Tag Archives: advocacy

The Dick Van Dyke Effect

Today we are pleased to present a guest post from writer/reporter John Greenfield, who co-writes Streetsblog Chicago, the region’s best transportation blog, among many other things.  

[This article also runs in Checkerboard City, John's transportation column
in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

I first heard about the “Mary Poppins Effect” back in March 2011 from local bike blogger Dottie, also known as The Martha Stewart of Chicago Cycling. “This is basically the idea that drivers are nicer to women bicyclists riding upright bikes with dresses and flowing hair,” she wrote on her site Let’s Go Ride a Bike. “Who could be mean to Mary Poppins?”

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Mary Poppins’ commute

On the other hand, it’s believed that motorists are less likely to operate safely around people wearing bike-specific clothing, bent over drop handlebars on a racing bike. “A cyclist dressed ‘normally’ looks more human to the driver,” wrote Dottie’s Massachusetts counterpart Constance, who coined the term for the phenomenon on her blog Lovely Bicycle two months earlier. “The more ‘I am human! I am you!’ signals we give off when cycling, the more empathy a driver will feel towards us. Dehumanization, on the other hand, makes it easier to cause harm to another human being.”

Dottie speculated that nattily dressed men on upright city bikes might enjoy the same benefits, known as the “Dick Van Dyke Effect,” after the debonair actor who played Mary Poppins’ gentleman friend Bert in the beloved 1964 Disney film. Van Dyke, who grew up in Danville, Illinois, also starred in classic musicals like “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” as well as the 1960s sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

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Dick Van Dyke on a bike!

I was interested in testing out the theory by my having one of my male bike buddies pedal downtown in a suit, then in Spandex, while I followed behind taking notes on motorists’ behavior. There were no takers at the time, so I added the idea to my potential story list and promptly forgot about it.

Fast-forward two-and-a-half years to Tuesday of last week, when I was scanning the headlines over my morning coffee. Lo and behold, a Tribune story described how Van Dyke miraculously escaped unscathed after his Jaguar caught fire on a Los Angeles freeway the previous afternoon.

“Somebody’s looking after me,” he told a TV reporter from local station KTLA5, looking chipper as ever. “At first I thought I had a flat. Then it started smoking, then it burned to a crisp.” Later that day he tweeted, “Used Jag for sale REAL CHEAP!!” How many eighty-seven-year-olds do you know who use Twitter?

Inspired by Van Dyke’s obvious joie de vivre, I resolved to test out his eponymous effect, even if I had to serve as my own guinea pig. My blogging partner Steven Vance agreed to follow behind me with a camera as I rode downtown and observe how closely drivers passed me.

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John Greenfield tests the “Dick Van Dyke Effect” (photo by Steven Vance)

That afternoon I put on the pinstripe suit I bought in Bangkok and a straw fedora and began riding my Dutch-inspired cruiser down Milwaukee Avenue from Logan Square at 2:50pm, feeling like William S. Burroughs, the well-dressed author of “Naked Lunch.” When we come to a stoplight, Steven tells me that some drivers are crossing the yellow line to give me plenty of room as they pass me. As I roll past a bus stop at Oakley Avenue, a young man on the bench gets a load of my get-up, grins and nods his head in approval.

We turn east onto Chicago Avenue and roll into River North. Around Wells Street, Steven reports that a cabbie switched lanes in order to pass me. We continue south on Clark Street, where motorists are generally driving in the other travel lane rather than sharing lanes with me. When we arrive at Daley Plaza, we remark that no one had honked or catcalled at me the entire time.

The following afternoon I squeeze myself into some Spandex, which I never wear in real life, strap on a helmet and wraparound shades, and mount my skinny-tired road bike. As Steven and I depart at 2:50pm again, I feel less a distinguished Beat writer and more like a space alien, and more than a little self-conscious. We take the same route and, despite my garish apparel and insect-like posture, I seem to get a fairly similar reception from drivers.

