Posts Tagged ‘civic duty’

May’s Critical Lass Ride

20120507-BRA5535-R1-050-23A

I missed the past couple of Critical Lass rides, so I was happy to catch up with the group for May’s ride.  Coolest bicycling group in Chicago, for sure, including a couple of baby-bicyclists.  We started in Roscoe Village and enjoyed a leisurely ride through Lakeview and Lincoln Park, ending at a Mexican restaurant for margaritas.

Many thanks to our fearless leader Ash, pictured first below.

We got rained on a little during the ride, but hail and lightening waited until we were safely at the restaurant and finished by the time we departed for our rides home.  The goddesses were on our side.

Join or keep up with Chicago’s Critical Lass Rides on Facebook.

 

Bike·a·Bee: urban beekeeping meets city cycling

I recently received an email from Jana Kinsman, a long-time reader and year-round Chicago cyclist, about a very cool project she is beginning with the help of Kickstarter called Bike·a·Bee.

With Bike·a·Bee, Jana aims to bring beehives to community gardens all around Chicago. She will be an urban beekeeper who visits every hive herself by bike. The entire operation will be car-free.

Jana Kinsman of Bike·a·Bee, photo by John Greenfield of Grid Chicago

She had me at bicycles and honeybees, but I especially enjoyed hearing that “honeybees are a female-run society. The queen bee is in charge, and all of the worker bees are female. Drones, the males, are essentially around for mating purposes :)”

Love it.

In order to make all this work, Jana needs to raise money to pay for the operation, including a bike trailer and beehives. Her goal is $7,000 and she must raise the entire amount by February 7th.

This is the kind of stuff I want to see in my community, so I decided to support the project personally as a bike trailer backer. When the project gets going, there will be an LGRAB logo on the trailer. Fun!

Anyone can become a backer by investing $1 or more to help get the project going. Other rewards for becoming a backer of the Bike·a·Bee Kickstarter project including bee postcards, bee stickers, bee posters, and bee honey! Plus, you’ll get the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with helping a project start and watching it grow.

By helping fund Bike·a·Bee, you are casting a vote for sustainability and urban agriculture as much as you are earning some sweet gifts! As Bike·a·Bee launches, we’ll begin creating webisodes to document our process and share the story. You’ll be there as we set up our first hives in the spring, check on the bees throughout the summer, harvest honey in the early fall, and tuck them in for the winter. You’ll be with us from the start because, without your support, a project of this scope wouldn’t be possible.

As of this posting, she has raised $6,236 of her $7,000 goal.

Let’s help push her to her goal and beyond!

{For more information about Jana and her project, read the excellent interview by John Greenfield on Grid Chicago.}

Introducing LGRAB Podcasts!

Trisha and I have started a cycling-themed podcast series!  We’ll talk to creators of sites and bicycles we like, other bloggers, each other and more.

I encourage you to subscribe to the LGRAB Podcasts for free via iTunes to stay up-to-date on all future podcasts.  Simply click on the link, then “view in iTunes” and “Subscribe.”

Our first podcast is an interview with John Greenfield and Steven Vance, co-creators and writers of Chicago-based sustainable transportation blog Grid Chicago. Both have past insider experience working for the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Active Transportation Alliance, and their mission with Grid is to be a platform for critical analysis and thought on issues related to progressive and sustainable transportation.

  

{L: Steven Vance, R: John Greenfield.  Photos courtesy of Grid Chicago}

In the podcast I chat with Steve and John about writing Grid, how to make your voice heard by those in power, and the future of bicycling infrastructure in Chicago.  We had such a great conversation, I had to edit almost an hour and a half down to a more manageable 27 minutes.

You can listen to the interview below or visit our iTunes page to download the podcast.

Visit Grid Chicago
Visit our iTunes page

Large Scale Bike-Sharing System Announced for Chicago!

Imagine my surprise when I visited the main page of the Chicago Tribune this evening and saw the big lead story: City to rent thousands of bicycles.  Apparently, city officials just announced plans for a large scale bike-sharing system.  Oh yes yes yes!!

Mr. Dottie uses Paris's Velib bike-sharing system

The system is still in the planning stages and a company has not yet been picked to implement it, but it’s expected to start in the summer of 2012, with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations around the city, most 1/4 of a mile apart in the most dense areas. By 2014, the city hopes to add 2,000 more bikes and 200 more stations.  The system will pay for itself with membership fees (only $75/year with the first 30 minutes free) and sponsorships, along with federal congestion-relief funding.

