Tag Archives: infrastructure

Air Pollution and Bicycling

Breathing behind the exhaust pipes of cars, trucks and SUVs is one of the worst parts of bike commuting. Although passengers in motor vehicles breathe in extra pollution from the toxic chemicals leaching off the car interior itself, a recent study found that bicyclists in Brussels breathe in 5 times more air pollution than drivers or pedestrians. On the other hand, I remember a study that declared bicyclists breathe in less air pollution, but I cannot find a link to it now. What I know for sure is my own experience and I feel like I breathe in a lot of pollution while cycling.

Air Pollution - Image (c) Tom Krymkowski

This subject is on my mind due to a recent experience. Yesterday morning a truck, similar to the one pictured above, passed me and belched out a horrific plume of thick, black smoke from the top. The plume was at least 5 times as big and thick as the picture above. I almost pulled off the road, but there was no escaping, so I ducked my body over my handlebars and held my breath until I made it through the other side. The truck continued hurtling from block to block, releasing a disgusting plume of smoke as it accelerated from each stop sign, before mercifully turning onto another street. Surely, this truck would never pass a city inspection, but nevertheless it was out there on the road, spewing its disgustingness around.

This incident, although rare, was troubling. I hate to think how much pollution I breathe in while cycling through the city. I often say that I love cycling because it’s a chance to get out in the “fresh air,” but I shouldn’t kid myself: the air is not so fresh in Chicago. That is a depressing fact.

I am not sure what to do or say about this problem. Complaining about trucks in general would be hypocritical, since they carry food to my grocery store, deliver my packages, sweep my streets and remove my garbage. Living in the Bike Lane wrote about this problem last year and offered some solutions for both individuals and cities.

What have your experiences with air pollution been? I’m especially interested to read the responses of the country mice versus the city mice.

Hopefully, air pollution will not progress to the point where bicyclists feel the need to don surgical masks, as they do in other countries.

{Image courtesy of Tom Krymkowski via Flickr}

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Is Bicycling Political?

Old photo chosen for the red, white and blue

WBEZ asks this question and Julie Hochstadter answers.  For those of you who are not from Chicago, brief introductions: WBEZ is my beloved Chicago Public Radio, Julie is co-owner of The Chainlink and all-around awesome woman.

Julie’s take on the question: basically, bicycling is a political statement even if you don’t intend it to be because you’re doing something out of the norm.  Also, you’re saving the world.  ;)  But bicycling is also fun, practical, safe and fast.

I cannot embed the story, so read and listen here. The audio is only 3 minutes long.

What do you think: is bicycling political?

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Chicago’s New Mayor on Bicycling

Rahm Emanuel has been elected the next mayor of Chicago!

Here is a bit of what our new mayor has to say about bicycling in Chicago:

Rahm supports full implementation of Chicago’s Bike Plan and will initiate a review of its goals and timelines to identify opportunities to expand the plan and accelerate the pace of implementation.

Chicago’s 125 miles of bike lanes cover a small portion of the city’s 5000 miles of roads. Rahm wants to dramatically increase the number of miles added each year – from 8 to 25 – and prioritize the creation of protected bike lanes. His plan is based on a simple premise: create a bike lane network that allows every Chicagoan – from kids on their first ride to senior citizens on their way to the grocery store – to feel safe on our streets.

Under the plan, Chicago would be a pioneer in the creation and expansion of protected bike lanes, which are separated from traveling cars and sit between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars that shield cyclists from street traffic. He will prioritize the lanes on major thoroughfares that link communities to downtown and each other.

I was surprised and impressed by the specificity of these campaign promises, especially the emphasis on protected bike lanes, which the city so desperately needs to encourage more people to ride a bike.

Mayor Daley has done a lot for bicycling in Chicago, but I’ve seen very little progress in the last couple of years.  I’m excited for a fresh start!

You can read more about Emanuel’s transportation plans here, with sections on public transportation, bicycling and high speed rail.

