Posts Tagged ‘cycle chic’

Early Sunset

The sun is setting earlier and earlier now – a clear sign of the shift in seasons.  While I am not crazy about bicycling in the dark, I appreciate changes that mark the passing of time and keep life from feeling too routine. And I can now watch the transition from day to night during my evening commute.

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I hope all of you are enjoying October so far.  Just remember to carry your bike lights with you at all times!  :-)

The Dick Van Dyke Effect

Today we are pleased to present a guest post from writer/reporter John Greenfield, who co-writes Streetsblog Chicago, the region’s best transportation blog, among many other things.  

[This article also runs in Checkerboard City, John's transportation column
in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets on Wednesday evenings.]

I first heard about the “Mary Poppins Effect” back in March 2011 from local bike blogger Dottie, also known as The Martha Stewart of Chicago Cycling. “This is basically the idea that drivers are nicer to women bicyclists riding upright bikes with dresses and flowing hair,” she wrote on her site Let’s Go Ride a Bike. “Who could be mean to Mary Poppins?”

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Mary Poppins’ commute

On the other hand, it’s believed that motorists are less likely to operate safely around people wearing bike-specific clothing, bent over drop handlebars on a racing bike. “A cyclist dressed ‘normally’ looks more human to the driver,” wrote Dottie’s Massachusetts counterpart Constance, who coined the term for the phenomenon on her blog Lovely Bicycle two months earlier. “The more ‘I am human! I am you!’ signals we give off when cycling, the more empathy a driver will feel towards us. Dehumanization, on the other hand, makes it easier to cause harm to another human being.”

Dottie speculated that nattily dressed men on upright city bikes might enjoy the same benefits, known as the “Dick Van Dyke Effect,” after the debonair actor who played Mary Poppins’ gentleman friend Bert in the beloved 1964 Disney film. Van Dyke, who grew up in Danville, Illinois, also starred in classic musicals like “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” as well as the 1960s sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

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Dick Van Dyke on a bike!

I was interested in testing out the theory by my having one of my male bike buddies pedal downtown in a suit, then in Spandex, while I followed behind taking notes on motorists’ behavior. There were no takers at the time, so I added the idea to my potential story list and promptly forgot about it.

Fast-forward two-and-a-half years to Tuesday of last week, when I was scanning the headlines over my morning coffee. Lo and behold, a Tribune story described how Van Dyke miraculously escaped unscathed after his Jaguar caught fire on a Los Angeles freeway the previous afternoon.

“Somebody’s looking after me,” he told a TV reporter from local station KTLA5, looking chipper as ever. “At first I thought I had a flat. Then it started smoking, then it burned to a crisp.” Later that day he tweeted, “Used Jag for sale REAL CHEAP!!” How many eighty-seven-year-olds do you know who use Twitter?

Inspired by Van Dyke’s obvious joie de vivre, I resolved to test out his eponymous effect, even if I had to serve as my own guinea pig. My blogging partner Steven Vance agreed to follow behind me with a camera as I rode downtown and observe how closely drivers passed me.

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John Greenfield tests the “Dick Van Dyke Effect” (photo by Steven Vance)

That afternoon I put on the pinstripe suit I bought in Bangkok and a straw fedora and began riding my Dutch-inspired cruiser down Milwaukee Avenue from Logan Square at 2:50pm, feeling like William S. Burroughs, the well-dressed author of “Naked Lunch.” When we come to a stoplight, Steven tells me that some drivers are crossing the yellow line to give me plenty of room as they pass me. As I roll past a bus stop at Oakley Avenue, a young man on the bench gets a load of my get-up, grins and nods his head in approval.

We turn east onto Chicago Avenue and roll into River North. Around Wells Street, Steven reports that a cabbie switched lanes in order to pass me. We continue south on Clark Street, where motorists are generally driving in the other travel lane rather than sharing lanes with me. When we arrive at Daley Plaza, we remark that no one had honked or catcalled at me the entire time.

The following afternoon I squeeze myself into some Spandex, which I never wear in real life, strap on a helmet and wraparound shades, and mount my skinny-tired road bike. As Steven and I depart at 2:50pm again, I feel less a distinguished Beat writer and more like a space alien, and more than a little self-conscious. We take the same route and, despite my garish apparel and insect-like posture, I seem to get a fairly similar reception from drivers.