When we reach the plaza I ask Steven for his conclusions. “I think whether a driver passes a cyclist with more or less space is based ninety-nine percent on how much open space the driver has to the left of his or her car,” he says. “There didn’t seem to be a Dick Van Dyke Effect.”

“However, I did hear about a guy who bicycled wearing men’s clothing, and then made the same trip wearing a dress and a wig,” Steven added. “He found he got better treatment when dressed as a woman. That would be the next thing to try.” But that’s an experiment for another day. Oh, the things I do for science!

Thanks for the research, John!  I was surprised that there was no discernible difference in driver behavior, but happy to hear that drivers treat different bicyclists equally well (or equally poorly?).  We’d love to hear the experiences of others out there, especially men in relation to the possible existence of the Dick Van Dyke Effect.  

Also, some have astutely commented in the past that part of the effect may be based on race, class and conformity to societal norms.  I am working on a follow-up to address those issues, so please share below if you have thoughts on this.

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Divvy! Divvy! Divvy!

Divvy bikes are taking over Chicago!  On Wednesday, I had plans with my friend Sara for dinner and a movie after work.  Just that morning, I saw a brand new Divvy station near my home and before heading out to meet Sara, I realized that  I could easily Divvy the whole night long.

There’s the starting Divvy station:

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The Divvy station across the street from the restaurant:

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And the Divvy station a block from the movie theater:

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Here’s Sara with her Divvy-colored Pashley.  :-)

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And coming full circle at the end of the night, I returned my Divvy.

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I’m excited as new stations continue to pop up daily.

Chicago is doing Divvy so right!

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Bike-a-bee founder attacked while bicycling

Jana of Bike-a-bee, who I wrote about last year,  was attacked this week while riding her bike in Logan Square.  A passenger in an SUV leaned out the window and grabbed Jana by her backpack, dragging her on her bike for several seconds.  When she crashed into a parked car and hit the ground,  she could hear the men laughing as they drove away.  They have not been caught, but the police have upgraded the incident from hit-and-run to aggravated battery.

This incident is horrifying, a sad reminder of how awful some people can be and how vulnerable we are on the roads.

You can donate to help Jana with her medical and physical therapy bills and lost income.

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Koyaanisqatsi: life out of balance

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On Sunday, my friend Maria and I went to a screening and panel discussion of Koyaanisqatsi at indie theater Facets. Koyaanisqatsi (subtitled “life out of balance), a sequence of images set to a score by Philip Glass, is described as such:

An art-house circuit sensation, this feature-length documentary is visually arresting and possesses a clear, pro-environmental political agenda. Without a story, dialogue, or characters, Koyaanisqatsi (1983) is composed of nature imagery, manipulated in slow motion, double exposure or time lapse, juxtaposed with footage of humans’ devastating environmental impact on the planet. The message of director Godfrey Reggio is clear: humans are destroying the planet, and all of human progress is pointlessly foolish.

Sounded wonderful in a beautifully depressing way – sign me up! For a better understanding of the film, watch the short trailer below:

For me the film displays an overwhelming grimness and hopelessness for the human species. City life is portrayed as absolutely Kafkaesque, with a focus on endless streams of cars and people being sucked into and spit out of public transportation like so many hotdogs on an assembly line. By the end, I felt ready to flee Chicago for a quiet country cabin in the middle of nowhere.

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However, this feeling of oppression lifted as soon as I stepped outside and started riding my bicycle home. Nothing seems so grim while bicycling down tree-lined streets in the sunshine and fresh winter air. I really think I would not have lasted in the big city this long (6 years and counting!) without my bicycle, because being stuck on a crowded subway train or in car traffic every single day is oppressive. Bicycling allows me to break away from all that.

(Here is what I wore on my bike, before piling on the winter layers.)

