Tag Archives: bike commuting in Chicago

Video: a calm Chicago bike commute

Here is a little video I made of my morning bike commute through relatively quiet side streets. Not the most interesting video ever, but I wanted to show how it’s possible to commute into downtown Chicago while avoiding busy streets and scary traffic. This is part of the quiet route that I often take, which I blogged about a few months ago here.

[UPDATE: May not work for international readers. Sorry!]

It’s hard to hear what I’m saying in the beginning and my memory card became full about 1/4 of my way to work, but you get the idea. The speed is 2.5x faster than reality.

I’m no Leslie Knope with iMovie, so please excuse the poor quality. (If you don’t get that reference, you didn’t watch Parks & Rec tonight – shame on you.)

Major shout-out to super sweet reader Ambrose, who gifted me her old bike camera mount after I posted my last ridiculously shaky handheld video. It made a huge difference. Thank you!!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Lights in the Dark

Now that the sun sets completely by 4:30, I’m sad that my evening commutes are always in the dark.  On the bright side, this gives me the opportunity to enjoy all the beautiful lights that are now decorating downtown for the holidays.  Kind of makes my commutes feel magical.

Of course, I have my own lights, too, but those are not pretty.

Maybe this will be the year when I finally take the time to figure out how to string Oma with Christmas lights. :)

Tagged , , , ,

Mild November

Wow, only five more days until December! Hard to believe that winter and the year’s end are so close. Chicago’s weather has been mercifully mild and is predicted to remain so through the rest of November. I’ve been getting along fine with cashmere sweaters ($6 at the thrift store) and wool mittens.

This pair of fingerless wool mittens is convenient for fiddling with my bike lock and flipping off drivers (only once, I’m doing better!).

This is my favorite time of year. I’m spending my Thanksgiving holiday reading books (on book #3 today), cooking, and eating, but I also have a couple of LGRAB podcasts, a video, and a bike review in progress – hopefully for next week.

I hope everyone else is having a mild season and enjoying the holiday!

Tagged , , , ,

Unsafe cyclists: what do you say?

I can’t stand it when other bicyclists pass me on the right. It’s unsafe. Unfortunately, it happens often because there are so many bicyclists and cars in Chicago. I spend a lot of energy trying to ride outside of the door zone (not always successfully); the last thing I need is for a bicyclist to pop up next to me in that dangerous space and take me down with her.

My fancy door zone collage

Yesterday as a woman did this, I said, “please don’t pass me on the right.” She said, “sorry,” and continued on. I have made the same statement to several bicyclists in the past and she was the first to respond. I kinda felt like a jerk. Irrational?

Generally, I feel like I should speak up when someone’s action directly affects my safety. Now I am wondering: should I bother saying anything at all when someone passes me on the right? I don’t want to be overly pedantic or annoying and I don’t want to tarnish anyone’s bike ride. Plus, my speaking up probably has little practical effect, except to raise my stress level. (Do people really not know this is dangerous?)

I’d love to hear what others think on this matter. Do you ever speak up? If so, has anyone ever responded to you? Do you think it does any good?

p.s. For a full discussion on why bicyclists should not pass other bicyclists on the right (or the left for Brits), check out Adrienne’s excellent post on Change Your Life. Ride a Bike!

Tagged , , ,

November’s women-who-bike brunch

The Women-Who-Bike group has been coming together for brunch every month for over a year now.  November’s brunch was number 13.  There were 20 of us, a great mix of regulars and new faces, plus Trisha.  I was especially excited to have a group of teenage girls and their mentors from West Town Bike’s Girls Bike Club.   (Much more about them in a future post!)

I was so busy eating and gabbing, I managed to take pictures of only a few of the women, so this is merely a sampling of the awesomeness.  :)

I must give thanks to Bleeding Heart Bakery and Cafe on Chicago Avenue.  Even though they don’t take reservations, they accommodated our large group, plus the food was delicious and our waitress was super sweet.

