Tag Archives: commute

Winter Biking Memories

I found an old draft post from December 2010 with the working title, “New Pictures…”

Hey, look, winter!

How funny to look at these on a 90 degree day.  I thought you all might get a kick out of this.  Seems unreal.

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Smelly

The worst part of my bike commute today in 96 degrees and high humidity?  The pungent smell coming from trash bins as I rode down my alley and by others.  Oh, the humanity!  The smell wrapped itself around me in a most unpleasing manner.  The trash was not messing around.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to avoid breathing while bicycling.

The smelly did not stop there.  Although not nearly as bad (seriously, not anywhere close!), the gym clothes that I wore and sweated in during my morning ride were a little rank when I pulled them out of my cabinet at the end of the day.  Not fun to have to put them back on.  Darn polyester.

As for myself, I stayed fresh as a daisy with the help of my beloved office fan, a change of clothes, Burts Bees towelettes (pleasing scent), and awesome Soapwalla deodorant cream.

The forecast for Chicago tomorrow is as high as 99 degrees, with a heat index of 105 – and I know other areas are even hotter!

I will be on my bike with sunscreen, a change of clothes, a positive attitude and a travel size perfume.  :)

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Comparing Routes on Bike to Work Day

Chicago’s Bike to Work Week took place last week, with Friday as the grand finale “Bike to Work Day” and a big rally downtown.  I had an early meeting and could not attend.  I simply celebrated by … biking to work.  Imagine that.

Biking to work

The day was a little special, incidentally, because I met up with my friend Elizabeth for the morning ride to work.  We took the most direct, major route, which is not so bad in the morning.  There was plenty of opportunity for chatting.

Elizabeth in the morning

In the evening, Mr. Dottie happened to be leaving work the same time as me, a rare occurrence, so we met up for bike home together.

Mr. Dottie in the evening

I made him take my quiet side street route and he thought it was more stressful than the busy-but-direct route.  He reasoned that all he had to do on the busy route was stay straight and stop for stoplights, while on the twisty side street route, there was a lot of turning, plus potential car conflicts at every block in the form of four-way-stop intersections.  I can see where he’s coming from – cars have a tendency to “not see” bikes at those intersections – but I am more stressed by what I cannot control on the busy route: cars barreling behind me at a fast speed and parked car doors flinging open.

Interesting to consider the choices through someone else’s perspective.  What kind of situation do you think is more stressful?

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The Independence of Bicycling

Boy, was I happy to be riding my bike yesterday evening!  An extra-alarm fire at a furniture store adjacent to the L-tracks shut down the red, brown, and purple lines for several hours spanning the height of rush hour.  (No one was hurt in the fire.)  Mr. Dottie was on the brown line and had to walk the last two miles home, which is not so fun in near 90-degree heat, carrying a heavy work bag and wearing steel-toed boots. I, on the other hand, sailed along home with trusty Oma.

The scene biking past the L station was chaotic, with hundreds of people waiting for shuttle buses and car traffic jammed from road closures.  I may have gotten some envious looks from the poor commuters stuck on the side of the road.  Too bad Chicago’s planned bike share is not up and running yet – I bet lots of people would have tried it for the first time!

Bonus: enjoying the sight and smell of fresh flowers along my route.

While situations like this on public transportation are rare, I prefer to deal with them never.  The ordeal reminded me of the independence that the bicycle provides.  As long as I have my trusty bike and a slim stretch of road, I’m set.  (Just no thunderstorms, please!)

Good work, Oma!

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Bicycling Home

Today was another lovely bike ride home.  A little windy and chilly, but sunny and relaxing.  Refreshing.  I was grateful for the escape after a day at the office.

Nothing helps me unwind and appreciate my place in life like time on the bike.

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Tulips and a Dutch Bike :)

Spring is such a beautiful time of year for riding a bike!  Oma enjoyed very much spotting so many of her homeland’s flowers during the ride home this evening.

