
Chicago’s annual Bike Winter Fashion Show will take place this Friday, as part of the closing party of the Bike Winter Art Show.
I will be participating in the fashion show for vintage shop Lucite Box, owned by bicycling-and-brunching lady Holly. Last week, the group got together for a dress rehearsal, complete with hair and makeup magic by Christopher Conner. Then we had a photoshoot by bicycle style photographer Martha Williams of Bike Fancy fame. She is the best!
Model Lisa, Photographer Martha, and Vintage Clothier Holly
In Chicago? Great! Come out to the Bike Winter Fashion show this Friday night, 7-11:30, at Gala Gallery, 1000 N. Milwaukee.
The official description:
The 15th Annual Bike Winter Art Show closes on March 9th at the Gala Gallery located at 1000 N. Milwaukee Ave. Join us at the Bike Winter Art Show for a night of bicycle enthusiasm, cycling camaraderie and rider revelry that’s sure to shake off the winter blues. The benefit kicks off at 8 pm with a family fun puppet show performed by Jabberwocky. The main event, a runway fashion show, starts at 9 pm and is sponsored by Rapid Transit Cycles. After the fashion show, deejay Montay spins the beats. The event is free and open to the public.
Two weeks ago, Kermit Allegra and I were invited to take part in a photo shoot for Metro’s latest “Share the Road” campaign — an initiative created through a collaboration between the Mayor’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) and Metro Public Health. Funding came from Communities Putting Prevention to Work, a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (so Nashville cyclists, don’t say the stimulus package never did anything for you.).
They shot two types of cyclists: me on my bike in a dress and heels, and a sporty road bike rider. Imagine me in the place of Keith (the sporty cyclist) and Kermit Allegra in place of his bike (since I could not photograph and also be photographed). You’ll see the shots soon! The campaign is set to launch March 15, in conjunction with the official inauguration of the spanking new Music City Bikeway. It’ll be mostly MTA and (gulp) billboard ads.They are meant to educated drivers in particular on how to behave when confronted with people who make alternate transportation choices. Hence the car in the shot, happily sharing the road with the bike.
This is what the creative director saw.
Here is Kermit Allegra waiting her turn, with her Po Campo bag on the rear rack. Note the sadist with the reflector blinding our cyclist friend. He was doing the same when it was my turn (though he was quite apologetic about it). I’m pretty sure they’re going to have to Photoshop eyes onto me because it was nearly impossible to keep from squinting! But I guess that’s how photoshoots roll.
This was what I was staring at. Note the sunny glare/flare/whatever you call it. One other fact I learned: you cannot expect sweet jams during a city-funded photoshoot. So if I don’t look particularly natural when you see me on the side of the bus, please be kind. I was sun blinded and not even enjoying some Lady Gaga to compensate.
Despite these hardships, the photoshoot was a fun experience, and the campaign is going to be a great thing for Nashville. Let me know if you spot it before I do!