 

If you are in Chicago and interested in joining us for brunch, we meet on the first Sunday of the month.  Email me at LGRAB [at] letsgorideabike.com to get on the mailing list for the details.
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s that time of year…

When I start to look like the Red Barron -

And I have to remove and carry around a bunch of layers and accessories -

Before I look like myself again.

Is everyone else pulling out their hats, ear muffs, gloves, scarves and coats? (Snow is in today’s forecast!)  Or are you smarter than me, living in a warm climate? :)

Here’s our advice on dressing for winter biking, if anyone needs it.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Appreciating Late Fall

The past two days have been rainy and super windy, so I’ve taken public transportation. The L train is no fun compared to my bikes, but I’m grateful for its convenience when needed. The combination of bicycling and access to great public transportation is what allows me to live without a car

Happily, today is sunny and dry, although 39 degrees – brrr.

I’ll not complain about fall weather too much, because I know what’s coming.

Gotta remember to appreciate the present.  Happy Friday!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who is the A-hole? Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me…

This is a post where I get to use our “a-holes” tag.

Yesterday morning, during the portion of my commute where I have to use a busy road, I approached an intersection (Wells & Division) with the green light and I kept a sharp eye on opposite traffic to make sure no one turned left in my path. That is a common occurrence because drivers either don’t pay attention or think they are fast enough to dart through, so I’m always looking out for it.

I entered the intersection and the opposite driver, who had a clear view of me, began to turn left at the same time without warning. I started breaking, but I wasn’t sure if I could stop in time, so I called out, “Don’t go! Don’t go!” I’m loud and his window was open, so he stopped and as I went by a split second later, he yelled out his window, “Then hurry up, Asshole!”

Can you believe that? Crazy times!

But I will continue to use my outside voice when necessary to ensure my safety. By the time I arrived at work, I was mostly zen about it, telling myself that he must be a miserable person, whereas I only had to deal with him for a few seconds.

I did stop at the store afterward to buy this amazing Icelandic chocolate bar before going to work. Chocolate is my friend.

And it helped that I had the witty banter of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me whispering in my right ear.

You may have noticed that I was a bit bundled up. With temps in the low 40’s, biking in a suit sans sweat is no problem, and now I have to add earmuffs, a scarf, wool tights and gloves. Not just any gloves – my fingers get very cold, so I had to break out these huge Thinsulate reindeer gloves. They’re so silly looking, they make me laugh.

Mean drivers, cold weather, whatever.

I will still be out there, enjoying my bike rides. :)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Video: Biking in a Protected Lane

A couple of weeks ago, I shared photos of my bike ride through Chicago’s first protected lane on Kinzie Avenue. I love this lane, so now I’m sharing the experience with all of you. Sorry for the jumpy video – the ride is more peaceful than it looks, but Chicago’s streets are bumpy and I was holding the camera in my hand.

Enjoy!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Introducing LGRAB Podcasts!

Trisha and I have started a cycling-themed podcast series!  We’ll talk to creators of sites and bicycles we like, other bloggers, each other and more.

I encourage you to subscribe to the LGRAB Podcasts for free via iTunes to stay up-to-date on all future podcasts.  Simply click on the link, then “view in iTunes” and “Subscribe.”

Our first podcast is an interview with John Greenfield and Steven Vance, co-creators and writers of Chicago-based sustainable transportation blog Grid Chicago. Both have past insider experience working for the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Active Transportation Alliance, and their mission with Grid is to be a platform for critical analysis and thought on issues related to progressive and sustainable transportation.

  

{L: Steven Vance, R: John Greenfield.  Photos courtesy of Grid Chicago}

In the podcast I chat with Steve and John about writing Grid, how to make your voice heard by those in power, and the future of bicycling infrastructure in Chicago.  We had such a great conversation, I had to edit almost an hour and a half down to a more manageable 27 minutes.

You can listen to the interview below or visit our iTunes page to download the podcast.

