Tag Archives: biking in Chicago

Warm Spring Ride!

What’s that?!  A mittenless hand?

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Bootless feet?

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Muffless ears?

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That’s right – spring is HERE!  (Okay, I’m willfully ignoring the 20-30 degree temps predicted for Monday.)

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This long-awaited warm-up set the stage for a highly enjoyable and leisurely bike ride with friends Dan and Janet.

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The destination was a lovely Easter lunch at the home of our friends Sara and Glenn.

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Oh yeah, Che lives there, too!

After a delicious meal and a spirited game of Scrabble, we were off on our bikes again to return home.  The evening sun made the ride chillier, but still very enjoyable.

The feel of warm air on bare skin is such a luxury this time of year.  Here’s hoping there is much more of it soon!

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Did you enjoy any special rides this weekend in the warm spring air?

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Puffy Coat Weather

When I’m wearing my puffy coat in late March, I’m not happy. As you can see, winter has not yet released her grip on Chicago.

BUT this photo was from last week and spring weather is riiiiight around the corner now. Allegedly.  I hope to have happy spring bicycling stories to share after Easter.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the comfort of escaping the bitter cold in a corner cafe, sipping French apple brandy with friends.  :-)

P.S.  and apropos of nothing, can someone make me a bike out of this awesome guy?  That would be amazing, thanks!

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(Spotted at Architectural Artifacts.)

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Bike Winter Continues

Although the lakefront is melting, with temps in the teens and low twenties, spring still seems far away.

Bike Winter 4ever!

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Looking Back on Winter 2012-13

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

 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?

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Wintry Beauty

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.

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.}

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

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.  :-)

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Bicycling to Picasso

On Saturday, I visited the Art Institute in downtown Chicago for a lecture on the museum’s new Picasso exhibit.  The outing involved a total of 14 miles of bicycling in 15-20 degree temps.  No big deal.  ;-)  I set out on Betty Foy wearing my new Wolford tights with a dress, trench coat and suede knee boots.

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Unfortunately, once I got going, I realized that I was quite underdressed for the weather, with freezing toes and thighs.

But there was no turning back – all I could do was make the best of the situation, which was not difficult, considering the beautiful surroundings.

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Despite the chill, I felt great after the 7 mile ride and happy to spend time with my friends Sara, Chika and Glenn.

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The Art Institute is one of my favorite places in the city.  I really should go more often, since I have a membership this year that allows for free admission.

The indoor sculpture courtyard is a must-see during every visit.
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Another favorite sight is Chagall’s American Windows.

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After the museum, we headed through the Loop to have a drink and a bite at Pops for Champagne.  The ride there was lovely, as we got to take advantage of the Dearborn protected bike lane.
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Fortified with food and drink, I enjoyed my freezing but refreshing bike ride home.
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As always, bicycling around made my day out in Chicago twice as enjoyable.  :-)

Did you have a fun outing by bike this weekend?

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Bright and Clear Winter Biking

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!)

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Public Transit Makes the Bike Heart Grow Fonder

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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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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Snow, Sun and Sleet

The past three days have been warmer than earlier this week, but presented challenges related to precipitation, rather than temperature.

Snow fell heavily on Friday morning and I took the L train to work.  I never bike when the streets look like this:

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One day later, the skies were clear and blue…

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…and the snow was reduced to mucky slush on the side of the road.

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My friend Janet and I were able to ride our matching Omas to ballet burn class with no problem.  (Except for ballet-burn-related soreness!)

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Sleet and freezing rain have been falling all day Sunday, which I took as a sign to stay inside and read Wide Sargasso Sea (and hate  Mr. Rochester so much).  The world outside my window looks pretty nasty, so I’ll probably be on the L train again Monday.

This mix of snow, sun and sleet reminds me that the best way to get through winter is to be flexible and not put pressure on myself to bike all the time.

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When I feel comfortable biking, I enjoy it so much more.

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Icicle Bicycle

The morning temperatures this week have varied from 0 degrees to 10 degrees, plus some snow has been falling.  For a good idea of how bitterly cold Chicago is, check out this photo below of a warehouse fire in the city.

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Photo by Jose M. Osorio

Yeah, that’s cold!

I spent part of the week riding public transportation and part of the week bicycling.  Although I have biked in sub-zero weather before, the convenience of the L train lures me to the easy option when I’m feeling lazy.  Which is often.  A couple friends have been bicycling on days I took the L, so I give my hardcore title up to them.  :-)

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These photos are in an alley.  The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.

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When I ride my bike on super cold days, there are some key pieces I rely on, as I’ve mentioned before.

