Posts Tagged ‘bike commuting in Chicago’

Bike Detour

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Yesterday evening I was at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago for an outdoor concert – an event that signals for me the beginning of summer.  The park is near Lake Michigan and usually a quick ride through a garden brings me to the Lakefront Trail for my ride home.  However, last night I was greeted by this construction site where the garden used to be.

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Yikes – I hope they are constructing an even more beautiful garden!

Fortunately, the city set up bike detour signs to guide me along an alternate route.  This turned out to be a fun mini-adventure because I never knew of this path.

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The path followed the Chicago River…

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…with a fancy tunnel to cross under Lakeshore Drive

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…which brought me to a bridge over the river

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…and led me to the Lakefront Trail.

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As I biked up the trail, the sun finished setting.

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I ended my journey home on neighborhood streets.

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If I wanted to get all deep, I could take this as a reminder that what may at first seem like an imposition could turn out to be an opportunity to try something new.

Perfect Bicycling Days

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As I tweeted earlier, today was absolutely the most beautiful day of the year so far to bike in Chicago.  Simply perfect.  Light wind, warm air, calm water, blue skies, gentle sun, and a hint of a chill to prevent sweating.  It doesn’t get better than this.  On such days, I am super grateful for my bike, which allows me to spend a lot of time outside just going to and from work.

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In addition to biking, fishing is a popular activity on a day like today, as demonstrated above.

I wish all of you similarly perfect bicycling days.  :-)

 

 

 

Warm Weather Excitement!

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After a very long winter/early spring, truly warm weather has finally come to Chicago.  Yesterday was a whopping 85 degrees!

Bicycling in warm weather feels so different from bicycling in the freezing or even chilly weather.  Over the past 6 (7…8…?) months, I’d forgotten how it felt.  And there are lots and lots of other bicyclists out there, all of a sudden.  Love it!

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I picked out my lightest silk skirt and blouse to celebrate the occasion.  I retired my black, winter Bern helmet for my happy, pale pink Nutcase helmet.  (Unfortunately, I had a sweaty helmet hair situation by the time I returned home in the evening, as shown above.)  I also pulled out my fingerless gloves, which I wear in warm weather to prevent discomfort from sweaty palms rubbing against cork grips, as well as to absorb some of the road shock.

That’s about it!  Just happy to share my warm weather excitement.  :-)

P.S.  I’m really enjoying reading everyone’s personal take on the issue in the comments of yesterday’s post, Women, Bicycling and Makeup.  Reader Bettina in Germany posted her perspective on her blog, Books, Bikes, and Food (hey, three of my favorite things!).

Bike With Me: Elston Separated Lane

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Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting across town, which led me to a different route for the commute home.  I was able to take advantage of the newish separated bike lane on Elston Avenue.  I first wrote about this lane in the fall, but have not had occasion to bike it since.

Riding in this lane is like butter.  The separation from cars makes all the difference, of course. Other benefits are not being placed in the door zone and the relatively small number of cross streets, alleys and parking lot exits.  I would love a set-up like this on the busy streets that connect my neighborhood to downtown, where I often feel like a hunted animal during open season.

You can see previous videos of me biking along Chicago’s protected bike lanes here:

Dearborn protected lane  - two-way bike lane in the Loop

18th Street protected lane - the most similar to Elston’s bike lane

Kinzie protected lane - Chicago’s first separated bike lane

 

Looking Back on Winter 2012-13

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Five!  That’s how many Chicago winters I have biked through.  I counted over and over because five seems too high, but my math is correct.

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Biking through my first winter, 2008-09, seemed so dramatic – I was amazed at my achievement. That was a particularly snowy winter, and I biked through all kinds of extreme weather to prove to myself that I could.

My second, third and fourth winters all seem like a blur now (except I distinctly remember bicycling the day after the great 2011 blizzard!), but it’s all documented in the LGRAB archives.

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This winter started not so great, but I did not let that stop me.  And there was soon cheerful news, as Chicago celebrated the installation of its first downtown protected bike lane.

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There were some seriously freezing days, when I was very thankful for my hand and toe warmers.  But many of the days were sunny and not too extremely cold.

wore skirts and dresses almost every day, along with tights, of course.

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Most of all, I took time to appreciate the unique beauty of biking through winter.

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 Now I am ready for spring!

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How about you – did you bike through winter?  Was it your first time?  What stands out to you the most, looking back?

Wintry Beauty

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Dusk.  Lake Michigan.  Frozen waves.  Two days after a storm dumped 9 inches of snow on Chicago.  Just another work commute.

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By the time I made my way up the trail, the sun had finished setting.  As you can see, despite the heaps of snow, the trail itself is totally clear – plowed and salted.

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There is something about bicycling outside on a particularly beautiful winter day that gets me every time.  During these magical moments, no other season can compare.

This is a reminder to enjoy and appreciate the wintry beauty while we can, even while excited for spring.

