Tag Archives: car-free

Arctic Air Bike Commute…Or Not?

The ride home today was cold, a dry and bitter 15 degrees.  Nothing compared to the cold expected for tomorrow morning, though.  -4 to be exact.  That’s -4 fahrenheit, -20 celsius.

The headline on the Chicago Tribune today:

An arctic cold blast from Siberia will barrel through the Chicago area tonight, driving temperatures below zero for the first time in a year and creating dangerous wind chills that could hit nearly 30 below.

Alright, team – who’s gonna ride their bikes with me tomorrow?  :)

I’m not one for riding to prove anything, but I’m attracted to the idea of pushing the limits with the temperature.  When we had an arctic blast last year, I set out to ride and gave up after less than a mile, as my hands started to hurt unbearably.  I rode directly to the nearest L train stop, locked Oma up and took the train the rest of the way to work.  I blogged about my defeat here.

But I learned from my mistakes and came up with a game plan to avoid that downfall tomorrow.  Pretty simple, actually: lots of layers, a scarf wrapped around my face and, the piece de resistance, hand and foot warmers that I will remove from the package an hour before leaving.  Maybe even two warmers per mitten.  That was my biggest problem last time – I didn’t open my hand warmers until I’d already set out, not knowing that they need time to warm up.  Also, I might ride Betty Foy, since the pavement is bone dry and I could go faster, thereby creating more internal heat and cutting the commute time by 5 minutes or so.  I’ll have a tail wind on the way to work, at least.  The ride is only 5 miles.  I think this will work…

…Or not.  Who knows?  I may wake up in the morning and think, “forget this madness.”  I’m not going to lay my reputation on it.  The wind chill scares me a little bit.  But there’s no shame in trying.  :)  Stay tuned.

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Car-free Shopping Strategies

This weekend I made another bulk product shopping trip by bike.  There’s no real game plan, every pannier in the closet gets thrown on Oma and Sir Raleigh, who make a rag-tag cargo team.  In the photos below, there is quite a bit of stuff smushed onto the bikes.

At the Dottie household, we have a good system for taking care of all our purchases without a car, while staying within a budget and valuing local, organic and natural products.

  1. Most of the food we eat comes from area farms, delivered by a CSA, Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks.
  2. A lot comes from Whole Foods natural grocery, which is a very short walk.
  3. The heavier and pricier purchases, like cat food for our three kitties, come from Amazon via the mail.
  4. Most of our clothes come from neighborhood thrifts shops and those are fun trips!
  5. Finally, occasional bike trips to the bulk product store take care of miscellaneous stuff like fancy olives, liquor and beer.  (Fun fact: while visiting local brewery Two Brothers, they told me that the bulk store is their biggest customer.)  Whether luckily or unluckily, the bulk store is on the edge of my neighborhood, a quick ride.

This system works well for us.  What is your system for shopping without a motor vehicle?

(A previous discussion specific to grocery shopping by bike can be read here.)

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Coco’s Ride

I rode Coco to work Monday, before Tuesday’s snowfall sent me back to Oma and her studded tires.  I was so giddy to have a new bike, I decided to take Coco on a spin to the lakefront during lunch with my camera and a roll of film.

I haven’t ridden Coco enough yet to provide in-depth opinions on how she performs, but I’ll offer some initial thoughts.  She feels great!  The ride is similar to Oma’s and nothing like Betty Foy’s.  She weighs a bit less than Oma and is a bit more sprightly, but speed (or lack of it) and comfort are on pretty much par.

There are some notable differences.  First, Coco’s balloon tires are super cushy and help me laugh in the face of Chicago’s potholes and train tracks (one of my biggest fears).  Second, Coco has only three gears.  I ended up using all three gears during my ride, depending on incline (ramps in and out of the Lakefront Trail) and wind direction, and the range felt spot on.  Third, Coco’s geometry is almost straight up and down, but a tiny bit bent forward to reach the handlebars, whereas Oma’s geometry is a tiny bit leaned back with legs pushing a tiny bit forward.  I thought this would make riding Coco feel substantially different after a few miles, but my body felt the same while pedaling and once I arrived at work, no more or less fatigued or energized.

I probably don’t even need to mention looks.  She’s a beauty that I love to gaze at.  Beauty should not be underestimated when choosing a bike.  If you’re going to ride a bike every day, it should call out to you.  Coco certainly accomplishes that!