Wool leggings over my tights to allow me to wear skirts and dresses.

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Hand and toe warmers.

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Snow boots that have been serving me well since 2001 (or the brown ones shown above).

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Ta-da!

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I hope everyone is staying warm, whether on the bike or not.

Now how many weeks until spring?  ;-)

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Roll Models: Samantha of Ding Ding Let’s Ride

The Roll Models series is back!  Today’s roll model is my friend Samantha, cool woman and author of the blog Ding Ding Let’s Ride, which focuses on everyday family bicycling with Dutch bikes and adaptive bikes.

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Describe your bicycling style in three words.

Urban.
Everyday.
Dresses.
Cowboy boots.

(OK – so that’s 4 words, but I wanted to convey that I often wear dresses when I ride, but I’m
not a total cycle chic girly-girl and often wear pants and cowboy boots.  ;-) )

How long have you been riding a bike?

I’ve been riding a bike since I was a kid. I had a lime-green banana-seat kid’s bike, followed by
a 3-speed upright bike with a basket that I rode into my early teens. I didn’t ride much until grad
school when I started up again with a mountain bike. I haven’t stopped for the last 20+ years.

How does bicycling fit into and/or shape your life?

My bike is my primary form of transportation. I commute via bike to work year-round, run
errands and grocery shop on my bike, go on evenings out by bike, and ride to events and
activities with my family on my bike.

What inspires you to keep bicycling?

I love the city of Chicago, and riding a bike is the best way to experience it. I feel better
mentally and physically when I ride, even on cold, dreary, blustery days and I don’t ever want to
give up that feeling.

In your experience, does the general bicycling world – shops, outreach, group rides, etc. -
feel welcoming for you as a woman?

I think the overall attitude in the bicycling world these days is fairly welcoming to women. There
are certain shops or groups that feel a bit like a boys club sometime, but there are also so many
different kinds of bikes, riders, and events these days that I think you can find the place that is
right for you. I’ve never felt excluded from cycling businesses or events because I was a woman.

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What is your take on the “gender gap” in cycling, including media attention on how to get
more women to bicycle?

The way to get more women riding is to make cycling safer and it has to truly be perceived
as safer too. I’m not the first one to say that – but I’ll be glad to repeat it. And “Safer” to me
means more truly separated bike lanes with lights, and more education/public awareness of
how motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians should interact on public ways. I really do think that
the next thing the city of Chicago should do is develop a long-term bike awareness campaign
that demonstrates how one should approach an intersection with a cyclist on either side, make
a turn, handle protected bike lanes, door zones, etc. I’m happy about the bike infrastructure
improvements we’re seeing, but now we need to teach people how to use this new infrastructure
and how to walk/bike/drive in conjunction with it.

If you could magically change one thing to improve bicycling in your city, what would it
be?

I would make all the buffered or ‘protected’ bike lanes in this city into truly separated bike lanes
with real dividers – perhaps like the curbs and planters I’ve seen in Long Beach CA.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of bicycling?

I feel very optimistic about the future of bicycling. I see more people cycling all the time. Each
winter here in Chicago I see more people continue to ride through the cold months than the year
before. That’s a great thing.

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Any advice for people, especially women, who want to start cycling?

Start out in your comfort zone. If you haven’t been riding at all, you may want to start out riding
on recreational paths or side streets – don’t expect to ride in downtown traffic the first time you
get on a bike. If you’re looking for a bike, research a few different bike shops – find one that
carries the type of bike you think you’ll be interested in, and one with a staff that is welcoming
and helpful to you and not just trying to push you into any ole bike purchase.

Final words?

There are a lot of women who are biking in Chicago and writing about it so don’t be afraid to contact any of us and ask questions. We all ride for different reasons and with different styles, on different bikes, but we all share the same desire to get more cyclists out there and we are always willing to share our own experiences and knowledge to further that goal.

I certainly second that! Thanks so much to Samantha for sharing her experience, thoughts, and advice with us!  For more, visit Ding Ding Let’s Ride and follow her on Twitter.

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January’s Women Who Bike Brunch

On Sunday morning, our group of awesome women got together for some brunching.  :-)

I must give a special “thank you!” to the new restaurant, Southport and Irving, which was especially welcoming (see that looong table below? that’s all us on a busy morning) and served delicious food (duck confit with caramelized onions, scallions, duck fat potatoes, poached eggs and mustard sauce – I had to hold myself back from licking the plate).

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(The duck confit was gone before I got to my camera, so here is a photo of my tea bag.)

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I was so distracted by eating, I failed to get photos documenting everyone who was there.  I managed to capture only a few stragglers.  :-)

Chika! looking so fab in orange.

