Tag Archives: Chicago

Bike Detour

Yesterday evening I was at Millennium Park in downtown Chicago for an outdoor concert – an event that signals for me the beginning of summer.  The park is near Lake Michigan and usually a quick ride through a garden brings me to the Lakefront Trail for my ride home.  However, last night I was greeted by this construction site where the garden used to be.

Yikes – I hope they are constructing an even more beautiful garden!

Fortunately, the city set up bike detour signs to guide me along an alternate route.  This turned out to be a fun mini-adventure because I never knew of this path.

The path followed the Chicago River…

…with a fancy tunnel to cross under Lakeshore Drive

…which brought me to a bridge over the river

…and led me to the Lakefront Trail.

As I biked up the trail, the sun finished setting.

I ended my journey home on neighborhood streets.

If I wanted to get all deep, I could take this as a reminder that what may at first seem like an imposition could turn out to be an opportunity to try something new.

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Spring Joy Ride

On Sunday, I enjoyed a joy ride with my friend Maria, since we were both far from our mothers.  The weather was a bit chilly – in the mid 40’s – but the sun was shining and it’s mid-May, for goodness sake, so I wore a happy spring outfit and threw on hose to keep my legs warm.

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We biked down the lakefront trail and stopped to watch a sailboat race and enjoy some mimosas.  You can see our location on the tip of the harbor from my iPhone GPS below.

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After drinks, we decided to bike to the theater to see The Great Gatsby in 3D (two thumbs up!).  We wanted to avoid weekend traffic, so we chose to weave our way through the inner lakefront trail and neighborhood streets to get there.  I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the inner lakefront trail before.  The inner trail is a path that runs parallel to the lakefront trail for a couple miles through Lincoln Park.  The inner path is unpaved in many areas and is not plowed in the winter, but it’s generally a good option to escape the crowds or the winds by the lake, as long as you are not in a rush.

I filmed a bit of the joy ride to share here.  Enjoy!

Spring Joy Ride from LGRAB on Vimeo.

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Perfect Bicycling Days

As I tweeted earlier, today was absolutely the most beautiful day of the year so far to bike in Chicago.  Simply perfect.  Light wind, warm air, calm water, blue skies, gentle sun, and a hint of a chill to prevent sweating.  It doesn’t get better than this.  On such days, I am super grateful for my bike, which allows me to spend a lot of time outside just going to and from work.

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In addition to biking, fishing is a popular activity on a day like today, as demonstrated above.

I wish all of you similarly perfect bicycling days.  :-)

 

 

 

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Bicycling to the Ballet

Yesterday I had the pleasure of bicycling downtown to see the Joffrey Ballet’s Othello.  The ride was about 7 miles each way, along the lakefront trail.  The theatre is close to south Grant Park, which looked very nice on this beautiful day.

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And at my destination, here is the view from my regular seat in the front row of the balcony.

What these photos fail to show is the wind.  It was really, really windy – even by Chicago standards.  This resulted in a super fast bike ride down the lakefront trail on the way to the show (I arrived 10 minutes earlier than I expected) and a strenuous bike ride back home with the wind in my face.  I popped Betty into an easy gear and focused on spinning.  I got quite a workout!

Also, the photos don’t show the black spandex shorts I wore under my dress – necessary, as the wind blew the light silk around like crazy.  :-)

Did anyone else have a fun ride this weekend?

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Bike With Me: Elston Separated Lane

Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting across town, which led me to a different route for the commute home.  I was able to take advantage of the newish separated bike lane on Elston Avenue.  I first wrote about this lane in the fall, but have not had occasion to bike it since.

Riding in this lane is like butter.  The separation from cars makes all the difference, of course. Other benefits are not being placed in the door zone and the relatively small number of cross streets, alleys and parking lot exits.  I would love a set-up like this on the busy streets that connect my neighborhood to downtown, where I often feel like a hunted animal during open season.

You can see previous videos of me biking along Chicago’s protected bike lanes here:

Dearborn protected lane  – two-way bike lane in the Loop

18th Street protected lane – the most similar to Elston’s bike lane

Kinzie protected lane – Chicago’s first separated bike lane

 

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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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Sights and Sounds of Early Spring

Welcome, March!

March means almost spring!

While out and about on my bicycle yesterday, I noticed some definite signs of early spring.

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For example, after brunch with my women-who-bike friends Catherine, Christina and Maria, the sun was high and bright, making Maria look particularly angelic…

And casting a strong shadow for Betty Foy…

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And slowly but surely melting the patches of snow…

And causing icicles to drip at a fast pace.

I noticed that these early spring sights had accompanying early spring sounds – notably, the sounds of melting icicles and birds chirping.  Here is your one minute of meditation for the day:

I’m already daydreaming about the long recreational rides I will take on my bike in the coming months.  Maybe a trip up to the Botanical Gardens or down to the Indiana border.  Until then, I will wear the Road Holland jacket I have for review (and that would be perfect for such rides) while hanging around the house working.  And daydreaming.  :-)

Of course, as I type this early Monday morning, the forecast calls for half a foot of snow on Tuesday.  Such is life.

Have you noticed sights and sounds of early spring in your neck of the woods (or of early fall for Australians)?

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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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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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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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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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Fashion Friday: Chicago Bicycle Uniform

Earlier this week, I was sitting in Heritage enjoying a muffin and cappuccino, watching the morning bicycling traffic on Lincoln Avenue, when suddenly I saw my friend Maria (of Po Campo fame) cycle by.  I’m always excited to see a friend in the wild, so I texted her.  A couple of minutes later she responded that it could not have been her: she was still at home eating breakfast.  Either she has a doppelganger (it’s possible!) or I was fooled by someone who looked kinda alike and sported the same Chicago Bicycle Uniform.

As you can see by perusing the portraits on Bike Fancy, there is no set Chicago style (except for editing).   But recently I noticed that there are some accessories that show up often on Chicago’s bicycling women.

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Nutcase helmet, Po Campo bag, fall/winter/spring boots, steel-framed bike, and a certain Audrey-esque casual elegance.  :-)

Of course, not every woman wears these accessories – not even close – but I’ve enjoyed watching them become more common through the years.  The prevalence seems to signal that more “regular” people (as opposed to kids looking for an adrenaline rush) are bicycling in the city now.

Have you noticed a sort of bicycle uniform developing where you live?

P.S. Biking home that evening, I spotted my friend Sara cross my path from afar.  When I got home I texted her, wondering for a moment whether I would be wrong again, but I was right.  I’ve yet to see another blue Pashley Poppy in the city.

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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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