I put her flowered basket back on for now.  I could feel a substantial weight difference with the front rack and basket today, versus strapping my bag to the rear rack, but the basket set-up is worth it for the convenience and aesthetics.

The back street route I traveled was car-free for much of the time.  Such a rarity in Chicago, which is why I’m happy to go 15 minutes out of my way.

Here’s a more representative “gritty” city shot.  I think I need to start adding more spring color to my wardrobe.  The tulips have inspired me!

I hope everyone had a lovely week of bicycling and is ready to begin the second half of April!  :)

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Another Windy City Commute

The shining sun this morning lured me out to the Lakefront Trail, away from my usual route to work.  Once I got onto the trail, I realized that there was an extremely strong headwind, the kind that slows me down by half.

I started to feel grumpy (this was pre-coffee, people!) but I stopped myself and decided to focus on all the good.  My path was clear, the sky had a subtle pink tint, and the spindly trees looked cool.  I could turn my face up to the sun and feel the slight warmth on my skin.

And turning the corner near the end of my ride and seeing this view is always good for morale.

In the afternoon, I treated myself to this bad boy for my hard work and as a fortification for my ride home.

Sometimes the wind turns on me as a cruel joke during the day, so I was a little worried about taking the lakefront home in the evening, but I couldn’t resist and this time I had the wind at my back.

That is the story of my windy city commute today.  Bike commute number 1,174 – approximately.  :)

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Sprinkles

As the mild weather continues, I’ve been dressing for spring and removing my light jacket during rides.  This weather really feels like April.

The warm weather also makes it a good time to ride with friends and take the long way home, instead of the usual winter feeling of “Get me home as soon as possible, Ms. Bike!”

After work on Tuesday, I met up with my friend Sara downtown and we meandered home up the Lakefront Trail, riding side-by-side and chatting.

But not before fueling up on cupcakes at Sprinkles.

Yummy!  So even though it literally started to sprinkle a tiny bit on our way home, I was feeling good and grateful that the sprinkles were not snow flurries.

Happy February!

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Winter Bicycling Midpoint

I consider winter to be more than half-way over around this time, late January/early February. February is usually brutal, but at least I know spring is around the corner. This year, November, December, and now January have passed with only a few super freezing days and two noteworthy snowfalls that melted quickly. I haven’t even put studded tires on Oma yet.

By enjoying this extremely mild winter, I feel like I’ve gotten away with something major, like a jewelry heist. I almost don’t want to write this down for fear of jinxing myself, but I do want to celebrate making it over the hump of winter, however small said hump was this year.

How’s everyone else doing with winter bicycling this year?

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Carpooling in a Snow Storm

Six inches of snow fell on Chicago yesterday afternoon and evening.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I had no intention of cycling in that mess.  My plan was to take the L train, but a co-worker mentioned that she and a friend carpool along a route that passes by my L stop.  She offered to pick me up anytime and I gladly accepted the offer.  The car is already on the road anyway.

In the morning, I walked a block to the L station and a couple of minutes later she pulled up.  I sank into the heated passenger seat – yup, heated - and enjoyed friendly conversation during a calm drive downtown.   (I wonder, is there a way to make my Brooks saddle heated?  ‘Cause that would be amazing!)

The car ride was no faster than my bike ride along the same route, about 25 minutes.  (This is the busy route I recently recorded.)  There’s a lot of backed up traffic, so I’m able to keep up with cars most of the way.  Funny, they used to see me on my bike a lot in the mornings, when I took that route daily.

Snow started falling fast and furious around 1:30 pm and my office decided to close early at 3 pm.  I knew that taking the L home would be an easy 25 minutes, much faster than a car in a snow storm, but deserting my co-worker wouldn’t have been very nice.  :)   The car ride home in the snow took one hour, but I didn’t mind at all.  In fact, I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know her better.  In my heated seat.

There is no way I would have biked in the snow given the road conditions.  If I were in Copenhagen with protected bike lanes maintained by snow plows, sure, but that was obviously not the case.  (You wouldn’t know, but there’s a snow-covered bike lane in the photo above.)