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A Very Friendly Bike Commute

Hi there!  We are back and ready for 2011.  :)

My first bike commute of the new year was pretty much perfect.  First, during my absence, all the snow miraculously melted in Chicago.  The temperature has since dropped down to well below freezing, but the roads remain clear and dry.  I celebrated the rare occasion by riding studded-tire-less Betty Foy for the first time in a month.  Vroom-vroom!

Half way to work, I pulled over to change the album on my iPod and blow on my numb fingertips, when Maria of Po Campo rode up next to me on her beautiful Soma mixte.  Our paths soon diverged, but not before I got a picture!

A couple of miles later, Jami of Balloon Biker pulled up next to me in the bike lane and we rode together and chatted the rest of the way in.

Lovely!  Note the skirts, tights and boots that both Maria and Jami are sporting.  That’s how Chicago women do it on a bike in the winter!

Unexpectedly meeting up with two bike friends really brightened my morning.  As a bonus to my already awesome morning, between seeing Maria and Jami, I passed a woman going the other direction who was riding a Dutch bike with flowing hair, carrying a baby on the front and a toddler on the back.  It was so beautiful, I could have wept.  She must be Dutch or something, although I would love to be wrong.  Anyone know a regular Chicago mom who throws down like that?  I was tempted to turn around and catch up with her to snap a picture, but figured that would be weird.  Instead, I offer this supermum representation from Copenhagen Cycle Chic:

Women on bikes are taking over – watch out, Chicago.

Happy new year!

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The LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling

Do you want to be as happy this winter as Mr. Snowman?  Ride your bike!  There’s nothing like spending time outside engaged in physical activity every day, enjoying the crisp air and scenery while everyone else hibernates.

We won’t claim that winter cycling is always a big party, but it’s certainly not the nightmare scenario that most seem to imagine.  As with any activity, knowledge is power: the more you understand about biking in the winter, the more comfortable you’ll be and the more you’ll enjoy yourself.

As we enter our third winter of biking and blogging, our archives offer a wealth of information for new and experienced winter cyclists alike.  Hence we bring you the LGRAB Guide to Winter Bicycling.

Seriously?

Yes!

What should I wear?  A spacesuit or footie pajamas with ski goggles or what??

That’s the easiest question to answer: absolutely, but only if you can rock it.  Otherwise, you may want to stick with your normal winter clothes.  Once you see the basics of how to dress for winter cycling, you’ll say, “aha” and move on.  You may even find that dressing for winter cycling can be effortlessly chic.

Like all superheroes (be prepared: co-workers will call you that), you will have a weakness.  For example, freezing fingers, but it is possible to keep hands toasty warm.  Embrace your weakness and then overcome it.

What about the awful weather?  Rain, snow, wind, ice, freezing cold?

Take it one day at a time.  Some days fluffy snow creates a winter wonderland and bike paths are perfectly plowed.  Other days the snow is dirty and nasty and in the bike lane.  At the extremes, you may set out on your bike and then give up due to ice or extreme cold. No shame in trying!

Your winter may consist of a lot of cold rain, but luckily women don’t get Jane-Bennet-ill from cold rain anymore, especially if you know what to wear.  Just make sure that your brakes are in good shape.  Then on the rare days when it snows, riding could be a fun adventure.

If the weather on a particular day is really bad, simply choose not to ride that day.  The most important thing is that you honestly differentiate reasons from excuses.

Or maybe you live in Southern California.  If so, #@!% you.

I slip walking down the sidewalk.  What chance do I have on a bicycle?

A really good chance, actually.  The roads, maintained by the city, are in much better condition than sidewalks.  Once plows come by after a snow, main streets in the city are generally clear and dry.  Depending on your city’s climate and your preference for sidestreets and bike trails, you may benefit from studded tires.  Or if there’s just a bit of ice, you could simply walk your bike through the slick patch.

Doesn’t it get old, riding in the dark all the time?

Sometimes riding home from work in the dark everyday is a drag, but sometimes it makes everything seem quiet and calm.  Just make sure you are cognizant of safety and security concerns and have good lights.

I see you have fancy bikes.  I don’t.  So…?