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You can watch all 1 hour and 26 minutes of the film for free on Hulu. Warning: if you watch, be sure to have some kittens, puppies, or bicycles nearby afterward to cheer you up.

Has anyone else seen Koyaanisqatsi? What did you think?

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Winter Bicycling: Rational and Enjoyable

Happy February!

This morning, my friend Elizabeth posted a response on Bike Commuters to a dumb op-ed stating that winter bicyclists are “insane” and “suicidal.”  I love how her response is so reasonable.  Unfortunately, this particular poorly written op-ed is only a drop in the bucket of ridiculous stuff written and said about winter bicyclists.

My own personal response is: calm down and stop being so lame!  You sound silly.  Winter bicycling is perfectly rational and enjoyable.

So when I returned home from work this evening after bicycling 6 miles in 10 degree temps (-12 C), I made a quick video demonstrating how simple and normal the whole thing is.  Pretty dorky, but I’m embracing my inner Liz Lemon in remembrance of 30 Rock.

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My bike ride this evening could not have been better.  As I cycled along the lakefront, the setting sun turned the sky soft shades of blue and pink over the placid, icy blue lake.  Salt covered the trail, rendering the danger of ice moot.  I was not cold; I was happy. And here is what I wore.

What would you say to those anti-winter-bike goofballs?

{See also; video of cycling the lakefronthow to dress for winter cycling, and the LGRAB Winter Guide}

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Chicago Loop’s First Protected Bike Lane

GOOD NEWS!

Chicago now has a protected bike lane going through one of the busiest areas of downtown, the first of its kind in the central Loop district.  The lane is on Dearborn, a one-way street that formerly had three travel lanes and two parking lanes.  My experience bicycling on this street was always pretty scary: drivers exceeded the speed limit and constantly changed lanes with no warning and there were often conflicts with turning vehicles.

With the new protected bike lane, everything is different.  Dearborn feels miraculously safe.

Dearborn now has two main travel lanes, two parking lanes, and a two-way protected bike lane.  The protected bike lane is directly next to the curb, separated from car traffic by the parking lane and bollards.  The two-way bike lane allows bicyclists to use Dearborn to go both north and south, while cars can go only north.  Bicycle-specific stoplights are included at every intersection, next to the regular stop lights.  Conflict with turning cars is now eliminated, as cars may turn left only on a green arrow.  When the bicycle light is green, the car turning arrow is red and vise versa.  The turning arrow is activated only when a sensor picks up the presence of a waiting car.  Brilliant!

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Two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn

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Stop light for bicyclists and dedicated left turn arrows for drivers

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Lots of bicyclists enjoying the lane

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Martha of Bike Fancy approves

The Dearborn protected bike lane opened for use on Friday. Here is a video I made of the inaugural ride.  I cut out the time waiting for stop lights and increased the speed twofold.  If you pay attention, you’ll see a clueless SUV driver ride in the lane for a block.  The final part of the video shows the crappy bike lane after the protected bike lane ends.  I hope the city extends the protected lane further in the spring.

Prior to the inaugural ride, there was a press conference.  The speakers included our kick ass CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein and Mayor Emanuel.  For those really interested in the wonky side, here is a video of their speeches (and you can sometimes see me in the background looking very serious).

Here is an illuminating video that Active Trans put together, showing the before and after conditions.

Hat tip to the always-excellent Grid Chicago for making me aware of these videos and for their top-notch reporting on the Dearborn lane and other Chicago developments.

I am so, so, so hopeful about all of this! All I want to do is get to work and back safely, efficiently and happily on my bicycle – finally, those in power are investing in this as a worthy goal. I look forward to more serious improvements in the spring when construction season restarts in Chicago.

PLEASE say thank you to the politicians for the Dearborn protected bike lane.