When we reach the plaza I ask Steven for his conclusions. “I think whether a driver passes a cyclist with more or less space is based ninety-nine percent on how much open space the driver has to the left of his or her car,” he says. “There didn’t seem to be a Dick Van Dyke Effect.”

“However, I did hear about a guy who bicycled wearing men’s clothing, and then made the same trip wearing a dress and a wig,” Steven added. “He found he got better treatment when dressed as a woman. That would be the next thing to try.” But that’s an experiment for another day. Oh, the things I do for science!

Thanks for the research, John!  I was surprised that there was no discernible difference in driver behavior, but happy to hear that drivers treat different bicyclists equally well (or equally poorly?).  We’d love to hear the experiences of others out there, especially men in relation to the possible existence of the Dick Van Dyke Effect.  

Also, some have astutely commented in the past that part of the effect may be based on race, class and conformity to societal norms.  I am working on a follow-up to address those issues, so please share below if you have thoughts on this.

A wooden crate as a bike basket

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When I posted about riding my Dutch bike last week, Trisha noticed that I have a new crate on the front.  Yes, and I love it!

As I explained in my Oma review, I purchased my bike with a heavy duty front rack that attaches to the frame, making a sturdy base for up to 50 pounds of cargo.  I was using a Hershberger’s Baker Basket on the front rack, but two years of heavy use was more than the delicate basket could handle.  First the leather strap in the front broke, causing the top to fly open in the wind, then one of the small leather straps on the back of the lid broke, making the top sit crooked.  The wicker became dried and bleached by the sun.  Basically, the poor thing fell apart.

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Baker Basket in better days

For a while, I detached the front rack and used a pannier on my rear rack to carry stuff.  Then one day Mr. Dottie found a wooden crate in an alley behind a Mexican restaurant, which he thinks was used for avacados.  The crate has “Made in Mexico” stamped on the side.  He attached the crate to my rack with a bungie cord through the bottom and a few zip ties all around; it does not move an inch.

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My new Mexican crate

I love the crate for both aesthetics and utility.  I can fit so much stuff in there, and I tend always to be carrying a bunch of stuff – for example, two full grocery bags and a purse.  I can also easily and quickly reach my bag when stopped at a red light.

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The crate is heavy – it’s all solid wood and nails.  But so is my bike!  When I’m riding Oma, I’m slow and steady and generally traveling no more than five or six miles, so extra weight is not a big deal.

Does anyone else use a wooden crate like this?

Divvy! Divvy! Divvy!

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Divvy bikes are taking over Chicago!  On Wednesday, I had plans with my friend Sara for dinner and a movie after work.  Just that morning, I saw a brand new Divvy station near my home and before heading out to meet Sara, I realized that  I could easily Divvy the whole night long.

There’s the starting Divvy station:

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The Divvy station across the street from the restaurant:

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And the Divvy station a block from the movie theater:

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Here’s Sara with her Divvy-colored Pashley.  :-)

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And coming full circle at the end of the night, I returned my Divvy.

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I’m excited as new stations continue to pop up daily.

Chicago is doing Divvy so right!

The Oma Lifestyle

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As I mentioned last month, I’m back to riding Oma almost daily.  And I’m reminded that Oma is not just a bike style, but a lifestyle.

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I slow way down with her and relax into the ride. I coast up to yellow lights instead of accelerating to beat the red.  I enjoy the city sights from my high perch.

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It’s all about opting out of the commute-as-race by sheer force of will.  Even as SUVs speed past me too closely and I breath in truck exhaust, I think happy thoughts and continue slowly pedaling.  Riding Oma helps me maintain a bit of serenity, as the city buzzes around.

Dusk

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Dusk is day’s most beautiful time.  If I can manage to bike home in the aftermath of the setting sun, I’m a happy woman, a calmer woman.

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For comparison, here’s a look at my wintry dusk commute on the Lakefront Trail from a few months ago.  Of course, during winter the dusk arrives a few hours earlier!  The photos above were taken around 8:30 p.m., while the winter ones must have been closer to 4:30 p.m.

For a melancholy take on dusk, I leave you with Carl Sandburg’s “Dreams in the Dusk.”

Dreams in the dusk,
Only dreams closing the day
And with the day’s close going back
To the gray things, the dark things,
The far, deep things of dreamland.

Dreams, only dreams in the dusk,
Only the old remembered pictures
Of lost days when the day’s loss
Wrote in tears the heart’s loss.

