Tag Archives: bike commuting in Chicago

Tulips and a Dutch Bike :)

Spring is such a beautiful time of year for riding a bike!  Oma enjoyed very much spotting so many of her homeland’s flowers during the ride home this evening.

I put her flowered basket back on for now.  I could feel a substantial weight difference with the front rack and basket today, versus strapping my bag to the rear rack, but the basket set-up is worth it for the convenience and aesthetics.

The back street route I traveled was car-free for much of the time.  Such a rarity in Chicago, which is why I’m happy to go 15 minutes out of my way.

Here’s a more representative “gritty” city shot.  I think I need to start adding more spring color to my wardrobe.  The tulips have inspired me!

I hope everyone had a lovely week of bicycling and is ready to begin the second half of April!  :)

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Wardrobe Malfunction: Tying my skirt

The other day, I wore a full pleated skirt to work, one I had worn while bicycling many times in the past with no problem.  I must have been riding Betty Foy and not Oma those previous times (like here), because this time the skirt kept ballooning up with wind and blowing back.  While the slightly leaned-forward positioning of Betty Foy causes the wind to push skirts down more securely against my thighs, Oma’s laid-back positioning can have the opposite effect.

For a while, I biked one-handed while using the other hand to hold down the skirt, but even that was not enough to tame it.  Eventually I pulled over, grabbed a ponytail holder from my bag, and tied up one side of my skirt, which worked, although it was wrinkled afterward.

Ta-da!

I was really annoyed by this situation at the time.  I know there are lots of people (both bicyclists and non-bicyclists) who think bicycling in a skirt is silly, and I probably looked like Exhibit No. 1 in support of their opinion out there, but I know that bicycling in a skirt is perfectly reasonable.   I do it all the time without incident and never have to worry about changing at my destination.

I should not care what others think, but I am cognizant of being a rarity out there and I want to represent well the idea of everyday bicycling.

In the end, the solution was easy enough – fast, effective and free – and I will simply make a mental note of this particular skirt’s limitations.

See also, Stapling my skirt.

P.S. Since we’ve been talking a lot about pricy specialty bicycling clothes lately, I’ll point out that this skirt, the pearl necklace, and the cashmere sweater all came from thrift stores.

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Another Windy City Commute

The shining sun this morning lured me out to the Lakefront Trail, away from my usual route to work.  Once I got onto the trail, I realized that there was an extremely strong headwind, the kind that slows me down by half.

I started to feel grumpy (this was pre-coffee, people!) but I stopped myself and decided to focus on all the good.  My path was clear, the sky had a subtle pink tint, and the spindly trees looked cool.  I could turn my face up to the sun and feel the slight warmth on my skin.

And turning the corner near the end of my ride and seeing this view is always good for morale.

In the afternoon, I treated myself to this bad boy for my hard work and as a fortification for my ride home.

Sometimes the wind turns on me as a cruel joke during the day, so I was a little worried about taking the lakefront home in the evening, but I couldn’t resist and this time I had the wind at my back.

That is the story of my windy city commute today.  Bike commute number 1,174 – approximately.  :)

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Happy Friday!

My week has been filled with lovely bike commutes, mild weather (50 degrees today!), and only a couple of ridiculously stupid drivers.

No coat required today!

As I write this quick post while sipping a homemade cocktail (1 part vodka, 1 part St. Germain, splash of champagne), I’m officially beginning my three-day weekend, thanks to presidents.  I have a stack of to-be-read books and an overflowing Netflix queue, but I may slip out for a ride or two to prevent moss from growing on me in a sloth-like manner.

{via}

I wish the same simple happiness to you!  :)

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Sprinkles

As the mild weather continues, I’ve been dressing for spring and removing my light jacket during rides.  This weather really feels like April.

The warm weather also makes it a good time to ride with friends and take the long way home, instead of the usual winter feeling of “Get me home as soon as possible, Ms. Bike!”

After work on Tuesday, I met up with my friend Sara downtown and we meandered home up the Lakefront Trail, riding side-by-side and chatting.

But not before fueling up on cupcakes at Sprinkles.

Yummy!  So even though it literally started to sprinkle a tiny bit on our way home, I was feeling good and grateful that the sprinkles were not snow flurries.

Happy February!

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Black Ice Weekend

After mentioning that I have not put my studded tires on Oma yet, I missed them this weekend.  Some mild precipitation on Friday night caused patches of black ice to form all around the city.

I had to walk Oma over black ice several times while getting around on Saturday – biking to Logan Square to try on vintage outfits from Holly’s Lucite Box for the upcoming Bike Winter Fashion Show (found a gorgeous blue velvet dress), back to Lakeview for Heritage Bicycles’ grand opening party (crowded!), and to Wicker Park with a bikey group to see circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza (pure fun). On Sunday, I decided simply to take the L to the Loop to see Mamet’s Race at Goodman Theatre (excellent).

Not simply a wet road, but a sheet of thin black ice

Based on this experience, I decided to put the studded tires on Oma, but today’s forecasted high of 44 F has me delaying the studs again. But I’m extra cautious while biking, especially at night.

I’ll leave you with a Mucca Pazza song to brighten your Monday morning. :)

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Winter Bicycling Midpoint

I consider winter to be more than half-way over around this time, late January/early February. February is usually brutal, but at least I know spring is around the corner. This year, November, December, and now January have passed with only a few super freezing days and two noteworthy snowfalls that melted quickly. I haven’t even put studded tires on Oma yet.

By enjoying this extremely mild winter, I feel like I’ve gotten away with something major, like a jewelry heist. I almost don’t want to write this down for fear of jinxing myself, but I do want to celebrate making it over the hump of winter, however small said hump was this year.

How’s everyone else doing with winter bicycling this year?

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Carpooling in a Snow Storm

Six inches of snow fell on Chicago yesterday afternoon and evening.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had no intention of cycling in that mess.  My plan was to take the L train, but a co-worker mentioned that she and a friend carpool along a route that passes by my L stop.  She offered to pick me up anytime and I gladly accepted the offer.  The car is already on the road anyway.

In the morning, I walked a block to the L station and a couple of minutes later she pulled up.  I sank into the heated passenger seat – yup, heated - and enjoyed friendly conversation during a calm drive downtown.   (I wonder, is there a way to make my Brooks saddle heated?  ‘Cause that would be amazing!)

The car ride was no faster than my bike ride along the same route, about 25 minutes.  (This is the busy route I recently recorded.)  There’s a lot of backed up traffic, so I’m able to keep up with cars most of the way.  Funny, they used to see me on my bike a lot in the mornings, when I took that route daily.

Snow started falling fast and furious around 1:30 pm and my office decided to close early at 3 pm.  I knew that taking the L home would be an easy 25 minutes, much faster than a car in a snow storm, but deserting my co-worker wouldn’t have been very nice.  :)   The car ride home in the snow took one hour, but I didn’t mind at all.  In fact, I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her better.  In my heated seat.

There is no way I would have biked in the snow given the road conditions.  If I were in Copenhagen with protected bike lanes maintained by snow plows, sure, but that was obviously not the case.  (You wouldn’t know, but there’s a snow-covered bike lane in the photo above.)

I saw a couple of intrepid cyclists during the ride and I was stressed out just watching them.  I saw a couple others walking their bikes, like this mom and child below.  I assume they set out on the bakfiets hours earlier, before the snow got out of control.

Does anyone else carpool sometimes?  Seems it was all the rage in the ’90s, but I never hear anything about it now.  I enjoyed the experience and in the future when I need to take the L train, I may text my co-worker first to see if she’s carpooling that day.  I hate standing up on the L, plus it costs $2.25 each way.  And did I mention heated seats?  ;)

Did anyone bike home in the snow??  If so, my hat is off to you.

 

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A F-ing Cold Bike Commute (brrrrrrrrrr)

Have I mentioned that winter’s finally come to Chicago?  And she is not messing around.

This morning I biked to work in 15 F temps.  My alley was an ice rink, but the streets and bike lanes were clear and dry.  That’s good, because I haven’t put studded tires on Oma yet.  I was totally comfortable throwing a puffy vest over a wool skirt suit and wool undershirt, plus cotton tights, snow boots, scarf, gloves, and earmuffs.  I stuck heating packs in my mittens and boots, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.

By the time I arrived at work, I felt refreshed and happy.

Unfortunately, the day grew colder and this outfit proved to be lacking for the commute home.

The temperature on the way home was effing cold:

For the non-Americans out there, that’s:

Plus, it was windy!  As usual.  Windchill of -7 F, -22 C.  By the time I got home, my fingers and toes were in pain (despite the warmers) and my thighs were bright red.  Not gonna lie: my spirits were low.  But now that I’m warmed up, I feel good for the activity and fresh air.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since I can bike in -4 F temps, today should not have been a problem.  Now that I’ve been harshly reminded of the reality of Chicago winters, I wont be caught unprepared again this year.

Tomorrow happens to be Chicago’s Winter Bike to Work Day, but up to 7 inches of fresh snow are supposed to fall, so forget that.  I won’t be on my bike, especially without studded tires.  Not my idea for fun, but I hope anyone who rides has a good and safe time.

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At Long Last: Snow!

The inevitable has happened: snow finally arrived in Chicago!  Yesterday evening I was biking home without a jacket and today the streets look like this:

Instead of my bike, I took public transit:

I’m escaping to Nashville for a long weekend tomorrow, so I can deny the arrival of winter a little bit longer.  :)

Anyone enjoy a snow ride today?

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A Downtown Chicago Adventure on New Year’s Eve!

On the morning of New Year’s Eve, I was sipping coffee in my pajamas when I got a text from my friend Elizabeth, encouraging me to join her for a bike ride downtown.  I was sorta prepared to spend the entire day in my PJs with books, but after some peer pressure, I said yes (don’t we all need a lil’ push sometimes?).

I’m so glad I did because it was a lovely way to end the year!

The weather was chilly but mild for Chicago winter.  I broke out my new hot pink Kate Spade tights to go with my suede boots and red jacket – a totally comfortable outfit for the day’s outing.

Betty Foy was ready to go, dorked out with her Christmas lights and mounted camera (with which I recorded this video of the Lakefront Trail).

And of course my dear friend Elizabeth with her Santa hat!

We took the Lakefront Trail south 7 miles to the Buckingham Fountain.

 It was off – booo.

Then we made our way to the Art Institute of Chicago


…to check out the awesome lions with their famous holiday wreaths.

About that time we started to get a bit too cold.  No problem – we popped into a cafe for hot cocoa.  Mmmm, the perfect fuel.


Next, we looped over to North Michigan Avenue, where I had to take one photo of this truly ridiculous temporary Marilyn Monroe statue.  I’m a fan of MM and kitsch, but  if you have any doubt how icky this installation is, watch for five minutes how tourists interact with it when posing for photos!

Finally, I said goodbye to my favorite Chicago building before getting back on the trail to return home, stopping at local book shop, Unabridged, on the way.

By the time I got home in the late afternoon with nearly 20 miles under my belt, I felt great – tired in a good and healthy way that allowed me to spend the next two days curled up with books and scotch without feeling too much like a sloth.  :)

Here’s to motivating friends, fun bike rides, fresh air, and 2012!

{Read Elizabeth’s side of the story at Bike Commuters.}

{See a similar ride I did two years ago (dang, time flies!!) complete with holiday lions.}

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T-Shirts and Holiday Lights

I continue to ride with my Christmas lights on Betty Foy.  Apparently, I’m all confused about what time of year it is.

Adding to the seasonal confusion, the weather was so warm when I left work, I shoved my light jacket in my basket because my cashmere sweater (another $6 thrift store purchase) was more than enough to keep me warm.  A few miles from home, I began overheating and pulled off my sweater to ride the rest of the way in my t-shirt.  Imagine that: a t-shirt in mid-January in Chicago!

So if you see some crazy lady biking by with short sleeves and Christmas lights, that’s probably me.  ;)

 

 

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Video: Chicago’s 18th Street Protected Bike Lane

Yesterday I was in the Pilsen neighborhood on Chicago’s southside for the Women-Who-Bike brunch.  I decided to take the Lakefront Path for the 10 mile ride home, which I could reach by taking the new protected bike lane on S. 18th Street from Canal to Clark Streets, connecting the Pilsen and Chinatown areas.  This protected bike lane is one of three in Chicago and exists in part thanks to Alderman Solis (read more about his Ward’s projects and his recent trip to the Netherlands here).

Here is a quick video I made of the entire half mile long lane, sped 250%.

Grid Chicago reported on the construction of this bike lane in November.  Progress has been made since then, but I assume (hope) that the lane is not finished because there is no protection on the grated bridge and not much treatment for the intersections.  The riding experience for new bicyclists could be stressful at those points.  Overall, the protected bike lane was a pleasure to ride and certainly an improvement, although not as thoroughly executed as the Kinzie protected bike lane.

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Is it really January?

Sunny blue skies, clear roads, mild temperatures – is it April already? I’m used to the occasional brief warm up during winter, but this year winter hasn’t yet arrived at all. If the forecast is right, this will continue for at least the next five days.

Yesterday was so warm (relatively) that I simply threw a long cashmere cardigan over my dress before heading out the door. By my evening commute, the temps had increased to 50 degrees F and I didn’t even use my cardigan. And I’m thrilled to continue riding Betty Foy, who usually gets packed away for the harsh winters.

This is the same outfit I wore two years ago for my video demonstrating how I dress for winter bicycling, but now without the wool leggings, second pair of socks, wool sweater, wool overcoat, huge mitts, handwarmers, scarf, hat, and glasses!

I think the weather I’m experiencing now is more like typical winter for most of you, but this will go down in the books as one of the warmest winters in Chicago’s history.

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Video: Cycling Chicago’s Lakefront Trail

I ended the year on Saturday with a ride downtown along the Lakefront Trail with my friend Elizabeth.  Here’s a little video of cycling the Lakefront Trail heading south. I’m riding my Betty Foy and Elizabeth occasionally pops up with a santa hat on her helmet. The video is sped up by 150% and the song is by The Moonlighters from Free Music Archive.

You can see that the car-free trail is a very nice route, especially when it’s not crowded. I would take this route to work every day if it were a little more conveniently located for me.

Happy New Year!

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Bright Colors and Winter Sunshine

The mild winter weather continues to make me so happy! Sure, it’s cold, but not freezing cold. Sun shining on my shoulders and clear roads are all I need to stay in high spirits.

My bright red coat, instead of being my one source of winter color, is merely one of many bright colors on my commute. Look – not only is there a Carolina blue sky, there’s also green grass!

In case any driver fails to notice my bright red coat, I’ve taken to wearing a neon yellow slap bracelet around my ankle. This is the same nifty free bracelet I posted about wearing on my wrist during the summer. A little extra color never hurts, plus it’s just too fun and easy to leave at home.

The darkness of the evening commute feels more like winter, but I’m still rocking my holiday lights. Plus, today the weather warmed so much by the time I left work, I did not need my scarf and unbuttoned my coat.

This type of winter weather makes Elisa’s advice about dressing for winter bicycling in New Orleans relevant for bicyclists around the country, even us Midwesterners.

Whatever your particular weather experience is right now, I hope you’re enjoying these first weeks of winter!

p.s. I wrote this last night and this morning I woke up to heavy rain and 40 degree temps. Weird weather!

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Deck the Bike with Holiday Lights

Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Every year around the holidays, I think about how cool it would be to go all out with Christmas lights on my bike. And every year I punk out by throwing on ribbon and a couple of ornaments.

Not so this year!

I finally bought a string of battery-operated lights, one that’s colorful and blinks in fun patterns. Installing it on my bike was easy – I simply wrapped it around, starting from the handlebars, down along the top tube, and ending at the rack, where I tucked the battery pack under my cargo straps.

This set up makes me ridiculously happy. (It’s the little things that count.)

Plus, I’m the most visible bike out there by far! :)

Do you decorate your bike? I know several of you put lights on your bikes and encouraged me to do the same, so thanks!

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Biking to Harpo Studios

Yesterday was a special day for me, thanks to good luck. I won tickets to a taping of The Rosie Show where Tori Amos was the guest, by writing an essay about my love for her music. When I got there, they sat me front row center, the best seat in the house!

Rosie tapes her show in Harpo Studios, where Oprah used to tape. Riding there from my office was a breeze, since I could take the Kinzie protected bike lane and side streets the whole way. Riding from there back home was a little crazed and stressful. I wasn’t familiar enough with the area to attempt side streets at night, so I took a main route full of fast traffic, which then detoured because of construction, putting me on an even busier street, and *ugh* reminding me why I prefer side streets. At the same time, the experience also reminded me that I can confidently handle the messy stuff when it comes my way.

Outside Harpo Studios, I was disappointed that I couldn’t find bike parking, forcing me to lock to a light pole. There is very little bike parking in the West Loop neighborhood in general.

Here is the view from my seat in the studio, not zoomed in, right after the show ended when we were finally allowed to take pictures. You can see Rosie to the right and Tori’s piano straight ahead.

I also had the pleasure of seeing Tori in concert at the Chicago Theater on Saturday night, a sold out show. Chicago Theater is the best for seeing bigger concerts.

Okay, I’m done with my fangirl stuff. (Everyone has a favorite artist they’d be super excited to see up close…right?)

The weather in Chicago is back to being oddly warm. It’s in the 40’s now and will get up to the 50’s tomorrow. Weird but good for winter cycling!

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A New Red Coat on the Bike Path

Bright red seems like the best color for city cycling, getting drivers’ attention while still looking stylish off the bike. Chic, classic, and bold.

For this reason, I’ve been searching for the perfect red coat for two years, especially since seeing this post on Copenhagen Cycle Chic. Yesterday, the miraculous happened: I finally found “my” red coat. I was walking through Anthropologie during my lunch break, which I often do to torture myself because I usually can’t afford their beautiful clothes, when I spotted this unique red trench for half off.

Everything about the coat is perfect for me. The bright red “hi-vis” color. The classic trench styling. The length. The cinched waist with a bow.

And the laced back! Just the kind of quirky, personal touch I love.

Best of all, the coat will get me through three Chicago seasons: fall and spring over whatever I happen to be wearing, winter with a cashmere or wool sweater and my lightweight windbreaker underneath. There’s a nice lining that makes it a bit more substantial than the usual trench.

Plus, the red matches my other Oma accessories.

I also purchased something else on sale that I’ve been searching for: a digital camera. I wanted an affordable compact camera with manual controls and sharp photos, which I found in the Panasonic Lumix LX-5. I love shooting film, but for blogging purposes digital is faster and cheaper.  I (and my huge gloved hands) will be able to post more daily photos of my commute, more quickly. Yay!

Moving beyond consumerism to talk about actual biking, I had a lovely commute this morning.  I took the Lakefront Trail for the first time in a while.  I’m going to make a video of this route (with HD video on my new camera!) because it’s so beautiful.

Pure bliss = rolling on Oma down the quiet trail, listening to Jill Scott, enjoying the sun in my face and the wind at my back. Makes me wonder why I ever bother riding to work among car traffic.

Now is the best time of year to bike the trail – the crowds have left, but ice is not yet encroaching from the lake.

The weather today is suddenly colder, in the low-20’s. Winter is pushing its way through, slowly but surely. At least I have my red coat. :)

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Video: a busy Chicago bike commute

Earlier this week, I posted a video of my commute along quiet side streets.  To show how different the ride is along a busy route, on Friday morning I took Lincoln Avenue, a popular street for both bikes and motor vehicles.  I considered this taking one for the team, because I hate this route during rush hour.

A few notes before moving on to the video:

  • Lincoln Avenue is a major bikeway, with either bike lanes or sharrows along the length of it. As I discussed previously, it’s a pathetic set-up for such a popular bike route. Nevertheless, most bicyclists would take this street from my neighborhood to downtown.
  • This route takes about 25 minutes to my work, while the side streets route takes about 40 minutes.  Lincoln is faster because it is diagonal, a straight shot to downtown.
  • The bicyclist who happens to be in front of me for most of the video is carrying a child on the back, very cool.  I position myself a little further in the street and away from the parked cars than she, to avoid the door zone.
  • There’s a lot of traffic during rush hour and I generally filter on the right to get in front at stop lights.  This is the safest place to wait, but it’s important to position yourself in front of cars and trucks, not next to them.  Also, I know the light cycles well and go ahead only when I have enough time to do so safely.
  • The video is sped up by 250% and shows only 1/3 of the ride.  My memory card got full right before I passed three solid blocks of traffic-jammed cars.  That’s always smugly fun.
Without further ado, I present another low-budget LGRAB production:

The song is Beat Culture by Midori and I found it on Free Music Archive (thanks to Vee for the tip!).

Can you see why I prefer the side streets?  Which route would you take?

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