I saw a couple of intrepid cyclists during the ride and I was stressed out just watching them.  I saw a couple others walking their bikes, like this mom and child below.  I assume they set out on the bakfiets hours earlier, before the snow got out of control.

Does anyone else carpool sometimes?  Seems it was all the rage in the ’90s, but I never hear anything about it now.  I enjoyed the experience and in the future when I need to take the L train, I may text my co-worker first to see if she’s carpooling that day.  I hate standing up on the L, plus it costs $2.25 each way.  And did I mention heated seats?  ;)

Did anyone bike home in the snow??  If so, my hat is off to you.

 

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A F-ing Cold Bike Commute (brrrrrrrrrr)

Have I mentioned that winter’s finally come to Chicago?  And she is not messing around.

This morning I biked to work in 15 F temps.  My alley was an ice rink, but the streets and bike lanes were clear and dry.  That’s good, because I haven’t put studded tires on Oma yet.  I was totally comfortable throwing a puffy vest over a wool skirt suit and wool undershirt, plus cotton tights, snow boots, scarf, gloves, and earmuffs.  I stuck heating packs in my mittens and boots, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it.

By the time I arrived at work, I felt refreshed and happy.

Unfortunately, the day grew colder and this outfit proved to be lacking for the commute home.

The temperature on the way home was effing cold:

For the non-Americans out there, that’s:

Plus, it was windy!  As usual.  Windchill of -7 F, -22 C.  By the time I got home, my fingers and toes were in pain (despite the warmers) and my thighs were bright red.  Not gonna lie: my spirits were low.  But now that I’m warmed up, I feel good for the activity and fresh air.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since I can bike in -4 F temps, today should not have been a problem.  Now that I’ve been harshly reminded of the reality of Chicago winters, I wont be caught unprepared again this year.

Tomorrow happens to be Chicago’s Winter Bike to Work Day, but up to 7 inches of fresh snow are supposed to fall, so forget that.  I won’t be on my bike, especially without studded tires.  Not my idea for fun, but I hope anyone who rides has a good and safe time.

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Is it really January?

Sunny blue skies, clear roads, mild temperatures – is it April already? I’m used to the occasional brief warm up during winter, but this year winter hasn’t yet arrived at all. If the forecast is right, this will continue for at least the next five days.

Yesterday was so warm (relatively) that I simply threw a long cashmere cardigan over my dress before heading out the door. By my evening commute, the temps had increased to 50 degrees F and I didn’t even use my cardigan. And I’m thrilled to continue riding Betty Foy, who usually gets packed away for the harsh winters.

This is the same outfit I wore two years ago for my video demonstrating how I dress for winter bicycling, but now without the wool leggings, second pair of socks, wool sweater, wool overcoat, huge mitts, handwarmers, scarf, hat, and glasses!

I think the weather I’m experiencing now is more like typical winter for most of you, but this will go down in the books as one of the warmest winters in Chicago’s history.

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Bright Colors and Winter Sunshine

The mild winter weather continues to make me so happy! Sure, it’s cold, but not freezing cold. Sun shining on my shoulders and clear roads are all I need to stay in high spirits.

My bright red coat, instead of being my one source of winter color, is merely one of many bright colors on my commute. Look – not only is there a Carolina blue sky, there’s also green grass!

In case any driver fails to notice my bright red coat, I’ve taken to wearing a neon yellow slap bracelet around my ankle. This is the same nifty free bracelet I posted about wearing on my wrist during the summer. A little extra color never hurts, plus it’s just too fun and easy to leave at home.

The darkness of the evening commute feels more like winter, but I’m still rocking my holiday lights. Plus, today the weather warmed so much by the time I left work, I did not need my scarf and unbuttoned my coat.

This type of winter weather makes Elisa’s advice about dressing for winter bicycling in New Orleans relevant for bicyclists around the country, even us Midwesterners.