{A different look at the beauty of wintry Lake Michigan two years ago.}

20 Miles in a Zac Posen Dress and 4-Inch Heels

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On Sunday, I biked 20 miles in a Zac Posen dress and four-inch high-heeled ankle boots.  My day was full, including a trip downtown for a Joffrey Ballet performance and to the Logan Square neighborhood for my friend Sara’s Oscar party.  Getting ready in the morning, I considered throwing on jeans, flat boots and a wool sweater, but decided to stay strong and dress appropriately for the occasions.

The (second-hand) dress conveniently zips all the way down the back from both ends, allowing me to create more leeway from the bottom while on my bike.

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The weather was sunny and 30 degrees.  For the ride, I threw on a cardigan, trench, cashmere scarf, gloves, and winter helmet.  The trench coverage was helpful because the dress did ride up a bit while biking.

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Once I got downtown, I was able to take the Dearborn protected bike lane for the final mile and a half.  The city has a special snow plow to use for protected lanes and the lane was plowed, but sloppily and some areas were more clear than others.

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And look!  An SUV parked in the lane.  This was the second one I saw.  The city needs to: 1) create better signage; 2) build real barriers; and 3) ticket these drivers.

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Okay, back to my happy place…

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The ballet, American Legends, was beautiful and thought-provoking as always, as was the view from my first-row-balcony season ticket seat.  (Thanks, Groupon!)

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Leaving the ballet, I mounted my camera on Betty Foy’s handlebars and made a video of my ride on the Dearnborn protected lane and the connected Kinzie protected lane.  I’ll post the video soon.

The Oscar party was fun (despite the host’s lame “jokes”) and I enjoyed biking home on empty streets at the end of the night, 12 hours after I left.  My dress and heels were fun for the day, but I was happy to change into flannel pajamas.  :-)

Bright and Clear Winter Biking

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What a gorgeous day in Chicago yesterday!  The clear blue sky made the air feel clean and fresh, despite the city pollution.  There was no better way to experience the beauty than on a bicycle.

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I biked to work on Betty Foy, flying along, soaking in the sun (through my SPF 46), jamming to PJ Harvey, and wearing my happy red coat.

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photo_4resizedI also wore my new Chloe boots, a gift from the second-hand shopping gods.  I stayed up late the night before reconditioning and waterproofing the buttery leather and they are good to go.

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During the day, the temperature climbed to the 30′s and after the ride home, I was actually sweating in my (second-hand) cashmere and wool.

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This is the kind of winter bicycling I can get used to.  Winter is not all doom and gloom!

(As I type this, I hope everyone in the Northeast is recovering from the blizzard – yikes!)

Public Transit Makes the Bike Heart Grow Fonder

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I have not left my house since Monday due to a dreadful illness.  Today I’m venturing to the outside world again, but sadly not on my bicycle because 1) Chicago is a slushy, icy, snowy mess and 2) no energy.

Here’s a quick trip down recent-memory lane.  When I walked out my front door on Monday morning, the ground looked like this…

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And the streets looked like this…

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So I walked myself to the L train and got to work that way.

In Chicago, all neighborhoods have a direct public transit route to downtown.  While I prefer to ride my bike, taking the L train from my home to my office is quick and easy.  Unfortunately, the situation gets trickier when I want to go somewhere other than downtown.  At least one transfer is involved, which adds a lot of wasted time to the trip.  Times like those are when I really appreciate the freedom that my bike provides.

A perfect example is my Monday evening outing.  After work, I met up with my friends in the Logan Square neighborhood, which is a few miles west of my neighborhood.  This involved taking a bus and transferring to the L train – basically, a lot of standing around waiting in the cold, then gripping a pole while trying not to fall or touch any other passengers inappropriately.   No way would I want to do that every day as my regular commute.  I reeeeeeeally missed my bike.

But it was nice to get off my usual beaten path.  Here is Logan Square after sunset:

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Here is my friend Ash, ridiculously awesome woman.  If you look closely, you’ll see her one-month-old daughter tucked warmly in a special “car seat” in the bakfiets.  Read how she rigged it up and how she biked with her baby eight miles roundtrip to our brunch on Sunday.  Meanwhile, I was on the bus.  I know.  Lame.

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And here is my friend Megan, also looking very winter cycle chic and being cooler than me with her bicycle.

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Back to the public transit story.

After saying goodnight to my friends, I planned to take two buses to get home, but when the CTA tracker informed me of a 25 minute wait for the first bus, I realized that traveling the few miles home would end up taking well over an hour.  I hailed a cab instead – definitely not a financially viable way to get around the city on a regular basis, but at least I was home in ten minutes.  Bonus, I got to sit uncomfortably while the cabbie talked to himself and yelled at other drivers during the whole ride.

But again I reeeeeeeeally missed my bike.

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So as you keep on keeping on, winter cycling friends, remember to thank your bicycle for being awesome.

Anyone else forced to take public transit and appreciating your bike even more as a result?

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