I love the messaging going out to explain the system.  The article starts thusly:

Transferring from a train to a bus stuck in traffic is often the most frustrating and slowest way to finish a commute, prompting Chicago officials on Wednesday to start the wheels rolling on a new “transit option.”

Discussing how the bike share system will be aimed at all citizens, even those who do not currently ride a bike, the new transportation director, Gabe Klien, says “We view it as a basic form of transportation, but also a fun way to get around.” The article also compares it to the beloved i-Go car-sharing system, which will help regular people understand how a bike-share could be useful to them.

The article’s description of the bikes made me chuckle, because it totally mirrors what’s so great about my Dutch bike.

‘The new bikes will have an upright seating position for riders, a step-through frame to make mounting and dismounting easy, wide tires and a built-in LED-lighting system,’ he said. Other features will include at least three gear speeds, cushioned seats, chain guards to keep lubricant off clothing and fenders above both wheels to prevent water on the pavement from splashing onto the riders.

I am so excited about this and what it means for the future of Chicago as a bike-friendly city. I used to be doubtful of the efficacy of bike-sharing systems, until I visited Paris last year. The Velib system is amazing and, of the huge number of bicyclists on the streets of Paris, at least half of them were riding Velib bicycles. I got the sense that the city was pushed to become more bike-friendly and install new infrastructure as a response to the huge amount of bicyclists resulting from Velib. Could that happen in Chicago? I’m going to say – YES!

Read Trisha’s account of our Velib adventures HERE.  Read the whole article at the Chicago Tribune HERE.  Highly recommended reading. A+ to the Chicago Tribune: the article relays the facts and avoids manufacturing any awful debates.

Do you think a bike-sharing system can change a city?  Would you like to see one where you live?

A Sorry Excuse for a Bike Route

One of the most popular and vital bike routes from downtown Chicago to neighborhoods on the north side is Lincoln Avenue. I’ve read that 25-40% of the rush hour traffic on Lincoln is people on bikes. I certainly see lots of bicyclists along the way.

One day last week I decided to take this route to work, since I was on a tight schedule and Lincoln Avenue is by far the most direct and quickest route. Perhaps I have been spoiled by my super long and winding but super calm route of side-streets, but I was appalled by the situation on Lincoln Avenue. The cars sped from red light to red light, the huge intersections were like gladiator trials for bicyclists and pedestrians, car doors flung open left and right, buses heaved, and large trucks blocked the bike lanes on every block.

At one point, I was going straight through an intersection with a green light and a driver turned left riiiight in front of me. I looked at him in horror and saw that he was holding a document up in front of his face, reading it. What the what?!? And last Friday, my husband was side-swiped by a driver who veered into the bike lane. His pannier bore the brunt of the impact (with a big mark to show for it) and he was able to keep his bike upright. The driver had the decency to stop, apologize, and ask if he was alright, but maybe drivers could LOOK FIRST?? Pretty simple.

I don't *think* I'm invisible

Greg is definitely visible

All this on a popular marked bike route, which is a joke (on us bicyclists). Despite the fact that people on bikes make up a substantial amount of the traffic, all we get is a strip of paint dangerously close to parked cars and some sharrows.

Door zone

Our beautiful bike lanes

If Chicago is going to be anything near a world-class bicycling city, this key route from the northside to downtown must be improved. While a buffered or protected bike lane would be the bees freakin’ knees, I know that will not happen. I would be content with colored bike lanes that extend through intersections, bike boxes at stop lights, fewer potholes, red light cameras, enforcement of cars parked in bike lanes, and attention-getting signage*. Such improvements should not be an afterthought. If a street is not safely servicing up to 40% of its daily users, the street is a failure.

Until then, I’ll be on the side streets, getting to work 15 minutes later but in a much better mood. And here, hoping that loud complaints will somehow beget real change.


*Something like, ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO FLING OPEN YOUR CAR DOOR WHEN YOU HAVE NOT LOOKED TO SEE IF THAT ACTION WILL KILL ANYONE??????? I’m just brainstorming here, but you get the idea.

Optimism

As someone who rides my bike everyday, I get a lot of questions and comments about bicycling in the city.  When people tell me (so many people do, especially women!) that they wish they could bike BUT they do not feel safe and are afraid of being hit by a car, I do not launch into a stump speech about the benefits of bicycling.  I may say something like, “It’s not so scary once you learn the rules of the road and get used to riding in traffic,” but I always say something like, “Yeah, it can be scary, I know.”