Whatever your particular weather experience is right now, I hope you’re enjoying these first weeks of winter!

p.s. I wrote this last night and this morning I woke up to heavy rain and 40 degree temps. Weird weather!

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Biking to Harpo Studios

Yesterday was a special day for me, thanks to good luck. I won tickets to a taping of The Rosie Show where Tori Amos was the guest, by writing an essay about my love for her music. When I got there, they sat me front row center, the best seat in the house!

Rosie tapes her show in Harpo Studios, where Oprah used to tape. Riding there from my office was a breeze, since I could take the Kinzie protected bike lane and side streets the whole way. Riding from there back home was a little crazed and stressful. I wasn’t familiar enough with the area to attempt side streets at night, so I took a main route full of fast traffic, which then detoured because of construction, putting me on an even busier street, and *ugh* reminding me why I prefer side streets. At the same time, the experience also reminded me that I can confidently handle the messy stuff when it comes my way.

Outside Harpo Studios, I was disappointed that I couldn’t find bike parking, forcing me to lock to a light pole. There is very little bike parking in the West Loop neighborhood in general.

Here is the view from my seat in the studio, not zoomed in, right after the show ended when we were finally allowed to take pictures. You can see Rosie to the right and Tori’s piano straight ahead.

I also had the pleasure of seeing Tori in concert at the Chicago Theater on Saturday night, a sold out show. Chicago Theater is the best for seeing bigger concerts.

Okay, I’m done with my fangirl stuff. (Everyone has a favorite artist they’d be super excited to see up close…right?)

The weather in Chicago is back to being oddly warm. It’s in the 40’s now and will get up to the 50’s tomorrow. Weird but good for winter cycling!

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A New Red Coat on the Bike Path

Bright red seems like the best color for city cycling, getting drivers’ attention while still looking stylish off the bike. Chic, classic, and bold.

For this reason, I’ve been searching for the perfect red coat for two years, especially since seeing this post on Copenhagen Cycle Chic. Yesterday, the miraculous happened: I finally found “my” red coat. I was walking through Anthropologie during my lunch break, which I often do to torture myself because I usually can’t afford their beautiful clothes, when I spotted this unique red trench for half off.

Everything about the coat is perfect for me. The bright red “hi-vis” color. The classic trench styling. The length. The cinched waist with a bow.

And the laced back! Just the kind of quirky, personal touch I love.

Best of all, the coat will get me through three Chicago seasons: fall and spring over whatever I happen to be wearing, winter with a cashmere or wool sweater and my lightweight windbreaker underneath. There’s a nice lining that makes it a bit more substantial than the usual trench.

Plus, the red matches my other Oma accessories.

I also purchased something else on sale that I’ve been searching for: a digital camera. I wanted an affordable compact camera with manual controls and sharp photos, which I found in the Panasonic Lumix LX-5. I love shooting film, but for blogging purposes digital is faster and cheaper.  I (and my huge gloved hands) will be able to post more daily photos of my commute, more quickly. Yay!

Moving beyond consumerism to talk about actual biking, I had a lovely commute this morning.  I took the Lakefront Trail for the first time in a while.  I’m going to make a video of this route (with HD video on my new camera!) because it’s so beautiful.

Pure bliss = rolling on Oma down the quiet trail, listening to Jill Scott, enjoying the sun in my face and the wind at my back. Makes me wonder why I ever bother riding to work among car traffic.

Now is the best time of year to bike the trail – the crowds have left, but ice is not yet encroaching from the lake.

The weather today is suddenly colder, in the low-20’s. Winter is pushing its way through, slowly but surely. At least I have my red coat. :)

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Video: a busy Chicago bike commute

Earlier this week, I posted a video of my commute along quiet side streets.  To show how different the ride is along a busy route, on Friday morning I took Lincoln Avenue, a popular street for both bikes and motor vehicles.  I considered this taking one for the team, because I hate this route during rush hour.