Related:

My ride on the Elston Avenue protected bike lane
My ride down the Kinzie Street protected bike lane
The importance of protected bike lanes

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Made in the USA

Deciding to ride a bicycle for transportation in a place like the US, after years of driving a car everywhere like everyone else, required that I step back and really question the system that I’d accepted all my life.  Through this, I realized the absurdity of using a ton of metal to carry myself a couple of miles.   This one change has naturally led to reconsidering other aspects of modern society.

Fresh on my mind, following Black Friday, is consumerism.  I love a good sale and I am far from a minimalist, with my collections of tchotchkes and overflowing bookshelves, but I feel that objects I bring into my home should have meaning and reflect my beliefs.  I do not always live up to this standard, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy clothing that was made in the USA or another country known for craftsmanship and decent working conditions, like the UK, France, Italy and Canada.  I know this is a complicated issue and many lives are improved by factory jobs overseas, but I personally feel better spending my money in a way that does not support corporations’ race to the bottom.  (See “Garment Workers Stage Angry Protest After Bangladesh Fire” and the Clean Clothes Campaign.)  Of course, I am lucky enough to have the time and resources for this, but so do most Americans.  No one is perfect (I’m typing this on an Apple computer, with its Foxconn manufacturing issues, after all) but that should not stop us from thinking about the issue and making small changes where we can.

Finding products that fit my criteria is, unfortunately, harder than it sounds, but prevents me from buying a lot of crap – avoiding fast fashion and focusing on quality over quantity.  And over time, I’ve built quite a nice collection.  Last Friday, I realized that everything I was wearing was made in the USA.  This made me happy.  :-)

My silk blouse and wool skirt are by Steven Alan, boots by Samantha Pleet for Wolverine (a birthday present), tights by Commando (the most comfortable ever), underthings by All USA Clothing, and earrings by Chic Gems.

(Hint on Steven Alan: twice a year he has online sample sales.  The fall sale just ended, unfortunately.  My skirt was $30 marked down from $225!)

As Mr. Dottie pointed out, the only exception to the outfit above is me: made in Germany.  And here is my wonderful mother who made me, visiting Chicago for Thanksgiving.  :-)

In regards to bicycles, I have one made in the Netherlands, one in Germany, and one in Taiwan.  As much as I absolutely love my Betty Foy in every way, part of me wishes that I saved my money longer to buy a made in the USA frame, like a Sweetpea or ANT.

How do you feel about this issue?  Do you have any shopping rules to counter thoughtless consumerism?

If you have tips on favorite businesses that manufacture in the USA, please share in the comments!

{p.s. another good way to shop – and cut down on waste – is to go for vintage style with secondhand savvy.}

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Sad News from Chicago

Yesterday morning, 32-year-old attorney Neill Townsend was biking to work when a man in a Nissan Altima opened his car door into the bike lane and Neill’s path, causing him to swerve suddenly and fall under a flatbed semi truck passing to his left.  He died on the scene.  The man who opened the car door was cited for a traffic violation.  You can read more about Neill’s life and a vigil held in his memory in this Chicago Tribune story.

I mourn for Neill and his family and friends.  This sad news has shaken me, as I bike past the exact spot every day.  The bike lane lines are faded to almost nothing.  There are severe pot holes through the bike lane that force bicyclists either to swerve far out into the main traffic lane or inch closer to parked cars than is comfortable.  There is a high school where parents park in the bike lane to drop off their kids.

This exact type of collision occurred only one block over in 2008, when Clinton Miceli was doored and struck by passing traffic.  The city needs to build protected bike lanes to the right of parked cars, which would avoid collisions like this.  At the very least, it needs to keep existing and heavily used bike lanes well-striped, buffered, and free of dangerous potholes.  Drivers and passengers need to take a second to look for coming bicyclists before swinging their car doors open.   The city must do more to educate and remind drivers of this.  Bicyclist should try to avoid the door zone, but I well know that is not always possible in Chicago.  The entire bike lane where the incident occurred basically is the door zone.  Grid Chicago wrote a more detailed examination of this infrastructure problem.