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Winter Maintenance of the Lakefront Trail

I’m still annoyed by winter, but I’ll think back to happier times: Friday, when I biked to work and then took a joyride to the lakefront during my lunch break.

This was two days post-blizzard. Access to the trail is through an underpass below Lakeshore Drive and this was the most difficult section to manage due to the snow, as only a narrow path was shoveled and not very well.

Once I emerged on the other side, the plowed bike path pleasantly surprised me. I biked a ways up and down the path just for fun, but it was slow going, mostly because I’m a baby when it comes to biking on packed snow, even with my studded tires, and always want to be able to put a foot down if necessary.

At this moment, I joined Lovely Bicycle in really wanting a Surly Pugsly for the massive snow tires. I also wondered if Coco would be better in this particular snow situation with her Fat Frank tires. I’ll have to take her for a spin in the alley this weekend for research.

It’s a good thing that my visit to the Lakefront Trail was only for fun and not for transportation. Although I commend the city for plowing the trail so quickly after the blizzard, clearing away all the snow would take a little more time.

For Chicagoans who want to use the trail for transportation in the winter, the Active Transportation Alliance posts regular updates of conditions on its blog, along with helpful pictures. You may also be able to find useful information on The Chainlink, a Chicago bicycling online community.

Is anyone relying on trails and bike paths to commute during the winter? If so, how are the conditions as far as upkeep and lighting?

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Winter Cycling to the Shakespeare Theater

My love for Chicago is largely based on bike-ability and access to culture.  I try to take advantage of these as much as possible and, as a result, my favorite activity is cycling to see a play at the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier.  This always makes for a lovely Saturday: 12 miles of bicycling, a stop at the bar for a bourbon, and an imaginative and original Shakespeare production.

On this particular Saturday, going to see As You Like It, the Chicago weather was on my side: a temperature of 32 degrees felt nice in comparison to usual winter temps.  My outfit of jeggings (oh yes, I bought jeggings – and I love them!), long wool sweater, and tall boots kept me warm. I was able to ride along the Lakefront path most of the way, diverting to the inner Lakeshore Drive for the stretch that is not plowed.

It’s a good thing that we love to cycle to Navy Pier because getting there otherwise is a pain. Public transportation to the Pier is not direct, requiring two L trains and a trolley from my place, while parking is at least $25 for a couple of hours (not that I have a car to park).

Navy Pier during the winter has an isolated and slightly Kafkaesque mood that I love.

That’s why I love going to the Shakespeare Theater so much. Not only for the excellent productions, but for the time spent cycling there and back along the car-free Lakefront, as well as the time meandering down the Pier – a combination of my favorite parts of Chicago.

I have a long history of cycling to the Shakespeare Theater, which you can read about in the following posts:

With Jennifer from Scotland
Almost exactly one year ago
Through the rain
Shortly after acquiring Betty Foy
Almost exactly two years ago
One of my first LGRAB posts

Where is your favorite place to cycle?

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Cycling the Winter Lakefront Labyrinth

On a winter night, cycling along Chicago’s Lakefront Trail feels like embarking on a strange expedition, a la Labyrinth. Some areas are totally blocked off due to overwhelming ice accumulation, forcing bikes onto nearby dirt paths or streets; some areas have massive chunks of pavement missing, pulled out by the force of lake waves; some areas are especially dark and foggy, eerie as you look out to the blackness of the horizon. If I listen to David Bowie on my iPod as I ride along, the only effects missing are grotesque muppets with British accents.

During my first winter cycling, I rode the Lakefront Trail nearly every night. Last winter, with a new office further from the lake, I used the trail much less. This winter, yesterday’s ride was only my second time commuting along the trail. Nowadays, taking relatively quiet secondary streets that go straight home is a more attractive proposition than the out-of-the-way trail.

But sometimes the car-free environment, along with the moody mood, is too much to resist, even when the ride takes twice as long.

That’s when I cycle the Lakefront and I always enjoy the distinctive experience.