A few notes before moving on to the video:

  • Lincoln Avenue is a major bikeway, with either bike lanes or sharrows along the length of it. As I discussed previously, it’s a pathetic set-up for such a popular bike route. Nevertheless, most bicyclists would take this street from my neighborhood to downtown.
  • This route takes about 25 minutes to my work, while the side streets route takes about 40 minutes.  Lincoln is faster because it is diagonal, a straight shot to downtown.
  • The bicyclist who happens to be in front of me for most of the video is carrying a child on the back, very cool.  I position myself a little further in the street and away from the parked cars than she, to avoid the door zone.
  • There’s a lot of traffic during rush hour and I generally filter on the right to get in front at stop lights.  This is the safest place to wait, but it’s important to position yourself in front of cars and trucks, not next to them.  Also, I know the light cycles well and go ahead only when I have enough time to do so safely.
  • The video is sped up by 250% and shows only 1/3 of the ride.  My memory card got full right before I passed three solid blocks of traffic-jammed cars.  That’s always smugly fun.
Without further ado, I present another low-budget LGRAB production:

The song is Beat Culture by Midori and I found it on Free Music Archive (thanks to Vee for the tip!).

Can you see why I prefer the side streets?  Which route would you take?

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Video: a calm Chicago bike commute

Here is a little video I made of my morning bike commute through relatively quiet side streets. Not the most interesting video ever, but I wanted to show how it’s possible to commute into downtown Chicago while avoiding busy streets and scary traffic. This is part of the quiet route that I often take, which I blogged about a few months ago here.

[UPDATE: May not work for international readers. Sorry!]

It’s hard to hear what I’m saying in the beginning and my memory card became full about 1/4 of my way to work, but you get the idea. The speed is 2.5x faster than reality.

I’m no Leslie Knope with iMovie, so please excuse the poor quality. (If you don’t get that reference, you didn’t watch Parks & Rec tonight – shame on you.)

Major shout-out to super sweet reader Ambrose, who gifted me her old bike camera mount after I posted my last ridiculously shaky handheld video. It made a huge difference. Thank you!!

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Lights in the Dark

Now that the sun sets completely by 4:30, I’m sad that my evening commutes are always in the dark.  On the bright side, this gives me the opportunity to enjoy all the beautiful lights that are now decorating downtown for the holidays.  Kind of makes my commutes feel magical.

Of course, I have my own lights, too, but those are not pretty.

Maybe this will be the year when I finally take the time to figure out how to string Oma with Christmas lights. :)

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It’s that time of year…

When I start to look like the Red Barron -

And I have to remove and carry around a bunch of layers and accessories -

Before I look like myself again.

Is everyone else pulling out their hats, ear muffs, gloves, scarves and coats? (Snow is in today’s forecast!)  Or are you smarter than me, living in a warm climate? :)

Here’s our advice on dressing for winter biking, if anyone needs it.

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More about skirts and helmets

The past two days, I have worn skirt and blouse outfits similar to what I wore in my last post, with a helmet, and drivers were pretty nice, but not as totally nice as before. Again, maybe it’s in my head, but it’s interesting to ponder.

For anyone who is “meh” about the Mary Poppins Effect talk because they don’t experience it – Mr. Dottie is right there with you and he’s perfectly content to ride a faster bike in construction-site work clothes, thankyouverymuch.

In an unrelated observation, the skirt below came down to my mid-calf, but was nowhere near my back wheel when I sat on the saddle. There are very few skirts that require a skirt guard, so I encourage those apprehensive about biking in mid-length skirts to give it a try. Just make sure your skirt is not touching your back wheel before setting off.

Hey, today’s Friday – happy Friday! I’m excited for the weekend because Trisha, Melissa and Erin, another friend from Nashville, will be in Chicago. I don’t know if Erin will be up for riding in the city, but I know Trisha and Melissa will be. This is when having multiple bikes comes in handy. I’ll be a mini bike share system. :)

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