I was ready to ride my bike today. I layed out all of my layers of clothes last night, down to the three pairs of wool socks. I got out of bed bright and early. My bag was packed. Then I turned on the morning news and saw that the temperature is -17 fahrenheit. That is the actual, real temperature outside of my door, not with windchill. Here’s the forecast from the Chicago Tribune:
“A National Weather Service windchill warning for most of the Chicago region remains in effect until noon today as the city and suburbs are coping with some of the bitterest cold in almost 13 years.
Yesterday I had to go to Milwaukee for work, so I took the Amtrak train. These trains are pretty fast and comfortable. I usually listen to my iPod and stare out the window, although I could use this time more productively to work or read a book. Compared to driving the highway, with the accompanying awful traffic, construction, and hazardous weather, the train is infinitely superior.
The weather is still extreme here in Chicago. There was a blizzard advisory last night and now a winter weather warning, or something.
I took this picture of Chicago Bike Police pulling over a car last weekend. This happened downtown on the busiest part of Michigan Avenue. Interesting how they did it, placing one bike directly in front of the car to prevent it from driving off and placing two bikes behind the car. The driver of the BMW was not pleased to see me taking his picture, which of course made me happy. Take him down a few notches, Chicago Bike Police!!
The bike police seem to have an office at the oddly name (money talks) McDonald’s Cycling Center downtown, where I park my bike during the work week. The officers have always been very polite – one night during a thunderstorm they asked if I was going to ride home in it and, after I said yes, wished me a safe ride and reminded me to be extra careful.
Despite their status as cyclists most likely to ride the wrong way on a one-way street or on the sidewalk, I’m a fan! In a city where both direct contact with citizens and maneuverability are important for the police, the bike cops seem a better investment than the mayor’s recent contract to replace almost the entire fleet of squad cars with Chevy Tahoes by 2011 – that’s 2,000 SUVs and a lot of gas!
Since yesterday, it has snowed 12 inches in north Chicago and it’s still snowing. What’s a cyclist to do? Well, first, be grateful that’s it’s a Saturday and the commute to work is not an issue. Second, have fun with it! This morning I had to babysit my nephew and if I was late, my sister would have been late to work, so I caved and took the el. Later that afternoon, my husband stopped by – on his bike – after a trip to Sears to buy new boots, which were strapped to his rear rack. He then cycled the 2.5 miles home (6 miles total).
Since the forecast called for up to eight inches of snow and my cold is getting worse, I did not cycle today. The el ride was not too bad, but I missed my bike. It takes a lot to keep me off my bike, but I never force myself to ride if I feel it would be unsafe or really unpleasant. That’s one of my secrets to not burning out.
My other secret to riding my bike consistently is equally simple: cycling is almost always more desirable than the alternatives. Not only more desirable in all of the “biking will save the world” ways – no pollution, no dependence on foreign oil, no dangerous hazard to others, no isolation from my neighbors and surroundings, no obesity – but also more desirable in ways that most Americans would be interested in – Faster, Cheaper, More Comfortable.
I left for work this morning at the same time as my husband. Once he saw that I was going the same direction as him and taking the city streets, instead of the other way to the lake front path, he said, “I hope you’re not trying to keep up with me; I’m in a rush.” Whatever, buddy, I’m just trying to get to work.
…you might be riding your bike in Chicago. I only wish I had thought to take a picture!
Snow has returned after a one-week hiatus and is making my daily rides a bit more interesting. My new Schwalbe Winter studded tires are working overtime keeping me upright, which I greatly appreciate, and my snowman companion is having a blast. (He totally forgives me for accidentally ripping off his left arm. Really.)
My ride today was noteworthy for the disparate conditions in the morning and the evening. In the morning, strong headwinds coming from the south made the simple act of pedaling quite arduous. Not the worst wind I’ve encountered in the Windy City, but in the top 3. My mood lifted during the final leg of the commute, when it began snowing. I’m a sucker for snow, which is still a novelty for me after a lifetime of living in the South. So I stopped and took some pictures.
Many people seem to hibernate during winter, forgetting that the world is still out there. I was one of those people last winter, my first in Chicago. Now, on my bike every day, I’m reminded that the outdoors are just as interesting and even more beautiful on the bleakest days as on the sunniest days.