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How Preparation and Maintenance Affect Winter Bicycling

Trisha’s post yesterday about the difficulty of riding in Nashville after snow has me thinking about the important role that city preparation and maintenance play in winter commuting. If streets are not cleared quickly after a storm, even a modest snowfall can ruin several bike commuting days.

Southern cities are getting more wintry weather this year than they’re equipped to handle. I heard on the news that Atlanta has 8 snow plows; in contrast, Chicago has hundreds. I assume road salt is in similarly limited supply.

Without salt and plows, Trisha has to walk her bike over large icy patches in Nashville

On top of this, Southern bicyclists are likewise less equipped to handle the weather, as there’s usually not enough snow to justify purchasing snow tires or studded tires. This results in more of Trisha’s commutes in Nashville being thwarted than mine in Chicago, despite the much greater snow totals in Chicago. You can see this happen with Bike Skirt Elisa’s commute in Alabama, too.

Meanwhile, this week in Chicago, I took one day off bicycling when the snow was actively falling on Tuesday. The next day, after 5 inches of snow, all but the small side roads had been cleared of snow and ice.  Plus, to handle any surprises, I have studded tires.

Streets are reasonably clear a day after a Chicago snowstorm

Unfortunately, the bike lanes are still a complete mess, which is something the city needs to work on improving, but at least I could ride in the main lanes safely.

Unfortunately, bike lanes are mostly ignored in the snow-clearing process

Therefore, it seems like so far this winter, snow and ice have been more problematic for bicyclists in the South than in areas to the north that regularly get snow.

Of course, I have not forgotten about the crazy blizzard action going on around New York and New England. How long does it take after one foot of snow falls before roads are reasonably clear for bicycling?

And for everyone else, feel free to leave a comment stating your location and how well your city has been dealing with wintry weather this year.

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Women in Motion

Streetsfilms created this wonderful short film, Women in Motion: New Lady Riders Reflect on NYC Cycling. The film highlights women who started riding their bikes only recently, inspired by the new infrastructure and growing number of other everyday cyclists.

Meanwhile, Steven Can Plan highlights numbers showing that the frequency of Chicago women riding their bikes to work is down this year.

Trisha and I have been bicycling for 2.5 years now. I suppose we’re slowly but surely becoming members of the old guard, but our message remains the same: anyone can start bicycling for transportation right now, even if they have never done it before. And the goal of sharing our experiences is to encourage more women to start and continue to ride bikes.

We bloggers can’t do this alone. As the news above from NYC and Chicago shows, safe bicycle infrastructure is a major factor in whether people will ride their bikes. If you agree, make sure to contact your government representatives and let them know how important bicycle infrastructure is to you!

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Nothin’ lasts forever, even cold November rain

Oh yes, I’m pulling out the Guns ‘N Roses. This is my last chance to use the reference for a year, since tomorrow is the last day of November.

Today’s rain led me to take the Lakefront Trail. Even though the route adds another 15 rainy minutes to my commute, riding among cars in the rain frays my nerves. On the bike path I don’t mind the rain at all, especially when there’s a tail wind.

As usual, wool and boots kept me toasty warm. These super windy pictures are actually from the rainy day last week. The bike was different, but the outfit was pretty much the same.

Anyone else care for an ’80’s MTV flashback? Gosh, I loved this video as a wee lass.

And so, as I roll through the wet, cold weather, I remember that nothin’ lasts forever, even cold November rain.

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Your City: A Bicycling Survey

I love Chicago. I moved here 3 years ago for a job and because I wanted to live in a big city. I stay because there’s so much to do and I enjoy walking, biking and taking public transit everywhere.

Chicago’s bike infrastructure and sizable bike community are huge pluses. Compared to most North American cities, Chicago is advanced in this aspect, but the bar is not set very high. What I really want is serious European-style infrastructure with separated and protected bike lanes.

I’m optimistic about Chicago’s future as a bicycling city, but real progress lies in the far future. In the meantime, I wonder if a quiet town with light traffic would be better for bicycling, even if there is absolutely no infrastructure. And while I’m wondering, how about cities like Portland, Boulder, Minneapolis and Davis, those shining bike-cities?