Although I’m a passionate advocate for transportation bicycling, I have to be understanding and realistic during those conversations.  I don’t think it’s right to pressure or judge people when it comes to bicycling because the transportation system is not set up for us.  While bicycling may be safer than driving a car statistically, statistics won’t help people feel less afraid as speeding SUVs whiz by them.

All of this is to say – I am optimistic that the day will come when I can respond to people with something like, “Oh, you should try out the network of protected bike lanes.  Just take X street to Y street straight into the Loop and you’ll be physically separated from cars the entire time.”  Or, even better, I’m optimistic that the day will come when I won’t have to respond at all because the first reaction to the idea of bicycling in Chicago won’t be FEAR.

From whence does my optimism spring?  From the direction the city is going in with bicycle infrastructure.

Today was the ribbon cutting ceremony for Chicago’s first protected bike lane and the announcement of the next location to get a protected bike lane: Jackson Boulevard from Damen to Halsted.  This is all part of new Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan for 100 miles of protected bike lanes during his first term.  The Mayor is working with new Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein to get this done.  (Read an interesting interview with Commissioner Klein at Grid Chicago.)

I know I should not get too excited about this plan because it’s only the beginning and there will surely be opponents.  But I’m choosing optimism.

What do you think?  Do you feel optimistic for the future of bicycling where you live?  How do you react when people tell you they’re too afraid to bike?

 


June Critical Lass – all lasses welcome!

Chicago’s second Critical Lass ride rolled out last Thursday, this time with a group of nearly 30. Like the inaugural ride in May, the ride was so much fun. I love it!

As you can see in my photos below, it’s a women’s ride, plain and simple. All lasses are welcome! I guarantee you will be greeted by the friendliest group of women in Chicago.

(Saying goodbye to mom)










Chatting with others and riding side-by-side was easy due to the super calm route.  After about an hour, we ended at a bar in Logan Square, where I stayed for a couple of hours, enjoying beer and buffalo wing specials.

The next Critical Lass ride is July 21 – always the third Thursday of the month, starting at the Polish Triangle. I hope to see even more lasses there next time! :)

I bow down, once again, to our amazing leader Ash.

p.s. You can read about Edmonton’s June Critical Lass ride via Loop Frame Love and Girls and Bicycles.

Bike to Work Week!

Last week was Bike to Work Week in Chicago. We celebrate it later than the rest of the country, waiting until June to make sure it does not snow. :)

I volunteered at an Active Transportation Alliance commuter pit stop one morning. The stop offered free coffee and Clif bars, various swag, tune-ups and general encouragement.  I mostly just stood around chatting with friends, though.

This particular pit stop was co-hosted by The Chainlink and REI.

Julie of The Chainlink worked the megaphone with great enthusiasm and cuteness.

People signed their names to a petition to support more protected bike lanes in Chicago, part of Active Trans’s new and exciting Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign.

My friend Sara happened to ride by on her way to work, looking naturally fabulous.  Hello!

And other office cycle chic peeps rolled by.

After a demanding morning of gabbing and drinking free Caribou coffee, I set off for the office myself.

I’m a fan of Bike to Work Week. Some people criticize the focus on commuting, while others proclaim it should be “bike to work week every week,” but the directed outreach seems to encourage new people to try transportation cycling. In fact, I first biked to work during the official Bike to Work Week three years ago.  It would be interesting to see statistics comparing the amount of bike commuters the week before, the week of, and the week after the event.

Was anyone else inspired by Bike to Work Week or a similar event as a newbie?  Do you have any co-workers who became interested in commuting after hearing about the event?

Chicago’s “Crackdown” on Bicyclists

Last week, I logged onto the Chicago Tribune website and the headline proclaimed: Police Crackdown on Bicyclists: 240 Warnings, 1 Ticket.

That got the public’s attention. Readers left 340 comments on the article and recommended it on Facebook 1,000 times. The majority of the comments were ridiculously anti-bicyclist and rejoiced at the comeuppance.

And all of that is good. I’m totally cool with it.

Because the crackdown took place at the very intersection where the city is quickly constructing its first protected bike lane and bike box. NYC is experiencing an absurd “backlash” for its installation of protected bike lanes. Chicago is smartly working from the get-go to prevent that.

By conducting this crackdown, the city effectively countered the #1 instantaneous complaint drivers have about providing a safe place for people to cycle: that people on bikes don’t deserve anything because they do not follow traffic laws.