Biking home from work yesterday with this tragedy fresh on my mind, I took care to bike extra far from parked cars.  Almost immediately, a driver in an SUV honked at me.  I assume he wanted me to move over to the right.  We have a long way to go in Chicago.

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Bike Bumper Stickers

Over the years, I’ve considered getting a bumper sticker for my bike.  Something fun and positive like, “Thank you for seeing me!” or “Have a nice day!” or “Put the fun between your legs!”  (I am not that forward!!).   But this is the first bike bumper sticker I’ve ever sported:

The sticker is not made specifically for bicycles, of course, but my Velorbis has a convenient license plate-like area perfectly fit for such a sticker.  Instead of peeling off the backing, I stuck some electrical tape on the back side and so far it’s holding up well.

I’m ridiculously proud of/smug about this bumper (fender?) sticker.

Have any of you ever sported a bike bumper sticker?  If so, what did it say?  ;-)

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Fashion Friday: Patriotic

I am all pumped up from watching the Democratic National Convention this week – mostly from Michelle Obama’s speech!  You may notice this influence in my Fashion Friday outfit.  ;-)

Happy weekend!

{Collage details here}

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A Concept Comes To Life: People Spots

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?!

 

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August’s Women-Who-Bike Brunch (with kids!)

For our August brunch, the Chicago Women-Who-Bike gathered in Lincoln Park south of the zoo for a scenic picnic.

There were lots of cool ladies with cool bikes.

This month, kids were specifically invited – and enjoyed the nearby petting zoo after brunch.  Happily for them, there was plenty of grass to run around on and trees to climb.

Their moms were rocking some VERY cool multi-passenger bikes.  This Bike Friday Two’sDay Tandem is an awesome little machine.  You can read more about it on One Less Minivan.

Then there was this chic black Madsen with a heavy duty front rack.

This WorkCycles Bakfeits regularly carries three boys.  Read more about it on Chicargo Bike.

Super fun Nutcase helmets!

Taking off…

Betty Foy looked on with respect and admiration.  These women and their bikes are way badass.

If you are a woman in Chicago interested in joining the group, you are very welcome!  Email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com for details.  The next brunch will be Sunday, September 9, at the Nature Museum to check out the final day of the Bikes! The Revolution exhibit.

{P.S.  There’s a great discussion going on in the comments sections of yesterday’s Bicycle Booty post – check it out and share your thoughts!}

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Unsolicited “Advice”

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]

Me: [???]

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?

:)

{Photo above by Martha Williams of Bike Fancy}

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A Separated Bike Lane Commute

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.

After Elson I turned onto Kinzie Street, which has the city’s very first separated bike lane installed in the spring.  I wrote about this beautifully designed and implemented lane earlier this year.

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?

If you agree, PLEASE sign this petition supporting protected bike lanes!  Right now there are 2,000 something signatures; we can double that number if we spread the word!

Extras:

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Interview: why Sheena does not bike

I met Sheena last fall and was interested to learn that she is an LGRAB reader but does not ride a bike.  While she was an avid bicyclist as a teen, she transitioned to driving – like most teens – once she got her license.  Now practical considerations (safety, storage, commuting distance) keep her off the bike.

I think Sheena is a great example of the type of person planners and advocates should keep mind: she would like to ride a bike and is attracted to the idea of transportation cycling, at least for short trips, but will only do so if she views it as safe, convenient, and practical.  I am interested in exploring this more, so I asked Sheena if she would answer some questions and she graciously agreed.

First, tell us a little about yourself and your commute.

Hi!  My name is Sheena.  I recently received my MA in advertising and now work as an Interactive Project Manager .  I live in the Western Suburbs, about 10 miles outside of Chicago.  I currently work downtown and I commute via Metra train on most days.

What is your history with bicycling?