Thinking about Chicago – what I like and don’t like and how bicycling plays a role – makes me interested in how others view their cities or towns. We’d love to hear about your experiences, if you feel like sharing.

1. What city do you live in?
2. What brought you to your city originally?
3. What is keeping you in your city?
4. Do you ever think about moving to a city that is more bike friendly?
5. Does the bike infrastructure (or lack thereof) play a major role in whether you will stay in your city?
6. Are you optimistic that your city’s bike infrastructure will improve?

Please leave your answers in the comments! We can all compare notes and learn more about each other’s experiences.

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First Suburban Critical Mass a Success!

The Critical Mass ride that Melissa organized was a huge success! Fifty people showed up for the first Critical Mass ride in Aurora, a town about an hour from Chicago. There was a mixed group, including families with children, city employees, young hip guys, lycra racers, older riders, chic cyclists and even a tall bike.

The ride was definitely a Critical Mass in all the best ways.  We had lots of cheery balloons, smiles, waves and “Thank You” signs. The reaction from drivers, pedestrians and other on-lookers was overwhelmingly positive.  Motor vehicle traffic was very minimally obstructed, as most of the route had two lanes going in each direction, making it easy for cars to go around the group.  (I did not witness any negativity at all, but if some drivers were upset by the ride, that is their problem. No progress is ever made without upsetting some people who prefer the status quo.)

Check out these pictures, which describe the ride much better than my words can.

…and there was the press.

Resulting in the third positive article about bicycling in one week in the local paper, “Fifty turn out for Sunday (Critical) Mass.” The next ride will be October 31.

Go Aurora!

Anyone out there living in other a smaller town or the suburbs should consider starting their own movement. All it takes is some people, bikes and passion.

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A Critical Mass: bicycling as a social movement and the importance of working together

If you ride your bike, you are part of an important social movement.  Regardless of your level of involvement in any organized effort, this movement would be impossible without your participation.  We, as people who ride bikes, are the only ones who will look out for the interests of bicycling as a viable form of transportation.  Most people who drive everywhere never give bicycling a second thought, and I’m not holding my breath for politicians lobbied by oil and car companies to take proactive steps.  Therefore, bicyclists working together and agreeing at least on the very basics (bikes = good) is essential.

Melissa rides her bike

The issue is on my mind this Friday morning because of great efforts that our friend Melissa has taken to create positive change in her suburban town of Auroral, Illinois – and the subsequent blowback she’s received from a sport cycling club and vehicular cyclists.  Melissa is not some political strategist, she’s a woman who rides her bike, feels that the roads should be much safer and is doing something about it.

There will be an organized ride in Aurora on Sunday afternoon that Melissa and others have publicized as a critical mass ride, Aurora’s first.  This ride has already garnered much attention, including an article in the town’s newspaper and a follow-up article today.  Both articles are pretty positive about the event and bicycles.  Unfortunately, the response from subsections of the bicycling community has not been as positive.

First, she received a message from a certain suburban cycling club, stating that they would never participate in or support an event that carried the Critical Mass name and did not follow all traffic laws.  They also suggested she get a permit from the city of Aurora – a permit to ride bikes in the street.  Then, in the follow-up article a vehicular cyclist is featured to give an argument against bike lanes.

“It’s not that Klenke doesn’t support better access for bikes, but he says, “Lanes don’t address education, training and attitude for cyclists and motorists to coexist. They’re a feel-good panacea that likely worsen the problems instead.” He referred me to the book “Effective Cycling” by John Forester, who, according to Klenke, “cites studies that suggest bike lanes lead to increased car-bike accidents and are inherently destructive to traffic management.”

On top of this, there are the typical mean-spirited comments at the end of the article from drivers about bicyclists.

I understand where anti-Critical Mass cyclists are coming from.  The event can create hostility in drivers and sometimes, with a big enough crowd, lead to unruly behavior.  However, the ride on Sunday will be a group of cyclists exercising their right to the road in a lawful manner – nothing more, nothing less.  If the ride were not called “Critical Mass,” would anyone have paid attention?  Would the newspaper have written two articles about the ride before it even took place?  A critical mass is an appropriate description for the purpose of the ride.

