Tag Archives: Chicago

Autumn Greetings!

Hello!  A beautiful autumn bike commute today inspired me to check in and share here.  As I’m sure many would agree, autumn is the absolute best time for cycling.  The temps are cool enough to avoid sweating, but not yet freezing.  Despite the perfect conditions, the paths and bike lanes are relatively empty.

This morning, I set out with a cardigan and light gloves, but shed those as I heated up during my 9 mile ride.

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My commute includes the beautiful Buckingham Fountain every morning.  Lucky me!

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Chicago still looks like summer, but there is a definite chill in the air, with morning temps hovering in the mid-high 50’s.

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I suppose this friendly city guy is saving up nuts and cigarette butts for the winter.

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I hope everyone is enjoying the cooler weather!  I plan to be around here more often, so feel free to check in every now and then.

p.s. We are working on the technical issues (such as broken pic links) of our current web home; bear with us.

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Springtime Dusk

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City life doesn’t get any better than this, especially on a workday.  All thanks to my bicycle.

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A Divvy Morning

 

Earlier this week, I took Divvy bikeshare to work, since it was supposed to rain in the evening.  Divvy is a very useful tool, and I’m lucky to have the option.  I had to stop and re-dock my bike twice along the route to keep from going over 30 minutes and being charged for the extra time.  That was not too much of a hassle, but I wish the max time were 45 minutes.

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I took the Lakefront Trail to work.  With the nice tailwind, it was smooth sailing, although Divvy is noticeably slower than my bikes (even my Dutch bike) because even its highest gear does not provide that much power.

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Here is where I tried to cross Lakeshore Drive at a pedestrian sign and gave up after the walk sign never appeared in five minutes.  I continued down the path and crossed at a car crossing.

 

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My final 9 mile trip was one hour of cycling, plus extra time for walking to and from the nearby Divvy stations.  Not the best option if I’m in a rush, but not too much slower than more regular bikes.
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If the rainy and cold weather sticks around, I expect to be using Divvy quite often this spring.

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From winter to spring…

Right now – late March through early April – is the most refreshing time to ride a bike in Chicago.  The visible signs of fading winter and approaching spring make me so grateful, I could weep.  The chill in the air is enough to make my cheeks rosy, not to cause frost bite.  The sun is still up and slowly setting as I make my way home.  And the Lakefront Trail is calm and peaceful, not yet overcrowded.

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I hope you all are enjoying your bike rides just as much!

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A dash of spring

My wish for bright spring colors came true today, at least a little bit. The amazing 50 degree temperature combined with the bright, lingering sun made the city feel like a springtime paradise.  The sidewalks and lakefront were filled with Chicagoans basking in the glory of the weather.
untitled-6The photos below look cold, but the mere fact that I was able to bike on the Lakefront Trail is a sign of the thaw.   Most of the snow has melted, leaving behind mounds of dirt, salt and debris.
I even warmed up enough to remove my scarf, which looked quite lovely on Oma.
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Unbelievably, I heard on the evening news that Chicago may get over a foot of snow mid-week.  All the more reason to appreciate days like today, I suppose.

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Snow, snow, snow

Lots of this…

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DSCF6498…means lots of this.

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DSCF6507Maybe the snow will stop by April, but I’m not getting my hopes up!

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Surviving this winter

How is one to survive this winter, one of the coldest, greyest and snowiest in history?

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As you can see, I chose to lighten my hair, buy a new red overcoat and bicycle on – except honestly I have not been bicycling a lot, certainly not everyday, as with previous winters.  All I ask for is a morning with temps at least 10 F and no falling snow, but such mornings are rare.  (As I type this, it’s 9 F and snowing.)  When I manage to ride my bike, I feel so much better, physically and mentally.

My plan for combatting winter also includes appreciating the (indoor) culture that Chicago offers: going to ballets, plays, symphonies and art exhibits.  If it were not for the Joffrey Ballet, the Goodman and Steppenwolf and Shakespeare Theatres, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Art Institute (and, of course, my wonderful friends!), I would question daily why I choose to live in this crowded, frozen tundra.