While our Dutch bikes (WorkCycles and Batavus) are great for winter riding, due to enclosed brakes and chains, a fancy bike is not necessary for winter riding.  In fact, some people intentionally use old beaters for winter.

Most bikes in good condition would make decent winter bikes, although some may require more caution and more maintenance.  Be aware of what kind of brakes and tires you have and ride with caution in bad weather accordingly.  If you have old steel rims, seriously consider replacing them.  Decide whether you would benefit from studded tires.  Remember that fenders are your friend and install some.

If you plan to ride extensively in the winter, investing in a solid bike is worth it.

Will I be the only crazy person out there?

Maybe you’ll be the only bicyclist out there, maybe not.  You may find and appreciate a whole winter cycling community or just enjoy the alone time.  Even if there aren’t many other winter cyclists, you’re bound to meet colorful characters and bloodthirsty dogs simply by spending a lot of time outside.

But can I really do it?

If we did it, you can!  For inspiration, check out a retrospective of the first winter biking.  Is winter cycling a simple act or sheer will? Both!

Hey, it’s really cold.  Why am I doing this again?

Because winter bicycling will change your life.  You will better appreciate the differences between summer and winter cycling (for example, not smelling like B.O).  You will feel the yin, the yang, etc.  By season’s end, you will shed grateful tears over the first buds of spring, the first delicate bird’s nest.  Also, for hot legs.  Obviously.

How can I verify that you’re not lying to me for kicks?

You really can’t – welcome to the internet!  But other resources are out there pretty much verify our advice.  See, Bike Winter. Also, those other bike blogs listed to the right.

Anything else I should know?

The secret to bike commuting (hint: it’s not that bad).

If you have questions or would like to leave your own winter bicycling tips, please share in the comments!

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First Snow of the Season

Chicago’s first snow of the season arrived on time, the first day of winter. There was only a dusting and I was fine cycling along the Lakefront Trail with no special snow gear. Poor Betty Foy will be packed away soon for the winter season and Oma will be outfitted with her old studded tires, so I’m enjoying the remaining time I have with Betts.

My work outfit of a dress, cardigan and tights was fine. For the ride I threw on my wool overcoat, mittens, scarf, hat, helmet, wool socks and snow boots – the same ensemble I would have worn to take the train (minus the helmet, of course).

Based on what I’ve been reading around the bike blogosphere, I’m not the first to experience snow riding this year. How is everyone else dealing with winter so far?

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Nothin’ lasts forever, even cold November rain

Oh yes, I’m pulling out the Guns ‘N Roses. This is my last chance to use the reference for a year, since tomorrow is the last day of November.

Today’s rain led me to take the Lakefront Trail. Even though the route adds another 15 rainy minutes to my commute, riding among cars in the rain frays my nerves. On the bike path I don’t mind the rain at all, especially when there’s a tail wind.

As usual, wool and boots kept me toasty warm. These super windy pictures are actually from the rainy day last week. The bike was different, but the outfit was pretty much the same.

Anyone else care for an ’80’s MTV flashback? Gosh, I loved this video as a wee lass.

And so, as I roll through the wet, cold weather, I remember that nothin’ lasts forever, even cold November rain.

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A Lovely Change of Pace

“You are a lovely change of pace,” a guy bicycling by me called out yesterday morning.  We had just launched off from a stop light with about 6 other cyclists and I moved over to the right after seeing that he needed to pass in my rear view mirror.  I don’t know if my helpful maneuver or my skirt and pink helmet elicited the remark, but it made me laugh and say, “Thank you!”

A change of pace is really what I needed, after a too-eventful week.  To that end, I chose to ride the Lakefront Trail yesterday evening and this morning.  Even though it’s quite out of the way and adds about 2 miles to my otherwise 4 mile work route, sometimes it’s totally worth it for a lovely change of pace, free of cars.

Happy Friday!

p.s.  I’m not trying to hold out on my new bike news, but I don’t want to post about it until I have it and there’s an unexpected delay, so probably by early next week.

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Ups and Downs of Bike Commuting

I’ve written before about the ups and downs of bike commuting. A year later, I’m revisiting the theme based on the ups and downs I experienced during the past two days.