So maybe 1,000 people are cackling about cyclists on Facebook (probably from their iPhones while driving, but I digress). Awesome. I hope they spread the word far and wide that the police are enforcing traffic laws for bicyclists.

And really the “crackdown” consisted of bike cops and CDOT bike ambassadors thanking cyclists who stopped at the red light and educating cyclists who ran the red light. Another difference between NYC and Chicago is that Chicago’s crackdown may actually succeed in improving bicyclist, pedestrian, and driver safety, a difference that Bike Snob NYC noted. Bicyclists should stop at red lights and I wish more of them would.

I highly recommend watching this 1 minute news clip about the enforcement. Then tell me: crackdown? Not really, but please continue using that word with the masses, news media. Your hyperbolic headlines could only help.

What are your thoughts about bicycle “crackdowns” – are they ever a good thing? Where would you draw the line between educating cyclists and unfairly singling them out? Do you think “crackdowns” help with public opinion in support of safe cycling infrastructure?

Chicago’s First Protected Bike Lane + Bike Box

Yesterday, while waiting at a red light on my bike, a woman with a baby on the back of her bike rolled up and stopped next to me. I waved and cooed to the baby until he smiled. Then his mother said, “Say hi,” and he did, flapping his chubby little hand, eyes shining under his helmet. The light turned green, she told me to go ahead and I told her to have a good day.

My friend Ash's daughter, whom I photographed last week. Not the baby I saw yesterday, but equally adorable.

In an ideal world, sweet meetings like that would happen all the time. In reality, I very rarely see anyone bicycling on Chicago streets with a child. Even as more and more people, men and women, start bicycling for transportation, the venture still seems risky to most. The only way to get a substantial amount of people to bicycle in the city, especially parents with children, is to provide safe, separated infrastructure. Chicago needs protected bike lanes.

For 3 years I have been bicycling in Chicago on a daily basis. During this time, I have seen how easily and cheaply the city’s streets could be adjusted to accommodate protected bike lanes. (Easy and cheap relative to all the other construction projects going on. I know all of Portland’s bike infrastructure was created for the same cost as one highway interchange). This knowledge left me perpetually frustrated, because no one with power in Chicago seemed to care, despite the fact that bicyclists make up ~1/4 of the traffic along my commute route.

This week, Chicago’s disgraceful apathy has ended. All in the past 3 days, new Mayor Emanuel announced the first protected bike lane, CDOT started construction, and the scheduled complete date is next week. The city’s first protected bike lane will be on Kinzie Avenue where it crosses Milwaukee Avenue, leading into downtown. Currently, bicyclists make up 22% of the traffic along this stretch.

There are a few different ways bike lanes can be “protected.”  For this project, the street pattern will follow this order: sidewalk, curb, bike lane, painted buffer zone, parallel car parking, motor vehicle travel lane. While visiting the construction site, Steven Can Plan noticed that they are also building a bike box (where bicyclists can wait in front of motor vehicles at red lights) and a bike-only left turning lane at a big intersection.  Those are also firsts for Chicago.

You can watch the Mayor’s press conference below:

View more videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com.

[You have to sit through a car commercial before watching the press conference.]

Some choice quotes from Mayor Emanuel:

I want Chicago to be the bike friendliest city in the nation.

Speaking of the role bicycling plays in the city, he pointed out three factors for the future:

1) another means of transportation
2) people can do it with safety
3) as we attract businesses to Chicago, an integrated biking system to and from work is essential to the type of workers I want to see in the city of Chicago.

He noted that bicycling is:

Both an economic development essential tool and it adds to a quality of life that is essential to the city.

This particular project is only 1/2 a mile. But the Mayor announced that Chicago will build 100 MILES OF PROTECTED BIKE LANES OVER THE NEXT 4 YEARS!

Yes, you read that right: 100 miles of protected bike lanes.

Obviously, I am excited about these developments. My approval is conditioned on the city following through with its promises here, but for the first time since I started bicycling in Chicago 3 years ago, I’m seeing real and positive change.

I encourage everyone in Chicago to write the Mayor and thank him for his trailblazing support of safe bicycling infrastructure. Also, even more importantly, reach out to your Alderman to state your strong support for protected bike lanes and bike boxes. On June 21, I will attend an Active Trans Social with my Alderman Waguespack to voice my support. You can attend or organize a social in your neighborhood with the help of Active Trans.

{For much more detailed information on the Kinzie Avenue project, check out Steven Can Plan. He’s been doing an excellent job of reporting on this project and others around the city.}

{For more information about cycling with children, check out Kidical Mass.}

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