Visit Grid Chicago
Visit our iTunes page

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mary Poppins Effect in the Media

“The Mary Poppins Effect is a matter of humanizing the bicycle rider,” says Ms. Brackett, who co-authors the blog LetsGoRideaBike.com. “It helps drivers realize bicyclists are people too.”

Crains Chicago Business magazine has a little article about the Mary Poppins Effect by Claire Bushey. You can read the entire article here.

Tagged , , , , ,

More about skirts and helmets

The past two days, I have worn skirt and blouse outfits similar to what I wore in my last post, with a helmet, and drivers were pretty nice, but not as totally nice as before. Again, maybe it’s in my head, but it’s interesting to ponder.

For anyone who is “meh” about the Mary Poppins Effect talk because they don’t experience it – Mr. Dottie is right there with you and he’s perfectly content to ride a faster bike in construction-site work clothes, thankyouverymuch.

In an unrelated observation, the skirt below came down to my mid-calf, but was nowhere near my back wheel when I sat on the saddle. There are very few skirts that require a skirt guard, so I encourage those apprehensive about biking in mid-length skirts to give it a try. Just make sure your skirt is not touching your back wheel before setting off.

Hey, today’s Friday – happy Friday! I’m excited for the weekend because Trisha, Melissa and Erin, another friend from Nashville, will be in Chicago. I don’t know if Erin will be up for riding in the city, but I know Trisha and Melissa will be. This is when having multiple bikes comes in handy. I’ll be a mini bike share system. :)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Mary Poppins Effect and Happy Helmets

I left work yesterday evening, unlocked my bike and prepared to set off when I realized that I forgot my helmet in my office. It was one of those days when the idea of locking my bike again, removing my bag, going upstairs and unlocking my office was unbearable, so I decided to continue on helmetless. If I had a busy route, I would have retrieved my helmet, but my route is a series of calm side-streets.

Me and Betty on yesterday’s evening commute

This was one of my first times riding Betty Foy without a helmet. I have done it more often riding Oma, but Betty is faster and has more aggressive positioning.

My ride home was perfectly fine and I felt comfortable on the road. In fact, drivers were extremely nice to me. No one passed too closely or cut me off, and many drivers gave me an extra wide berth or slowed behind me until they could pass safely. I wonder if this behavior had something to do with the Mary Poppins Effect, as several people commented previously that when they don’t wear helmets, drivers are kinder. But my usual Nutcase helmet is so sweet and happy, I don’t see why wearing it would make drivers treat me any differently. I think a helmet covered with pink and red hearts would contribute to the Mary Poppins Effect.

Maybe the kindness was caused by the perfect fall weather, which put everyone in a really good mood. Or maybe it was partly in my head, since I was already wondering if drivers would treat me differently. Regardless, I’m more worried about drivers who never see me at all, so I will continue to wear my helmet most of the time. Maybe when Chicago gets those 100 miles of protected bike lanes, I’ll feel more comfortable going without. :)

{This post is not meant to be all “yay helmets” or “boo helmets” – simply a bit about my day.}

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Protected Bike Lane Love!

I recently biked along the city’s first protected bike lane. It happened to be the most direct route to get from work to the bar where I was meeting Ash for drinks. And it was amazing – all I hoped for and more.


These pictures really don’t do the lane justice. Most of the lane is next to the curb and separated from moving car traffic by flexible bollards and parked cars. It is wide and comfortable and felt totally safe. Not having to worry about how close drivers were passing on my left or watch out for opening car doors on my right was… I’m at a loss for words, I don’t know, it was pretty much the best thing ever. I biked this street a couple of times before the lane and the experience was extremely stressful and unpleasant. The difference the protected lane made is like night and day.

Here are two ladies who want more protected bike lanes:

Ash and Me

This particular stretch is only .5 miles, but the city plans to install 25 miles of protected bike lanes by May 2012 and 100 miles by the end of the mayor’s first term.  Cheers to Chicago’s new and growing bike infrastructure!