I understand where vehicular cyclists are coming from.  Bicyclists should be empowered to ride in the street with the rest of traffic.  But bicycling will never become a widespread mode of transportation in America without bicycling infrastructure.  Vehicular cycling may work for a very small minority, but telling a parent toting kids or an elderly woman to get out in the street and fend for herself will not work.  I feel even more strongly about this after visiting France and seeing the bicycling infrastructure – and people on bikes – in every city.

People who ride bikes – and people who want to ride bikes but do not feel that the roads are safe enough – have to work together for change.  Debates within the bicycling community are both important and inevitable, but there comes a point where rifts stall progress and play into the hands of those already-powerful groups working to maintain the status quo.

So I have a simple request.  Could we all in the “bicycling community” agree that people riding bikes lawfully down the street in the hopes that others will note their presence is a Good Thing?  Otherwise we are stalling our important social movement.

Sunday.  2 p.m.  West Aurora High School.  I’ll be there.

{If you would like to thank the writer of today’s column, Deena Sherman, for bringing attention to this issue, you can reach her at deenasherman@att.net.}

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The Good of Bicycling Far Outweighs the Bad

Yesterday there was a blip on the radar screen of my good commutes. On my way to work, I had to call a company and report that one of their transfer trailer drivers passed me within 4-6 inches. I’m not sure why he was in such a rush, because very soon afterward, he pulled over and parked in the bike lane to make a delivery. Lucky for me, this made it very easy for me to read both the company’s phone number and the license plate number, as well as take pictures. Although my hands were shaking, I managed to stay calm and the woman on the phone was nice and helpful. All I want is for the report to be maintained in the employee’s personnel file, in case others complain of his driving. Any employer should take such reports seriously or risk legal liability if their driver ends up hurting someone, especially since there is a law here requiring drivers to pass bicyclists with three feet of distance.

But that was only a blip. I’m so happy when riding my bike around and I adjust – as I must – to the reality of the situation. These photos are from my commute home on Thursday (taken with my new vintage SLR camera).

Look how beautiful riding a bike can be. By the evening commute, all was right with the world again.

My spirits were further lifted by reading Velouria’s post, Everybody Loves a Lovely Bicycle. The pictures are beautiful and she reminds us that “beautiful bicycles can lift our spirits” and make passersby smile. I remember that for every one jerky driver, there are hundreds of considerate ones, including the occasional woman who rolls down her window at a stop light to compliment my basket or ask about my bike, plus all the pedestrians who spontaneously smile when they see my Oma cruise by.

So bike love all around :)

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Bike Cycle: Doomed to Repeat History?

Is the current bicycle boom simply part of a never-ending bike cycle, wherein the press rattles on and Americans ride a little more, but real progress is never made?

I’m contemplating this question after reading an article from 1941 in Click Magazine that I found at a book fair, entitled: “Bike Cycle?  How to Go Places Without Gasoline.”  At first glance, the article seemed to be a bit of vintage fun, like the preceding article, “Your hat in 1941 will show how you feel about the war.”  Step-through frames with baskets!  Women on bikes in skirts!  Men in suits riding to the train station!

However, as I read the article, I realized it was eerily similar to the issues presented today.  Take out the retrograde parts about “men” going to the office and “housewives,” and the piece could have been in the latest issue of Time. The writer seemed very excited about the future of transportation cycling in America, yet 70 years later there’s been no progress.  To me this is horrific in a Twilight Zone kind of way.

Below I present the article in its entirety (apologies to the original copyright holders).  I bolded and italicized the parts that struck me the most and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Bike Cycle? how to go places without gasoline

BIKE CYCLE?  HOW TO GO PLACES WITHOUT GASOLINE

Town and country have both witnessed the return of the bicycle as a pleasure vehicle.  During the Gay Nineties, heyday of cycling, only 10% of the bicycles sold were made for women.  Today women buy over 30% of the bicycles made.  College girls like those on the right helped bring back the bicycle’s popularity. In cities, bicycles must obey all traffic laws.  Bicycle fans want state registration and license tags just like automobiles.

