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…
And the streets looked like this…
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:
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.
And here is my friend Megan, also looking very winter cycle chic and being cooler than me with her bicycle.
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.
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?
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
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. :-)
These photos are in an alley. The streets are much clearer, so biking in snow and ice has not really been an issue.
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.
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).
(The duck confit was gone before I got to my camera, so here is a photo of my tea bag.)
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.
Sara with her sparkly gold helmet, blue Pashley, and orange Chika.
Sarah rocking the fur hat.
Her front rack is conveniently equipped with a bottle opener!
Rachel just moved to Chicago from Atlanta and brought this amazing cat helmet with her (kids’ section at Target!).
I threw on jeans, boots, and a trench. Forgot my earmuffs but lucky for my poor ears, I did not have far to bike.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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:
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.
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!
Two-way protected bike lane on Dearborn
Stop light for bicyclists and dedicated left turn arrows for drivers
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.
I got back on my bike last Friday. The morning was beautiful.
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?