I plan to record a video next time I ride the lane, if I can tape my little digicam to my basket. You all gotta see this awesomeness in action.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Dressing for the Weather

The delightful, crisp fall weather has turned into lots of rain and somber grey skies. The past five days have been pretty crappy, weather-wise. I took the L because of the rain on Monday and that experience reminded me that riding a bike is always more enjoyable, even if in the rain.

An upside of fall, regardless of the exact weather conditions, continues to be seasonal clothing. I’ve been enjoying all my tweed and wool and – yes – velvet. Very librarian chic. LC of Naturally Cycling: Manchester recently talked about how she likes to dress to match the season. I find that I do the same, preferring pinks and yellows for spring, browns and oranges for fall.

When bike sites talk about dressing for the weather, they usually focus on technical aspects, such as specialty raincoats and balaclavas. (We have our fair share, of course.)  I prefer to think of dressing for the weather in this more fun way. The common sense stuff comes naturally – for example, I’m about to throw a rain trench over my burnt orange sweater and tweed skirt for my wet ride this morning.  That will do just fine.  :)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Loop’s First Bike Lane

The Loop is the very center of downtown Chicago, filled with courthouses, office buildings, theaters and shopping. Unfortunately, biking in the Loop anytime between 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. is very stressful. Bicyclists have to take the lane and haul ass. The wide, one-way streets are a free-for-all of buses, speeding cabs, personal vehicles of those with enough money to pay for parking, police SUVs, and pedestrians. I dislike biking in the Loop so much, When I have to go to court, I park my bike at my office and then walk the last mile into the Loop.

The complete lack of safe infrastructure is the reason biking in the Loop is so awful. No bike lanes at all, let alone protected bike lanes.

That is, until this month, when the city finally installed the first bike lane in the Loop on Madison.

I biked the lane on my way to an evening meeting and it’s a big improvement, in my opinion. Although cars passed closely, they did not drive in the bike lane, unless crossing over into the right turn lane, and they seemed more aware of the possible presence of bikes. The bike lane is to the left of the turning lane, which I liked, because the turning lane is usually jammed with waiting cabs and buses – I would not want to ride to the right of that mess.

Another improvement is that this lane extends into the intersection with dotted lines, which was never done in the past. Since the beginning of the summer, I have noticed several more areas where existing bike lanes have been extended into intersections like this whenever a street is repaved.

Overall, I am happy about this lane as a very small but hopeful start. But this really could have been a fully protected bike lane, if installed on the other side of the street. I want the city to install some of those protected lanes on at least four Loop streets: north, south, east, and west. I hope that this is part of their long-term plan.

Check out The Grid Chicago for a detailed analysis of the lane and a great conversation in the comments section.

Do any Chicago readers out there bike in the Loop? What do you think about this lane and what do you want to see next?

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

September’s women-who-bike brunch

Those of us who were not out of town for the Labor Day weekend met up for our monthly brunch on September 4. We enjoyed the back patio at bike-friendly Handlebar Bar & Grill, a group favorite. The weather was perfect and we savored what may have been our last outdoor brunch for 7 or 8 months.

Megan and her Bianci

Cute shoes and Road ID

Sara and her Jamis

Cute bike flower

Stefanie and her vintage roadbike

Jennifer and her vintage Raleigh

Me and Oma

I love hanging out with this cool group of women! We meet for brunch the first Sunday of the month and for happy hour whenever. If you’d like to join us, email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Start of Fall Bicycling!

Today is the first day of fall – my favorite season for bicycling.

Fall cycling is lovely and requires little-to-no preparation. Jumping on your bike in slacks or tights and a sweater will work most days. Nevertheless, I notice a steep decline in bicyclists once the dreadfully hot days of summer are over, so obviously some people need convincing to continue riding their bikes. In light of this, we put together a How To Dress for Fall Cycling guide a couple of years ago and a quick Refresher Course last year.

Incidentally, last night I attended the Bike Winter kick-off meeting. I really don’t want to start thinking about winter yet, but I enjoyed hearing tips and questions from the large group of attendees, both seasoned winter bicyclists and people who plan to try it for the first time. If you’re already thinking this far ahead, check out Bike Winter for lots of great info, as well as the LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling and my video on how I dress for winter biking.