Biking was my main mode of transportation when I was a teen.  I grew up a bit further out and lived near quite a few biking trails, so that was a popular activity when I was younger.  We’d compete with one another by racing up steep hills without trying to fall.   We’d also set records for each other to see who could bike the furthest in a day—without getting in trouble for leaving town.

When did you stop bicycling  and why?

Pretty much the moment I got my first car at 16.  I was the first in my group of friends to get a car, but everyone else did soon after.  Biking to the local mall was less attractive when you had a car and we were able to go further distances.  Basically, biking was no longer convenient for us anymore and unfortunately we did not retain biking as a hobby.

What keeps you from bicycling now?

I’d say the lack of being able to use it as a commuting vehicle.  I think that if I lived in the city, it’d be much easier for me to bicycle and get around.  Biking into the city from the suburbs would obviously be difficult.  When I’m not taking the train to work, I mostly drive if I’m around in the suburbs or walk around my own neighborhood.   Couple the lack of opportunities to ride a bike with lack of place to store a bike, and it’s been hard for me to justify buying a bike.

When I do have the inkling to ride, I always look into renting a bike for a daytrip along the lakefront, which makes me nostalgic for my earlier biking days.  It’s still an activity that I enjoy and it brings me to a different place.

What are the top two things the city could do to help make bicycling more viable to you?

1.    I’d say safety.  Yes, I understand the city has come a long way, but I’ve seen more bike riders hit by cars than I’d care to.  I look to blogs (like Let’s Go Ride a Bike) for tips and to learn more about advocacy, but I think the city can do a bit more to ensure safety for bikers.

2.    More advocacy.   This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the safety issue, but this is a huge driving city or public transportation city.  While both of those options are fine, I think the city could do more to encourage the more reluctant population to bike to work by naming incentives and the benefits of doing so.

Earlier you mentioned that lack of bicycle storage is a hurdle for you.  Could you talk about that?

Yes, lack of storage for my bicycle is a huge issue.  I live on the top floor of a smaller apartment with no basement storage.  Since my apartment is smaller inside, there really is very little room for me to place a bike and it’s looked down upon for us to hang anything if I wanted to.  I’d consider a bike to be an important investment, so I’d want to make sure I could store it in a safe place.

How did you come upon Let’s Go Ride a Bike and what do you get from reading it?  

I love reading blogs, especially Chicago-based blogs.  This is pretty much my go-to blog to read about cycling, biking tips and learning about the bicycling community.  While I’ve seen people cycling in regular clothes, I had not previously found any tips that cover the topic like this blog.  Plus, I love the idea of seeing a community of passionate bicyclers who share their stories and view biking as much more than a hobby.

{Thanks so much to Sheena for answering our questions!  I might have to start grilling everyone I know who does not bike.}

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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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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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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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Class: The Lady and the Bike!

Attention Chicagoans!  This Tuesday, June 5, 6:30-7:30, I will be teaching a class, The Lady and the Bike, at Next Door community center at 659 W. Diversey.  This class is part of the Chainlink Bike Semester and is totally FREE.

There is so much information to share in one hour and I’m sure people will have lots of questions, so I’ll be hitting a nearby bar afterward for anyone who would like to continue the conversation.

Right now I am still working on my presentation.  (Well, not right now, obviously right now I’m procrastinating by blogging.)   I will use photos to illustrate several of my points, which means I’ve been looking through my archives all morning.  I came across a series of photos that shows the challenges I face when taking timed self-portraits.  I have to wind the timer on my old film camera and then run in place before it goes off.  As you can see, I do not always make it.

…and, finally made it!

Looking back at these pictures 1.5 years later is pretty funny.  Thus concludes this exciting behind-the-scenes look at the making of LGRAB.  :)

Hope to see some of you Chicagoans on Tuesday!

The next class in the Chainlink Bike Semester is Racing 101 on June 19 -taught by a woman!

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Roll Model: Sam of Brown Girl in the Lane

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.

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

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