Down: Last night, as I was riding up Lincoln Avenue, a major bike route, a woman in a van yelled, “Ride in the bike lane, retard!” Wow, really?? For the record, I was riding on the outside line of the bike lane because otherwise I would be in the door zone. Regardless, anyone who would yell such awful and ignorant words at anyone is a miserable person. Incidentally, wouldn’t Chicago be so much better if everyone felt safe to ride their bicycles, including the developmentally disabled? I think so!

Up: Tonight, a woman standing on the sidewalk whistled and called out, “Hey, I love your bike!” while the men with her nodded in appreciation. The fact that they were outside a cool live music venue and not a tool-central type of bar doubled the impact of the compliment. I smiled and called out, “Thank you!” :)

I’m pretty sensitive, so I can’t help but be affected by such incidents, but really, no matter what someone may or may not yell at me, I always prefer my bicycle over any other form of transportation. If someone offered me free daily door-to-door Towncar service with complimentary muffins and NPR, I would turn it down without hesitation.

If you doubt me, check out the scenery from my ride this morning.

The temperature was in the high ’30s, but with a dress, a wool sweater, tights, boots and gloves, I was set.

For some reason, a lot of the “citizen cyclists” seem to have packed it in for the winter already, leaving me and a bunch of guys on road bikes. Just as I was thinking, “Gosh, everyone out here is in spandex going really fast,” my friend Dan rode by on his WorkCycles Oma and stopped to chat. (You may recognize him as top hat guy from the cocktail ride.) I love that in a huge city like Chicago, I still run into people I know regularly via the Lakefront Path and bike lanes.

A little later, a guy on a WorkCycles Opa rode by and rang his bell. I don’t know if he’s a reader (hi!) or merely a fellow Dutch bike appreciator, but it was great to see!

Back to the “ups and downs” of bike commuting. This I know for sure: I’m totally enjoying the up of autumn before the down of a long winter. Oh, who am I kidding? I kinda love winter, too!

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Simply Bike at LGRAB

This weekend a very special guest stayed chez Dottie, S from Simply Bike. I was very excited to meet her in person, after following her for a long time on Academichic and now on the newer bike blog.  Obviously, we have a lot in common and as I predicted, we got along extremely well and I had so much fun. As a bonus, she and Betty Foy were perfect together.

Riding bikes was a big part of the visit, since she had a conference about 8 miles away along the lakefront and I dropped her off and picked her up each day.  Other notable activities: the Race Against the Sky movie, a big German meal at Chicago Brauhaus, a ferris wheel ride at Navy Pier, fresh Mexican at Rick Bayless’s XOCO, Checkov’s The Seagull at Goodman Theatre and warm donuts from Dinkel’s Bakery.

I love getting out and enjoying Chicago to the max.  I always try to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, but hosting an out-of-towner gives me an extra push.

Saying goodbye to such a cool lady was sad.  All of us fun, smart bike ladies should colonize a new city, where we can hang out and ride bikes together all the time.  :)

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Relaxed

After a demanding day at work and the stress of two serious posts, I decided to take the Lakefront Trail home to avoid cars and meditate on the horizon. Before I knew it, my body and mind relaxed, the anxiety effortlessly left behind.

Bicycling is amazing like that. All I’m doing is getting from work to home, but somehow there’s so much more going on.

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The macho discourse on city cycling

How much does the bike community’s own discourse on city cycling negatively affect the number and type of people who are willing to give life on two wheels a try?

This question has been swirling around my head since last week, when I read a guest post on Commute by Bike that offered 10 Rules for Urban Commuting. The rules are full of advice such as disobeying stop lights, being aggressive and never signaling. There is also solid advice about avoiding the door zone, not waiting to the right of stopped traffic and taking the lane. I disagree with a lot of the rules, but that’s fine: it’s not my list and I’m sure the style of riding works for the author and many others.

However, the macho tone of the article is endemic of a problem of the greater discourse on bicycling in the bike community. This wild west approach contributes to the fringe status of transportation cycling, both by repelling everyday people, especially women, and by reinforcing a culture that pits cyclists, drivers and pedestrians against each other.

When I first started bike commuting, I eagerly searched the web for tips and information, and this is the kind of advice I found everywhere – the kind that increased my apprehension about riding in the city and made me feel like I was not the type of person who should be attempting this. While I would have learned something from the “10 Rules,” the net effect may not have been helpful.