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This time last year, I was already enjoying the sights and sounds of spring with Betty Foy.

How are you dealing with this winter?  How much have you been bicycling?

{P.S. Our friend Elizabeth will be reporting on the National Bike Summit / Women’s Bike Forum here on LGRAB and our Twitter feed this week, so stay tuned!}

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Not afraid of a little snow…

EleanorNYC has a lovely little post today showing “women who look stylish on their bike and not afraid of a little snow.”  This reminded me that to not be afraid of a little snow, I need studded tires.  If there is snow on the ground that has not yet been totally plowed off the salted streets, I’ll only ride my bike with studded tires.

 

These are the bad boys on which I rely: Schwalbe Marathon Winters.  I bought them five or six winters ago and they’re still going strong.

Because I don’t have the time, patience or interest to swap out the tires myself (a longer-than-usual process for my Dutch bike), I brought Oma to a local bike shop a few weeks ago for her yearly tire swap.

When it was time to pick Oma up the next day, I Divvied to the shop.  (Thanks again, Divvy!)

20121225-DSCF5480resizedMy girl was waiting for me, still wearing her medical bracelet.

 

Oma was also wearing a note from my friend Dan, who saw her when he happened by the shop later to have his bike serviced.  An inside joke involving karaoke and Justin Timberlake – fun!  :-)

20121225-DSCF5489resizedNow Oma and I are ready to take on winter together and not be afraid of snow.

20121225-DSCF5501resized 20121225-DSCF5502resizedA lot of Chicago bicyclists get by fine without studded tires – and in fact I never put mine on two winters ago due to the relatively mild weather – but I like having them as an option.  What do you do to take on winter bicycling?

See also,

My Schwalbe Marathon Winter review from 2009

In defense of studded tires

My studded tires getting me through a post-blizzard ride

The return of my winter wheels in 2010

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Fashion Over Function

Perhaps a flowing white skirt was not the smartest outfit choice for a wet and windy day, but sometimes fashion trumps function, and this morning I wanted to wear a flowing white skirt, dammit.

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I began second-guessing my choice as the lake winds whipped the skirt against Betty’s grimy rack and fender, but by that time there was no turning back.

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In a nod to function, here is my head and eye protective gear that rarely makes it into photos.

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By the end of the day, the hem of my skirt was lightly soiled here and there, but nothing terribly noticeable from a distance.  The real danger was the chocolate cake I enjoyed with lunch, crumbs of which inevitably got smushed on my lap.

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Regardless, riding my bike, eating chocolate cake and wearing a flowing white skirt all made me happy, so I consider the dry cleaning bill worth it.  :-)

Score one for fashion.

{I picked this skirt up from a Paris thrift store for 2 euros.  See it styled for summer here.}

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Early Sunset

The sun is setting earlier and earlier now – a clear sign of the shift in seasons.  While I am not crazy about bicycling in the dark, I appreciate changes that mark the passing of time and keep life from feeling too routine. And I can now watch the transition from day to night during my evening commute.

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I hope all of you are enjoying October so far.  Just remember to carry your bike lights with you at all times!  :-)

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Divvy! Divvy! Divvy!

Divvy bikes are taking over Chicago!  On Wednesday, I had plans with my friend Sara for dinner and a movie after work.  Just that morning, I saw a brand new Divvy station near my home and before heading out to meet Sara, I realized that  I could easily Divvy the whole night long.

There’s the starting Divvy station:

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The Divvy station across the street from the restaurant:

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And the Divvy station a block from the movie theater:

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Here’s Sara with her Divvy-colored Pashley.  :-)

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And coming full circle at the end of the night, I returned my Divvy.

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I’m excited as new stations continue to pop up daily.

Chicago is doing Divvy so right!

