BRRRRR! The October warm-up is over and real Chicago fall has arrived with morning and evening temps in the 30′s F, which is basically as cold as winter in my native North Carolina. This is my 6th fall in Chicago, but the reality of the first chill still surprises me.
Yesterday I wore a wool dress, tights, and my new Chloe trench from Paris (love!) for my entire bike commute. I thought I would get overheated, but nope.
The street lights were on by 5:30 p.m.
I felt kinda like a baby, complaining of my frozen fingers and toes when I arrived home, but even Ted the Cat, with his massive fur coat, has taken to snuggling under blankets.
So here’s to staying warm with the start of cold weather bicycling in Chicago!
I know I love Chicago because whenever I return from a trip, no matter how cool the cities I visited, I’m happy to be back and Chicago shines a little brighter for a couple of days. I must say that after Amsterdam, though, the bicycling situation in Chicago is looking especially bleak. At least I can retreat to the Lakefront Trail, where the bicycling conditions are Amsterdam-level easy, pleasurable, and safe.
I took these photos before I left for my trip. I was worried that cold weather would have set in by my return, but today is sunny and in the 60′s F!
When you return from traveling, do you feel better or worse about bicycling in your home city? If you’ve visited a bicycle-paradise city like Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or Bogata, did seeing the possibilities make you more hopeful for the future or just make you want to run away to said bicycle-paradise city? I’m not yet sure where I fall.
I have been feeling road fatigue lately and the best antidote is always the fresh air of Lake Michigan and the open space of the Lakefront trail, which is once again a calm and pleasant place to ride a bike, now that the summer crowds have dispersed.
Can’t you almost feel the sunshine and crisp, early fall air?
The absolute best music for a fun and stress-free bike ride like this is Janelle Monae’s Archandroid.
Here I am, being unprepared for my camera’s self-timer once again. :-) I wore a skirt and cardigan over my t-shirt for work, then traded those out for shorts and kicked off my heels for the ride home.
I hope everyone is having a beautiful Monday!
Now try to listen to this song without dancing. Impossible!
I’ve been riding my Rivendell Betty Foy almost exclusively all summer long. She is so light and smooth and fast and happy.
One morning, an SUV slowed next to me and – just as I was giving it the side eye – a woman in the passenger seat called out the window, “I love your bike!” Complimenting my bike is the quickest way to win me over and I called back with a big smile, “Thanks, it’s a Rivendell!” Her response: “I know; I’ve never seen one in real life before.” Viola! my arms motioned and then she was gone.
But not all has been rosy with Betty lately. My fault, not hers!
Last week, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up a few things. When I returned to the bike rack ten minutes later, I realized that Betty was not locked. She was merely sitting next to the rack with the u-lock in her basket. Yipes! How horrible to think that she could have been swiped so easily. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has done this!)
The next morning, I set out on Betty only to realize quickly that her front tire was totally flat. This was Betty’s very first flat tire ever, birth date April 2009, and also the first flat on any of my Schwalbe tires. So sad. :-( I do not have a 650B tube and have been too lazy to buy one in the past week, so I have been riding Coco and Oma. But I miss Betty, so I need to get my shit together.
Sometimes bicycling is so easy breezy and sometimes life throws hurdles in the way or you just do dumb stuff. As with life in general, amirite? It all evens out in the end. :-)
Occasionally when bicycling, a random guy gives me unsolicited advice. For illustration, here are two scenes from the past month.
Warning: Competent Woman on the Loose
Scene 1: I am bicycling home at night, equipped with a helmet, blinking lights and reflectors. I stop behind a city bus at a red light. A motorcyclist pulls up very close to me in the same lane.
Motorcyclist Guy: [lecturing tone] You gotta be safe out here.
Me: [unsure, attempting friendliness] Yeah, we all have to.
MG: But be careful, you don’t want to be knocked over. You just need to be safe out here.
Me: I am safe. I do not need your advice.
MG: [revs engine and jets off]
Scene 2:I’m bicycling to work in the morning, stopping at a stop sign to allow a pedestrian to cross. The temp is 90 degrees, so I take my helmet off and hang it on my handlebars. To compensate, I bicycle extra slowly and cautiously. Bicyclist guy squeezes between me and the SUV on my left.
Bicyclist Guy: You need to wear a helmet. Your helmet is not going to protect your handlebars. [passing me at twice my speed]
Me: I do not need to hear this from you.
BG: [in a singsong tone] Just some friendly advice!
Me: I’m a big girl.
BG: [yelling over his shoulder] We all are!
Me: Ha! [wondering how long until he realizes what he said and goes, "Doh!"]
In both situations, the guys seemed to assume that I would benefit from their “advice.” In fact, I act deliberately and do not need to hear the opinion of a random man on the street, whether it’s about my “safety,” my helmet, or my looks (that’s a different topic).
If anyone is tempted to offer this kind of advice, please think twice, and unless someone’s actions directly affect you, hold back.
Ladies and gentlemen, do random people give you unsolicited “advice” while bicycling? If so, does it make you want to inform the advice-giver where to shove it?
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?
The worst part of my bike commute today in 96 degrees and high humidity? The pungent smell coming from trash bins as I rode down my alley and by others. Oh, the humanity! The smell wrapped itself around me in a most unpleasing manner. The trash was not messing around. Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid breathing while bicycling.
The smelly did not stop there. Although not nearly as bad (seriously, not anywhere close!), the gym clothes that I wore and sweated in during my morning ride were a little rank when I pulled them out of my cabinet at the end of the day. Not fun to have to put them back on. Darn polyester.
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.