Me, a happy city cyclist {photo (c) Martha Williams}

I must not have been the only one who felt this way. The comments following the “10 Rules” post argued passionately both in favor of and against the rules. In response, the author followed up on his own blog by posting an 11th rule:

“I was struck by one curious and oft-repeated theme: the idea that those who ride bikes should assiduously avoid breaking traffic rules, because doing so makes motorists think badly of us.

For those afflicted with this way of thinking, I offer Rule 11:

If your priority is being seen as a “cycling role model” by drivers, you should not ride in the city.

Leaving aside the notion that riding safely and not making motorists think badly of us are mutually exclusive, I have a problem with this statement. I am not comfortable with advice aggressively telling people they should not ride in the city if X, Y or Z. I have enough experience with city cycling now to know what’s what, but this macho instruction would have been very off-putting to me when I was a beginner. What is a new bike commuter to take from such a statement: that to ride a bike in the city, one must abandon a lifetime of lawful behavior and reconcile oneself to pissing off drivers in a never-ending struggle to make it home alive? Sign me up!

Since new bike commuters are presumably the intended audience for these rules and other similar advice columns around the internet, I worry about how many potential cyclists are scared off by this kind of rhetoric. Someone kicking around the idea of bike commuting is already going out on a metaphorical limb and is likely hearing from family and co-workers that riding a bike is crazy and dangerous. It may not take much to push someone away from the notion completely. Certainly, safety is important and a new bicyclist must learn the rules of the road, but there is a way to broadcast that message without alienating most of the audience (I highly recommend the article, “How not to get hit by cars”).

Hopefully, some who are initially put off keep digging around the web and find advice that speaks to them and their situations. In the two and a half years since I first started my research as a new bike commuter, the number and quality of alternative resources has grown. Although the discourse is still largely controlled by the hardcore contingent, I am optimistic that as city cycling becomes more popular, the discussion will become more moderate.

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Gale Force WIND-y City Commute

Since I took public transportation instead of riding my bike during the two-day windstorm, I bring this story from my intrepid reporter/friend E A.  If there’s ever a day when I don’t ride due to weather conditions, I can be 95% sure that E A rode anyway.


With the gusty weather predictions for the Midwest and Chicago on Tuesday, I debated the safety of venturing out on two wheels for my morning commute. A high wind advisory and tornado watches had been alerting me all Monday evening and Tuesday morning about the potential dangerous weather that is plaguing many areas of the U.S. as October nears its end.

At 7am Tuesday rain was pouring down and traffic reports showed the results of jack-knifed semis and cars in ditches. Luckily the worst of the storms moved over Chicago quickly and I found myself staring out into an eery calm after the storm by 8:30am. Shortly after 9am I was on the road with a light wind breaker for a dry commute into strong (but not gale force) southerly winds. Along my route, I bike down Wells Street – which to me is always ridden with cyclonic type winds – and my commute on Tuesday (or Wednesday) did not disappoint.

So… from my commute, I offer you some cautionary advice for dealing with such gusty wind storms:
* Keep both hands firmly gripped on your handlebars
* Tuck your upper body down more so less of you is exposed to the brunt of the wind
* Forge ahead
* Don’t be ashamed to bail out to use public transportation if the conditions are not safe – put your own safety first

Especially when the cross-winds come, I find it particularly challenging to keep my line and not be blown into parked cars or traffic speeding by. But I know my route well and that high level of familiarity helps me know just when and where I’m most exposed and where I can seek shelter or alternate transportation if need be.

I rode both ways Tuesday and Wednesday despite the high wind advisory. Going home both days the winds should have be at my back, but some of those gusts whipped at me from every direction…  The best part was when the wind literally did PUSH me home – “Look Ma – No pedaling!”

At least the these are the warm winds. It’s when these winds turn blustery that I start to shudder.

Stay upright out there! And please share your stormy/windy commuting adventures and tips.

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Live Call-In Show with Path Less Pedaled TONIGHT

The owner of transportation and cargo bike shop Cycle 9 (located in my beloved old stomping grounds of Carborro, NC) is doing a live call-in interview with Russ Roca and Laura Crawford of The Path Less Pedaled TONIGHT at 9 pm eastern/8 pm central.

Russ and Laura, photo by Trisha

You can not only listen to the hour-long show, but call in to ask questions!  To do this, you first need to register at http://www.biketouringbliss.com.  Once you register, you’ll have access to the call in number. There’s no charge to participate.

If you don’t already know about Laura and Russ, you should!  They are a couple who have embarked on a truly “epic” 14-month bike ride across America.  I know I’ll be listening tonight!

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Bike Deprivation

I am in the middle of one of the longest stretches of bike deprivation I’ve suffered in my 2.5 years of cycling. On Saturday I did not ride my bike because I spent the entire day on the couch reading the fascinating book Joyride by former Portland Bicycle Program Manager Mia Birk (stay tuned for my write-up). On Sunday I did not ride my bike because I spent the entire day at a film bootcamp learning to develop and print my own photos.

Monday – I rode my bike! And Martha shot this portrait of me and Oma.

Me and Oma, shot by Martha Williams

Today I took the L train to work and I’ll be doing the same tomorrow. By force. Chicago is currently in the throes of the second-strongest storm in it recorded history, a cyclone over Lake Michigan that is bringing sustained winds of more than 30 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. As much as I love to ride, I know where to draw the line.

Things I miss about riding:

  • Eating donuts with a clear conscience;
  • Feeling the wind in my hair;
  • Not feeling like a giant ground sloth;
  • Free transportation – the L train ride today was $4.25 I’ll never get back;
  • No wait time;
  • Fresh air;
  • A cheerful start to the day;
  • A stress relief after a long day.

What good stuff did I leave out?  :)

Is anyone else feeling the affects of this massive storm?  I’m sure there are hardier souls than I who rode anyway.

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Another day of bike commuting

Another day of bike commuting in Chicago: enjoying the perfect fall weather, getting honked at for the audacity of taking the lane to turn left, being the only vehicle to stop for school children in a crosswalk while cars whizzed by, having most drivers treat me respectfully, feeling healthy and happy on my bicycle, and wearing purple for Spirit Day.

You may have noticed that Oma is missing her huge wicker basket. I go through accessory phases and currently I’m feeling the Basil pannier. I took off the easy-to-remove front rack for a little change. I’ve had the Basil pannier for over a year, but I’m still amazed by how much it can hold – at least as much as the basket – and how it never looks dirty.  Magic.

On another note – have you answered the “Your City” bicycling survey yet? So far there are over 50 fascinating responses. If your city has not been mentioned yet, represent! If your city has been mentioned, see what others have to say and then give us your perspective.

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Your City: A Bicycling Survey

I love Chicago. I moved here 3 years ago for a job and because I wanted to live in a big city. I stay because there’s so much to do and I enjoy walking, biking and taking public transit everywhere.

Chicago’s bike infrastructure and sizable bike community are huge pluses. Compared to most North American cities, Chicago is advanced in this aspect, but the bar is not set very high. What I really want is serious European-style infrastructure with separated and protected bike lanes.

I’m optimistic about Chicago’s future as a bicycling city, but real progress lies in the far future. In the meantime, I wonder if a quiet town with light traffic would be better for bicycling, even if there is absolutely no infrastructure. And while I’m wondering, how about cities like Portland, Boulder, Minneapolis and Davis, those shining bike-cities?

Thinking about Chicago – what I like and don’t like and how bicycling plays a role – makes me interested in how others view their cities or towns. We’d love to hear about your experiences, if you feel like sharing.

1. What city do you live in?
2. What brought you to your city originally?
3. What is keeping you in your city?
4. Do you ever think about moving to a city that is more bike friendly?
5. Does the bike infrastructure (or lack thereof) play a major role in whether you will stay in your city?
6. Are you optimistic that your city’s bike infrastructure will improve?

Please leave your answers in the comments! We can all compare notes and learn more about each other’s experiences.

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Seasons on Two Wheels

Our third autumn of life on two wheels is here in full force. From the suddenly deserted beaches of Lake Michigan to the leaves burning with color, everything around me during the bike commute signals the changing of seasons and the passage of time.

Other than during my girlhood, I never took so much notice of or pleasure in the weather as I have in these last two and a half years of riding my bike every day. It’s amazing how a simple change in transportation mode can lead to a powerful change in life.

How are you experiencing autumn on two wheels?

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Brownie on a Bike in San Diego

Hi. I go by “beany” online as I’m a bean counter. I’m a brownie who is car-free in San Diego and blog at Brown Girl in the Lane . While Dottie and Trish are off galavanting in France, eating the most delectable of meals and drinking the finest of wines, they have asked me to write a post for you. So here it is :)

I had the incredible pleasure of meeting Dottie and Trish in person earlier this year. It is easily one of the most memorable blogger meetings I’ve had because meeting women who ride a bicycle is harder than finding a pair of shoes that I want. Meeting women who genuinely love riding and ride for the sheer pleasure of riding, like I do? Well, that’s much harder than…fixing a flat in the worst of all possible ghettos in sub zero temperatures, in a hail storm while trying not to dirty a nail. In other words, a very rare occurrence in my world.

This post is a brief-ish history of my love affair with riding a bicycle.

Me and my cousin at age 5

I first began riding when I was around five years old.  My father bought me a red colored bicycle that had a banana seat and came with training wheels. To say that that bicycle became an obsession would be an understatement. My bicycle was parked close to my bed and I rode it every day  and soon graduated to riding a two wheeler like a proper cyclist would.

My bicycle became a constant and steady companion. It was how I was able to explore the city of eight million that I grew up in. My bicycle was my ticket to freedom, exploration and with it an incredible feeling of utter exhilaration. Riding through the city began to define how I viewed the world. Everything seemed possible and doable when I was out riding. It was on a saddle (or banana seat) that I was able to sort out the jumble of thoughts and contemplate about things I thought were worth contemplating over.

In my late teens, I moved to the U.S. where I found myself living in a suburb of Philadelphia. It was there that I realized the futility of relying on others for rides or the shoddy public transit system. I also disliked living in a small town. I thrive on the energy that is found in cities. So I began to date a man in Philadelphia who would one day become my husband. My dates with him all revolved around a lengthy bike ride ending at a good bar and grill. Thankfully, he rode because he loved to ride and rode everywhere. But he was unhappy living on the East Coast and wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream of living by the Pacific Ocean. I agreed to move and convinced him to make the move to the West Coast…by bicycle.

And that was what we did. We got rid of everything we owned and got ourselves touring bikes and panniers and headed west.

I would state that teddy bears provide much more visibility that wearing neon would. Because, who would want to run over a teddy bear?

This was how, in late 2008, we found ourselves in San Diego. San Diego seemed like a nice enough city so we decided to make this city our home. I found that I had become a very different person than the one who had left Philadelphia. The weeks of repeated riding had made me fall deeper in love with riding. Whereas in Philadelphia I found myself only riding because I had, in San Diego I soon found myself extending my commute daily, going out for a ride for no real purpose besides for the sheer thrill of riding.

I moved further away from my job to extend my commute. I began frequenting a farmers market located further way to have a longer ride. This was craziness. Especially in a place where the love affair with the automobile is practically a law.

But here I am. Living in a automobile-saturated culture without ever having owned an automobile. Life here without an automobile is the furthest thing from a hardship, for me. With perfect weather to be experienced every single day, the last place I want to be is boxed up in an automobile. The only place I’d rather be is on my saddle: riding, exploring, discovering and falling in love with the world around me every single day.

Visit the awesome Beany and her wickedly funny musings at Brown Girl in the Lane.

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The Last Weekend of August

Yikes – this is the last weekend in August. Where has the summer gone? To enjoy as much of the remaining warmth as possible, I spent Saturday experiencing a new-to-me Chicago summer tradition: the Ravinia music festival. There the music takes a back seat to enjoying time outside – Chicagoans so love time outside in the summer. Ravinia Park has a huge lawn where thousands set up elaborate picnics, often complete with tables, candles and multiple courses.

Riding home from the train station

The evening’s performance was by Rodrigo y Gabriella, but because we could not see the stage, our focus was on picnicking, drinking wine and spending time with friends. As everyone in our group bike commutes and some race, there was much discussion about terrible drivers and the awesomeness of cyclocross races, which sounds like an event I should go watch sometime.

New friends Brian and Patty

Me and Greg at Ravinia

Mr. Dottie and I rode our bikes to the Metra station and the suburban train took us straight to Ravinia Park for free. Hordes of others had the same idea to take the train, which resulted in extreme waits to get in the Park and back on the train after the show. Although this was hectic and I wished I’d had my bike, it was far better than driving.

How are you enjoying the last few summer weekends?

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