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.
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.
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.
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!
Living in a city that makes only the barest of nods to public transportation, I’d always assumed that being without a car would be a terrible hardship, even though I already rely on my bicycle for most neighborhood trips. Some of my fears turned out to be true and others, not as much. Here’s how a few of my preconceptions ended up playing out in reality.
I’d be limited on what I could do and where I could go.
True, but not to the extent that I had feared. I was able to bum a ride to events that were really important, or take a bus. I also tried out the bike/bus combo for the first time—overcoming my fear that my bike would fall off the rack at the front—and was amazed at how easy it was. That said, with an increased awareness of the energy and time expenditures to get somewhere, I found myself choosing to spend time (and money) in my own neighborhood more often.
My social life would suffer.
The past month has been quieter for me—but having to get most everywhere by bike has made me respect my human limitations and not push myself to do things when I feel sick or tired like I usually do. Surprisingly, being forced to slow down has been more relaxing than frustrating.
I’d be unable to see out-of-town family and friends.
Sadly, true—I missed out on seeing some good friends of mine a couple of weekends ago. (The Greyhound to my hometown takes about 7 hours, vs. 4 hours in the car, which means that taking it for a weekend is impractical. Rental cars are pretty pricey for a weekend.) This continues to be one of the biggest reasons for me to keep a car.
I won’t be able to do everyday things—shop for groceries, etc.
Again, sort of true. My local grocery is close but has crap (aka zero) bike parking, so it’s kind of a pain. I have tagged along with friends to the store a couple of times, which was nice when it came to buying milk, etc. I also found myself buying things at odd places that were for whatever reason more convenient (I’ve never bought milk at Walgreens before! Or butter from the Dollar General.). Random shopping trips just didn’t happen. I would say that was a good thing since I saved some money, but I’m pretty sure I made up for it by buying stuff online. There were some errands I put off while I didn’t have a car, like going to the bank, but then again I do that anyway.
More to come on the response from others, and my own feelings about the experience, but this post is getting pretty long. I know there are others in mid-sized cities, and others here in Nashville, who don’t drive. What has your experience been like? What were your fears about being without a car and how did you deal with them?
The weather is warm and sunny, the flowers are blossoming, and the traffic is calm on my quiet side street route. Riding my bike is so much nicer than squeezing onto the L train or being trapped in a car.
Even if the rest of my day is not so great, at least I know that I will enjoy my commute to and from work. (Even if I cut my head off with my self-timed photos :)) That’s why I ride my bike. Most assume it’s an environmental or health statement, but those factors are secondary to having a happy commute. If it were not enjoyable, I would not do it.
Last week was Bike to Work Week in Chicago. We celebrate it later than the rest of the country, waiting until June to make sure it does not snow.
I volunteered at an Active Transportation Alliance commuter pit stop one morning. The stop offered free coffee and Clif bars, various swag, tune-ups and general encouragement. I mostly just stood around chatting with friends, though.
My friend Sara happened to ride by on her way to work, looking naturally fabulous. Hello!
And other office cycle chic peeps rolled by.
After a demanding morning of gabbing and drinking free Caribou coffee, I set off for the office myself.
I’m a fan of Bike to Work Week. Some people criticize the focus on commuting, while others proclaim it should be “bike to work week every week,” but the directed outreach seems to encourage new people to try transportation cycling. In fact, I first biked to work during the official Bike to Work Week three years ago. It would be interesting to see statistics comparing the amount of bike commuters the week before, the week of, and the week after the event.
Was anyone else inspired by Bike to Work Week or a similar event as a newbie? Do you have any co-workers who became interested in commuting after hearing about the event?
Earlier this week, Greg and I celebrated our 7 year wedding anniversary in a typical way for us: eating, drinking and bicycling. I ended up working late and took the fastest and most direct route from downtown to Lincoln Square. By the time I got to the restaurant (Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro) I was sweaty and amped from all the traffic, but after freshening up quickly in the ladies’ room, I felt great. Although for the life of me, I could not find my comb (don’t you hate it when that happens?). Having a date who also bikes everywhere and knows the deal is helpful.
The first dish pictured above is macaroni and cheese bites over goat cheese fondu. Yes, it was delicious and the start of a two hours of yumminess.
Okay, so this bike date was really just about the food and drinks. To see lots of bike dates that actually focus on bicycling, check out Simply Bike’s Bike Date Series. One of my goals this summer is to do a proper bike date for the series.