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Bike-a-bee founder attacked while bicycling

Jana of Bike-a-bee, who I wrote about last year,  was attacked this week while riding her bike in Logan Square.  A passenger in an SUV leaned out the window and grabbed Jana by her backpack, dragging her on her bike for several seconds.  When she crashed into a parked car and hit the ground,  she could hear the men laughing as they drove away.  They have not been caught, but the police have upgraded the incident from hit-and-run to aggravated battery.

This incident is horrifying, a sad reminder of how awful some people can be and how vulnerable we are on the roads.

You can donate to help Jana with her medical and physical therapy bills and lost income.

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Yoga on the go

My exercise goal for August is decidedly less intense than Trisha’s century ride training.  I have to attend two Bikram yoga classes a week with my friend from work.  The 90 minute classes heated to 105 degrees are not exactly fun.  The best feeling comes when the class is over and I can sail away on my bicycle for the six mile ride home along the Lakefront Trail.  The transition from the oppressive heat of the yoga room to the cool lake breeze of the trail is beautiful and makes me enjoy riding my bike even more than usual.

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Plus, there’s always this view.

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My bike set up on yoga class days is basic.  Okay, a little bag lady-chic.

 

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I strap my mat to the back rack (and then sometimes forget it there for a couple of days, creating deep indentions in the mat).

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I stuff my work bag, change of clothes, towel, water bottle and lock in my front basket.  My basket is low down and anchored to front stays, which helps this load feel light and not interfere with my steering.

My cockpit area is looking a bit too cluttered.  Perhaps I should remove my scarf or flower or handlebar bag or camera mount…

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Once the (heavily discounted) introductory month is over at the Bikram studio, I will probably go back to Vinyasa, as a more enjoyable yoga for me.  But I expect to miss, at least a little bit, the relief of escape by bicycle that practicing Bikram provides me.  :-)

More on yoga from the archives:

Yoga and Cycling – our first post about the topic, over four years ago

Fashion Friday: Biking to Yoga – a description of my biking-to-yoga routine from last summer

Pedal, Stretch, Breathe – review of a booklet on bicycle-focused yoga moves

 

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My Second Divvy Experience

When I first wrote about Divvy, I listed reasons that I anticipated using the bike share system, even though I have three bikes of my own.  On Friday, one of those reasons popped up.

  • I take the L in the morning due to rain but the sun is shining by the end of the day.

Leaving for work in the morning in the pouring rain, I did not even consider biking.  By the early evening, the sun was out and I was itching to ride a bike.  Lo and behold, there was a brand new Divvy station right by me.

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Using the bike was super easy.  I had no problems riding in my trousers, thanks to the covered chain.  The fenders protected me from being splashed by leftover rain puddles.

The front rack held my legal file and bag remarkably well.  I was worried about the file slipping out, but everything felt perfectly secure.

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I rode Divvy as far north as possible, before switching to the L to get all the way to my destination in Lincoln Square, where I was meeting friends for dinner.  I can’t wait for the day when Divvy stations cover the city – which should be by the end of the summer!

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I look forward to many more rides with Divvy in the future!

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Urban Gardening by Bike, Take 2

Last summer, I shared my adventure of creating an urban garden on my small balcony.  I am sad to announce that none of those plants survived the winter.  I brought the herbs inside when cold weather set in, but soon had to throw them away after I found tiny bugs all over them.  Sad.

This summer, I’m starting fresh.  On Sunday evening, my friend Sara and I took a class on plant propagation at Sprout, a cozy gardening shop in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood.  Plant propagation is making a new plant out of an existing plant.

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Sara and I biked to Sprout separately and left Betty and Poppy outside to spend quality time together on the rack.

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Meanwhile, we were inside the beautiful shop, learning how to clone plants by dividing their roots or clipping their leaves.

After an informative hour, we each got to take home five baby plants: an orchid, lemon button fern, acalypha, sanseviertia and begonia.  These will all be house plants, so I don’t have to worry about the winter freeze.  As long as I keep them away from my cats (they love munching on leaves) and remember to water them, everything should be fine.

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We were very proud of our baby plants!  ;-)

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The little guys made it home safely, although quite shaken up after traveling over Chicago’s notorious potholes.