Tears and loss and broken dreams
May find your heart at dusk.

Fashion Friday: Scandalous Style

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This week I burned my way through season one of Scandal on Netflix.  Love!  The best part of the show is the main character Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington.  She’s uber-capable, confident, loyal and smart as hell – and also an amazing dresser.

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As much as I love her style, I found myself thinking about the difficulty of wearing her outfits on a bike.  She favors crisp white suits, sky high platform heels and wide leg pants.

So I put together my own interpretation of bike-friendly Olivia Popeness.  I swapped out her wide-legged trousers for slim pants or a skirt to avoid chain disasters, her towering stilettos for pedal-friendly wedges, and her Prada bag for a Po Campo bag.  I had to keep the white trench coat, so watch out for grease!

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Now she’s good to go on the Capital Bikeshare!

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Or even better – a WorkCycles Secret Service.  :-)

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I hope everyone enjoys the (long for some) weekend.  You can find me on the couch, binge-watching season two of Scandal.

{P.S. Here’s an interesting interview with Scandal’s costumer Kristine Haag, including her tips on how to get the look on a budget.}

Spring Joy Ride

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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.

Fashion Friday: The Best Site for Pre-Owned Fashion

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A few readers have asked me to discuss my favorite places to shop for pre-owned clothing.  I estimate that approximately 75% of my wardrobe is pre-owned, as in secondhand/used/thrifted.  I love pre-owned clothes for two main reasons: I can buy a lot more/better quality for less and I can minimize my contribution to the fast fashion system, the one that causes stuff like THE DEATH OF 1,000 HUMANS.  (Please think about that for a few moments and consider how important cheap new fashion is to your lifestyle.)

Locally, I prefer Salvation Army on Grand Avenue.  The goods are grimey, but if you sift through the racks long enough, you’re guaranteed to find some gems, like the $4 Burberry dress shown below.  (Remember, “God made dirt; dirt don’t hurt.”  Am I the only one who heard that a hundred times in my childhood?)

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Burberry via Salvation Army!

But since most of you do not live in Chicago, I’m sharing my favorite online shop.

And my choice is The Real Real, a site with daily flash sales of pre-owned designer items.  When I say designer, I mean designer, with oodles of options among Chanel, Prada, Stella McCartney, Chloe, Givenchy, et al.  (Thanks, rich people who wear a dress twice and then consign it!)  This is not just about fancy labels.  In my experience, these clothes are generally better made with higher quality materials, resulting in superior fit and longer lifespan.  BUT if designer is not your thing, scroll past the flash sales to the “Contemporary Designer Sales” section – that’s where the real deals are: Diane von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, Nanette Lepore, Kate Spade, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Steve Alan, and a crap load more.  Of course, these are not Salvation Army-level bargains, but that’s the price you pay for well-edited and dry-cleaned goods.

Through this site, I’ve found that I can buy used, high-quality designer items for the same price as new clothes at stores like Zara and J.Crew.  And unlike with eBay, I never have to worry about authenticity and returns are accepted.  Here are all of my purchases from the site to date:

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silk Brian Reyes blouse

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silk Chloe dress

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Zac Posen dress

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Chloe boots (so much love!!!)

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Burberry pleated skirt

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silk Ulla Johnson blouse

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silk Nanette Lepore dress

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silk Marc by Marc Jacobs blouse

(Oh my gosh, suddenly I wish I had my long hair back.  Don’t you hate that?  Too late now!)

Trust me, on my non-profit salary, there is no way I could ever afford all these beautiful clothes new.

As a caveat, the site can be addicting.  Under no circumstances should you subscribe to their daily email – that’s a great way to get sucked into constantly browsing for clothes that you don’t need.

Currently, everything is on sale for 20% off.  Woo-hoo!  I myself snapped up two Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses and a silk wrap top, along with a silk See by Chloe skirt.  Now I’m ready for spring.  :-)

A similar site I’ve been eying – but from which I’ve not yet purchased anything – is Vaunte.  They also sell pre-owned designer stuff, but their prices are a bit higher and they do not accept returns.  Womp-womp.

Do you have a favorite online shop for pre-owned clothes?  Please share!

{If you follow the link to The Real Real or Vaunte and buy something, the site gives me a $10-$20 credit.  Not a rigged blogger thing, just the reward they give anyone who refers another shopper.  And credits are great because I already spent my clothing budget for Spring 2013!}

Perfect Bicycling Days

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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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