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Sara with her sparkly gold helmet, blue Pashley, and orange Chika.

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Sarah rocking the fur hat.

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Her front rack is conveniently equipped with a bottle opener!

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Rachel just moved to Chicago from Atlanta and brought this amazing cat helmet with her (kids’ section at Target!).

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I threw on jeans, boots, and a trench.  Forgot my earmuffs but lucky for my poor ears, I did not have far to bike.

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The outside of Southport and Irving (located, perhaps not surprisingly, at Southport and Irving).

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Interested in joining our brunch group?  You should be!  We’re friendly, smart, and fun – if I may ring our own bell.  We love new people.  Email me at LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com to be included on the evites.

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Winter Bicycling Is…

Winter bicycling is more than temperatures and forecasts and wool layers and hand warmers. Winter bicycling is when the world brightens as the wind whips and my mind clears as my cheeks flush.

My fingers and toes may be numb, my nose may be running, my eyes may be watering – but I am the happiest and calmest version of myself, bicycling on a crystal clear winter day.

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Today I experienced a rare winter treat: leaving the office early enough to catch the sun before setting. The late afternoon light painted the sky with an ombre splash of color, inspiring me to record a video that I hope conveys some of the joy of the ride.

The accompanying song is “This Winter I Retire” by Said The Whale.

(Hello, there!)

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What is winter bicycling to you?

 

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Winter Beauty

Winter is my favorite time to ride a bike in Chicago.  The paths are relatively empty and there are many sunny mornings, when the blues and whites and sands shine brilliantly.

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There has been a little ice and snow this winter.  Just enough to add a bit of sparkle to the city, not enough to disrupt my routine or put challenges in my path.

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I cannot imagine Chicago winter without bicycling.  I think life would be pretty grim this time of year, if I did not have a reason to frolic outside with regularity.  And I would miss out on so much beauty!

 

 

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A Freezing Start to 2013

Welcome, 2013!  As I followed my ritual this morning of pouring a cup of coffee and popping open my macbook to check the weather, I was greeted by this sight:

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12 degrees fahrenheit – yeesh.  (That’s -11 celsius.)  Normal for Chicago winter, but by far the coldest day of this season so far.  At least most of last week’s snow has disappeared.

With very little traffic lately due to people being off work for the holidays, I’ve been enjoying my bike commutes along otherwise highly trafficked streets.  I certainly did not want to miss out on cycling today.  Here I am preparing to set off:

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I wore a wool dress with tights.  To this I added the following for non-bulky but highly effective layering: wool leggings and wool leg warmers, wool socks and winter boots with warmers, a light windbreaker and trench coat, cashmere scarf, glove liners and ski mittens with warmers, earmuffs and winter helmet, and sunglasses (safety glasses after dark to protect my eyes from cold wind).  This is very similar to what I wore in my how-to video for winter cycling.

This worked perfectly.  I was like a little moving furnace.  My only problem was forgetting to fill my pockets with tissue to blow my nose, which runs like crazy in the extreme cold.

When I left work in the evening, the weather had warmed up to a relatively toasty 22 degrees and I was sweating under my layers by the time I got home.

How has your 2013 started?

P.S. For more info on dressing for winter bicycling, see The LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling, How To: Cycle Sleek Winter Wear, and How To: Dress For Winter Bike Commuting.

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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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Returning to the bike after a crash

I got back on my bike last Friday.  The morning was beautiful.

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I felt great during the whole ride, including the bits on the street.  Thank goodness for the Lakefront Trail, where I don’t have to worry about cars.  I’ll be taking this route much more from now on, since my peaceful side-street route turned out to be not so peaceful.

Last night I took city streets home – a similar route as usual but avoiding the intersection – but it was too soon.  I was fearful and started crying a bit for no reason as I went along.  Typing that out is embarrassing, but there you have it.  I’ve always been super defensive and cautious, but now I feel like I cannot trust any intersection situation no matter what.  Plus, I think the night and everything felt too similar.  I’m back on the Lakefront Trail today.

For anyone who’s gone through something like this, how did you feel getting back on the bike?

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Another Friday

One week ago, I began my Friday morning at Heritage Bikes

For a quick breakfast…

With my friend Elizabeth…

Then we biked to work together…

And 10 hours later Elizabeth was picking me up from the ER and ferrying Coco and me home.  (She also happens to be the organizer of Chicago’s Ride of Silence).  Thanks, E!

Today I plan to get back on the bike for the first time.  Circumstances forced me finally to change Betty Foy’s flat tire, so I’ll be riding her.  :)

Happy Friday!

 

 

 

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