I plan to take more classes at Sprout, including one of their upcoming classes on terrariums.  (There’s also a Sprout location in Brooklyn.)

Who else is trying their hand at gardening this summer?  Any tips to share on houseplants?

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DIVVY: Chicago Bike Share!

Chicago announced its plan for a large scale bike share system almost two years ago.  After a long wait, the system – now called Divvy – went live on Friday!

Only a fraction of the stations are open during the first phase – none near my home – but many others are scheduled to open soon.  A total of 4000 bikes at 400 stations is planned for the first two years.

Even though I have my own bikes, I became a member.  I anticipate Divvy being useful when:

  • I want to bike to a bar and cab or transit home.
  • I take the L in the morning due to rain but the sun is shining by the end of the day.
  • I don’t want to leave my bike locked outside for an extended period of time.
  • I need to get to court or a meeting during the middle of the day and taking my bike out of my office and down the elevator would be too much trouble.
  • I want to travel with a friend who does not have her own bike.

The annual membership is only $75 and includes unlimited, free 30 minute rides.  Daily passes are available for only $7.

While Divvy will be useful to me personally, I’m most excited about the system because I believe it will radically change the culture of Chicago for the better. I was skeptical of bike share until I saw how Velib is used by everyone in Paris.  Now I am anxious to see the same happen in Chicago.  The more people ride bikes, the more people will understand what it’s like to ride a bike.  Empathy from Chicago drivers – imagine that!

Here’s a quick video I made of the process to join Divvy with an overview of the website.  I will make a video of using the system soon.

Joining DIVVY Bike Share from LGRAB on Vimeo.

Anyone else already a Divvy member?  (No?  Join now!)

{P.S. Stay up-to-date on Divvy through Streetsblog Chicago’s excellent reporting.  Read Trisha’s report of Nashville’s bike-share and my Denver B-Cycle story.}

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Grant Park Orchestra

Last Wednesday, before biking home in the dusk, I spent the evening with my friend Sara, enjoying a free performance by the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago’s gorgeous Pritzker Pavilion.  The performance was part of a summer-long Grant Park Music Festival.

I try to go once a week; everyone in Chicago should try to go at least once a season.  The music and scenery are beautiful, and you’re allowed to bring a picnic complete with wine.

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Best of all, once the concert is over, I get to bike off into the beautiful sunset.
I’ve written about these concerts a few times before.
Happy Official Summer!  :-)
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Dusk

Dusk is day’s most beautiful time.  If I can manage to bike home in the aftermath of the setting sun, I’m a happy woman, a calmer woman.

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For comparison, here’s a look at my wintry dusk commute on the Lakefront Trail from a few months ago.  Of course, during winter the dusk arrives a few hours earlier!  The photos above were taken around 8:30 p.m., while the winter ones must have been closer to 4:30 p.m.

For a melancholy take on dusk, I leave you with Carl Sandburg’s “Dreams in the Dusk.”

Dreams in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day’s close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland.

Dreams, only dreams in the dusk,
Only the old remembered pictures
Of lost days when the day’s loss
Wrote in tears the heart’s loss.

Tears and loss and broken dreams
May find your heart at dusk.

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Roses are Real…

Last week I shared the story of getting caught in the rain on the way home.  Here is a little photo story of the rose garden I came upon right before the rain began.

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I believe my discovery of this beautiful rose garden goes nicely with Bikeyface’s idea that riding a bike is a great way to connect with the real world.

Happy Biking!

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Summer Rain

I was rained on during my bike commute today, and I did not mind at all.

Heading home, I took a different route than usual and soon happened upon a garden.  I pulled over to walk the paths and enjoy the thousands of roses.  As I said goodbye to the flowers and set out toward the lakefront trail for my 7-mile ride home, rain started falling.  I briefly considered ducking into a cafe, but the heady smell of fresh summer rain urged me on.  While tourists and beach-goers hustled for cover, I cycled on with a smile.

The shower was short-lived and by the time I got home, my light summer dress had completely dried.  No rain gear necessary.

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