Whether you plan to stick it out for the long haul or simply make the best of fall weather before storing your bike for the winter (both reasonable options), I wish you a happy and healthy fall bicycling season.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Large Scale Bike-Sharing System Announced for Chicago!

Imagine my surprise when I visited the main page of the Chicago Tribune this evening and saw the big lead story: City to rent thousands of bicycles.  Apparently, city officials just announced plans for a large scale bike-sharing system.  Oh yes yes yes!!

Mr. Dottie uses Paris's Velib bike-sharing system

The system is still in the planning stages and a company has not yet been picked to implement it, but it’s expected to start in the summer of 2012, with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations around the city, most 1/4 of a mile apart in the most dense areas. By 2014, the city hopes to add 2,000 more bikes and 200 more stations.  The system will pay for itself with membership fees (only $75/year with the first 30 minutes free) and sponsorships, along with federal congestion-relief funding.

I love the messaging going out to explain the system.  The article starts thusly:

Transferring from a train to a bus stuck in traffic is often the most frustrating and slowest way to finish a commute, prompting Chicago officials on Wednesday to start the wheels rolling on a new “transit option.”

Discussing how the bike share system will be aimed at all citizens, even those who do not currently ride a bike, the new transportation director, Gabe Klien, says “We view it as a basic form of transportation, but also a fun way to get around.” The article also compares it to the beloved i-Go car-sharing system, which will help regular people understand how a bike-share could be useful to them.

The article’s description of the bikes made me chuckle, because it totally mirrors what’s so great about my Dutch bike.

‘The new bikes will have an upright seating position for riders, a step-through frame to make mounting and dismounting easy, wide tires and a built-in LED-lighting system,’ he said. Other features will include at least three gear speeds, cushioned seats, chain guards to keep lubricant off clothing and fenders above both wheels to prevent water on the pavement from splashing onto the riders.

I am so excited about this and what it means for the future of Chicago as a bike-friendly city. I used to be doubtful of the efficacy of bike-sharing systems, until I visited Paris last year. The Velib system is amazing and, of the huge number of bicyclists on the streets of Paris, at least half of them were riding Velib bicycles. I got the sense that the city was pushed to become more bike-friendly and install new infrastructure as a response to the huge amount of bicyclists resulting from Velib. Could that happen in Chicago? I’m going to say – YES!

Read Trisha’s account of our Velib adventures HERE.  Read the whole article at the Chicago Tribune HERE.  Highly recommended reading. A+ to the Chicago Tribune: the article relays the facts and avoids manufacturing any awful debates.

Do you think a bike-sharing system can change a city?  Would you like to see one where you live?

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

A Little Courtesy and Sunshine

Picking up on Trisha’s post yesterday about craziness and courtesy on the road, I have a little courtesy to share from this evening’s commute.

On my way home, an SUV driver stopped for three older gentlemen at a crosswalk.  This is so rare in Chicago, that could be the whole story, but there’s more.  I was biking from the other direction and also stopped. Two of the gentlemen shuffled by and the third saw me waiting and gave a polite bow while motioning for me to go ahead of him. I thanked him with a smile and set off, as another in the group called out, “Hey, want to take me with you?” Ha, cute! (Note to men: do not attempt unless you are in a group of adorable elderly men, otherwise you’ll just be a creepy.)

A few miles later, I heard a little girl say to her mom, “I like that bicycle!” as I passed. Aw, double cute!  Ladies of all ages appreciate the Betty Foy.

Another plus from the day – the weather was glorious. I enjoyed basking in the morning sun as it rose over Lake Michigan.

The sweet little interactions and the beautiful weather made up for the traffic craziness of the day, like the four drivers who opened car doors in my path. Good thing I was not riding a little closer to the parked cars, sheesh.

Anyway, a little courtesy and sunshine go a long way to brighten my day.  :)

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers