Posts Tagged ‘bicycle commuting in Nashville’

Review: Mini Monkey Light

For the last two months, I’ve been dazzling Nashville with my Mini Monkey Light M210 from Monkey Electric. And I really mean that—while it’s no Christmas light set, this is the sort of lighting option that draws oohs and ahs from pedestrians and is difficult for motorists to miss. Very important attributes when it starts getting dark at 4:30!

The Monkey Light is easy to install, with a battery case  (3 AA) that rests on top of the wheel’s hub and a small circuit board that fits between the spokes like a baseball card.

 

The on/off button, and the button that allow you to select which pattern you want the light to display, are on the circuit board, as you can see below—they’re labled “Power” and “Theme.”

You may also notice that there’s a “tire” and “hub” indicator, and mine is facing the wrong way.  This did not seem to affect its performance, although I’m sure it alters some of the patterns, so I changed it around after these photos were taken. I attached the Monkey Light to my rear wheel only; I felt like both would have been overkill and I was worried that the battery pack would affect the bike’s performance. That does not seem to have happened,  although my definition of “performance” is doubtless less stringent than most.

Sadly, I can’t seem to get a picture of the light at night to save my life, though I’ve made a few efforts. Whitney finally helped me out and got the best snaps yet. I believe the pattern I have selected is the red “fireball” shown here. I may look like a ghost, but you can definitely tell the lights are BRIGHT.

Luckily, they have a video that better displays what the Monkey Light can do (and has me thinking that maybe I should install it on both wheels after all?).

You can find out more about Monkey Electric and the Monkey Light on their site, or their Kickstarter page. The Monkey Light Mini will be available in February for $49.99, but you can pre-order now. While the price is a tad steep (especially if you want to use the light on both wheels) this light definitely delivers when it comes to visibility (and in two months of use, I haven’t drained the batteries).

Big biking weekend in Nashville

Two bike events are happening in Nashville this weekend that you should know about.

First of all, New Belgium is bringing the Tour de Fat here for the first time on Saturday, July 9. The event benefits Walk/Bike Nashville and Soundforest, and Kermit Allegra and I will be marshals, so come on out. You totally want to see my costume (OK, I haven’t planned it yet, but that just means it will be even MORE awesomely random, right?). Things get started around 9 and the 5-mile, leisurely ride kicks off at 10. Kegs are tapped at 11.

Then on Sunday, July 10, I’m planning a bicycle brunch. If you ride your bike in Nashville, or if you want to start riding your bike in Nashville, come on out and meet others who do! We’re meeting at ChaChah on Belmont Blvd at 10:30.

Will you be at either event? Both? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Nashville!

I’m back from Trishaville, aka Nashville. Although I lived there for only three years and moved away four years ago, Nashville is my favorite city to return to again and again, simply because of Trisha and other friends.  And there’s something about the South that calls to me, although I spent my youth hatching escape plans.

My three days with Trisha were full of awesomeness, of course: used bookstores, a British sitcom marathon, a discount designer warehouse, French breakfast, fancy ice cream, duck fat tater tots, Yazoo beer and live music at the Mercy Lounge (Those Darlins!).  Plus, I finally got to meet Trisha’s brother, Charlie.  Hmmm what else?…

…oh yeah – bicycling!

I got to meet the new Kate Spade Abici, whom I keep calling Kermit Spade, to Trisha’s chagrin.  With Trisha on KS and me on the Bat, we rode downtown and crossed the pedestrian bridge for a view of the Nashville skyline.

Yeah, we’re cool.

I must share, there are a number of weirdo men loitering around downtown Nashville who were quite interested in us.  We handled them effectively with stoney silence, which we’re both really good at when we put our minds to it.

After the bridge, we rode over to Broadway, with its honky tonks and cowboy boot shops.

We really should have stopped to take advantage of the 3-boots-for-the-price-of-one deal – missed opportunity.

Bicycling in Nashville was a great pleasure for me.  The weather is not yet at Southern summer oppressiveness.  The infrastructure is quite supportive of cycling, with wide bike lanes on many medium-sized streets and plenty of winding back roads with almost no cars at all.  Drivers seemed to display the fabled Southern hospitality, although I’m prone to romaticize it now that I don’t live there anymore.  One guy in a work truck blocking the bike lane drawled, “Pardon me, ladies,” which made me inordinately happy.

Today my thighs are sore from all those hills (damn! major props to Trisha for handling those every day) but it was worth it.

I make it to Nashville at least once a year, for Trisha’s birthday, but hopefully it won’t take me a year to return this time.  Chicago is comparatively cold in all ways.

Many more photos from our Nashville adventures and Trisha’s Abici to come.

Me and my shadow

Work, life and a few side projects have kept me from the blog so far this month—but they haven’t kept me off my bike. I am loving these late spring evening commutes. Even if this picture was taken a week ago and it’s now far too warm to wear a jacket of any sort, much less corduroy!

This morning I’m riding into the Village to get a new pair of glasses. (After 6+ years, it’s about time.) Anyone taking advantage of the pretty weather to bike this weekend?

Happy Friday!

This has been a splendid week for cycling.  During the past few days, I have encountered:

  • Countless other bicyclists on the streets.
  • Two friends during my commute (Hi Jami and Elizabeth!).
  • A mother riding a box trike with two kids in the front.
  • An impromptu happy hour with seven of the lovely Women Who Bike.
  • No particularly aggressive or wildly stupid drivers.
  • Warm weather!

I’m especially happy to see all the other bicyclists.  We’re a real presence out there.  :)

Still waiting for flowers, though!

A Shared Bike-Cab Moment

Q: What would cause a bicyclist and a cab driver to share a moment in the middle of a busy Chicago intersection?

A: Nearly falling victim to a supremely stupid and dangerous move by another driver.

On my way home yesterday, as I waited in the middle of an busy three-way intersection to turn left – my light was green but through traffic from the other direction had the right-of-way – a big SUV pulled next to me and then awkwardly inched itself half-way in front of me at a turning angle, effectively cutting me off and placing me dangerously within its turning radius. I was thinking, “What the hell, moron??” and had to walk my bike backward. (True to stereotypical form, the driver was a woman talking on a cell phone.)

We sat there as one, two, three cars went by coming from the other direction. There was one more car, a cab, in the line of right-of-way traffic. Our light was still green. Shockingly, the SUV driver turned left right in front of the cab. She did not dart out quickly; she simply turned as if she had all the time in the world.

For a split second I was sure the cab would crash into the her and both would crash into me. Thankfully, the cab driver managed to stop in time by slamming on his brakes and the SUV continued on as if nothing strange had happened, leaving the cab driver and me stopped in the middle of the busy intersection, staring at each other and shaking our heads in disbelief. Happy to have someone to commiserate with, he made a “What was she thinking????” gesture and I responded with a “I have no idea, but that shit was crazy!” gesture. We shared a moment. Then he continued straight and I turned left, strangely giddy for the rest of my ride home.

I deal with so much ridiculousness on my bike every day, connecting with a driver about the confirmed idiocy of another driver was oddly comforting. It reassured me that I am not the crazy one. It also reminded me that cars are not my natural enemy; rather, stupid drivers are a common enemy to all. I prefer to focus on that part of the incident, rather than think too much about the fact that there are so many drivers distracted by cell phones that they don’t know or even care what they’re doing on the roads. After all, if the cab had crashed into this woman, she probably would not have been injured in her huge SUV and I’m sure she has insurance, so why should she care enough to follow the law and not talk on her cell phone while driving? That would be terribly inconvenient.

Air Pollution and Bicycling

Breathing behind the exhaust pipes of cars, trucks and SUVs is one of the worst parts of bike commuting. Although passengers in motor vehicles breathe in extra pollution from the toxic chemicals leaching off the car interior itself, a recent study found that bicyclists in Brussels breathe in 5 times more air pollution than drivers or pedestrians. On the other hand, I remember a study that declared bicyclists breathe in less air pollution, but I cannot find a link to it now. What I know for sure is my own experience and I feel like I breathe in a lot of pollution while cycling.

Air Pollution – Image (c) Tom Krymkowski

This subject is on my mind due to a recent experience. Yesterday morning a truck, similar to the one pictured above, passed me and belched out a horrific plume of thick, black smoke from the top. The plume was at least 5 times as big and thick as the picture above. I almost pulled off the road, but there was no escaping, so I ducked my body over my handlebars and held my breath until I made it through the other side. The truck continued hurtling from block to block, releasing a disgusting plume of smoke as it accelerated from each stop sign, before mercifully turning onto another street. Surely, this truck would never pass a city inspection, but nevertheless it was out there on the road, spewing its disgustingness around.

This incident, although rare, was troubling. I hate to think how much pollution I breathe in while cycling through the city. I often say that I love cycling because it’s a chance to get out in the “fresh air,” but I shouldn’t kid myself: the air is not so fresh in Chicago. That is a depressing fact.

I am not sure what to do or say about this problem. Complaining about trucks in general would be hypocritical, since they carry food to my grocery store, deliver my packages, sweep my streets and remove my garbage. Living in the Bike Lane wrote about this problem last year and offered some solutions for both individuals and cities.

What have your experiences with air pollution been? I’m especially interested to read the responses of the country mice versus the city mice.

Hopefully, air pollution will not progress to the point where bicyclists feel the need to don surgical masks, as they do in other countries.

{Image courtesy of Tom Krymkowski via Flickr}

My Take on the Mary Poppins Effect

How much does your outfit and bicycle affect how drivers treat you?

Lovely Bicycle talked about the Mary Poppins effect in January and London Cyclist brought it back to my mind with a recent guest post from Bike Thoughts From A Broad (love that name!).

For those who are not familiar, the Mary Poppins effect is basically the idea that drivers are nicer to women bicyclists riding upright bikes with dresses and flowing hair. I haven’t read much from men about this, but maybe dapper men on city bikes get the same deference.

My daily experience cycling in Chicago supports the Mary Poppins effect. Generally, drivers treat me well enough that I feel somewhat … respected? or patronized? *shrug* Both are fine with me, as long as I’m safe. Of course, there are always the assholes outliers, but for the most part drivers are okay.

My only disagreement with the general hypothesis is helmets. A major contributor of the Mary Poppins effect, others have posited, is riding helmetless and with free-flowing hair, because of both the relative vulnerability and the “regularness” it exhibits. I wear a helmet ~ 98% of the time I ride in traffic by personal preference and I receive as much deference, if not more, than someone without. The key is a fun and distinctive helmet – red hearts! pink starbursts! Having a distinctive helmet causes drivers to recognize me, and it’s hard to be rude to someone you pass daily.

The Mary Poppins effect is especially on my mind now because I experienced a lack of the effect today. Typically I wear a dress or skirt, but today I wore a navy pinstripe pantsuit with a ankle strap on my left leg. Everything else was the same: I rode an upright Danish bike, wore a helmet covered with red hearts and rode with my typical calm assertiveness, but luxury SUV after luxury SUV after car passed me too closely. The effect was decidedly non-Mary Poppins.

Could simply wearing pants instead of a skirt lead to such a noticeable change in drivers’ behavior? Maybe. Was I more sensitive to the idea of the Mary Poppins effect due to my recent reading? Perhaps. But I felt like there was a marked difference in how drivers treated me, during both the morning and the evening commutes.

I’m really interested in what others have experienced. Men, women, pants, skirts, helmet, no helmet – have you noticed a Mary Poppins effect, or lack thereof?

Biking the Bible Belt

Nashville is something of a blue dot in the red state of Tennessee. But even so, this Bible Belt city is no slacker when it comes to churches. Below is only a few of the churches that can be found along my commute and in my neighborhood.


This one was just begging for the Hipstamatic treatment

Of course, I also pass multiple restaurants and one wine store (right across from one of the churches!)…what do you see in quantity along your daily ride?

What do you see in multiples along your commute?

Spring has sprung in the South

Not to rub it in to those of you who are still fighting winter weather (yes, that includes my favorite co-blogger and the mister, who definitely deserve better!) — but after a beautiful week/weekend here in Nashville, spring has sprung and I’m noticing things like this:
So, my fellow bike bloggers and LGRAB readers: can I suggest Nashville as a travel destination? Chicago might have more bike lanes and riders, but it’s got nothing on spring in the South, weather-wise!  Plus, all the cool kids can’t just visit Dottie in Chicago or I’ll get way too jealous. :)

To further tempt you, here’s our four-day forecast. Should be a great week for riding!

What’s the weather looking like in your neck of the woods these days?

1 2 3