When the phrase “they never come back” was muttered about the American bicycle, the mutterers were muttering too soon. True enough, bicycle sales in America dropped from a high of 1,089,000 in 1899 to 180,000 in 1932. But then the great comeback started. Last year, bicycle sales reached an all time American high – more than 1,300,000 were sold. Cycle paths were built in city parks, and women took the wheel in amazing numbers. As a fun vehicle, the bicycle’s comeback was complete.

"Today, women buy over 30% of the bicycles made."

Now, with gasoline shortages looming importantly on our horizon, the bicycle is making a serious bid for at least some of the jobs being performed by automobiles. It is no longer necessary to release pictures like the one above to make people bicycle-concious. Bike lovers see their two-wheelers usurping most of the duties of the family car – and they might be right.

Men who now use automobiles to drive to the railroad station while they commute from suburb to city daily may follow the lead of commuters like Norman Hill, who pedals two miles from his home to the Maplewood, N.J. station in ten minutes every morning. He parks his bike there all day.

The huge quantities of gasoline now being burned by the cheap second-hand cars many families maintain for children who go to rural and suburban schools can well be saved by sending them to school on bicycles. Bikes are healthier, often less dangerous than cars.

"Suburbanites find they can make two wheels do the work of four."

Housewives who now drive a mile or less to do their shopping may soon find themselves faced with the alternative of cycling or walking to the store. But many American women, like this suburban Pennsylvania matron, find that cycle shopping can be completely practical.

The pleasures of parking and touring the countryside are enjoyed by any bicycle owner who desires them. A pair of shorts are all this girl needs in the way of special cycling clothes. The growth of roadside youth hostels has paved the way for bicycle tours covering hundreds of enjoyable miles.

"...and get an amusing exercise program out of legwork that replaces gasoline."

With the private family car completely eliminated by the fortunes of World War II all over Europe, most people are finding bicycles to be their only form of private transportation.  Gadgets like this side car for Parisian youngsters are becoming more and more common in European city streets.

American schools and factories may soon have to erect bicycle garages like this one in Paris if gasoline shortages on this side of the Atlantic become even remotely as acute as they are in contemporary Europe.  Cycling enthusiasts say this will make for healthier Americans.

"Bicycles have already replaced automobiles in Europe"

Prominent Americans love bikes.  Bicycle enthusiasts take great pride in the prominent Americans who ride bikes.  Civilian Defense Director La Guardia must have seen this picture of Grover Whalen before he appointed him director of the gas-saver drive.

L to R: Lana Turner, Wendell Willkie, Ann Rutherford, Grover Whalen

Click Magazine, 1941

What do you think – Fun piece of vintage bike history or terrible sign of the status quo?  I’m afraid that in another 70 years another article like this will be written and nothing will have changed.

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Still Enjoying the Long Way Home

My commutes have been so lovely lately. Ever since I took the long way home for the Summer Games, I’ve continued taking the same relatively quiet route to and from work. Now I can’t believe that I never discovered this route for over two years.

The route is all calm two-lane streets with bike lanes. Both the car and bike traffic are much lighter and more considerate. Trees line the way, shading me from the hot sun. Kids wait on the corner for school buses. People walk their dogs.

Bonus: I pass right by one of the best cupcake shops in Chicago.

I feel like my commute is now more like a normal commute in a small or mid-sized city, instead of the hulking beast that is Chicago. The whole experience is totally worth the extra five minutes that my ride takes.

{I took these pictures today with my vintage Polaroid with expired film – that’s why they look funny}

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Easy Summer Commute

I took the Lakefront Trail on the way home, stopping to snap some pics with my little point-and-shoot. Feels like a long time since I enjoyed an easy summer commute on the Lakefront Trail.

Ah, can you feel the sunshine and the lake breeze? That, my friends, is the good life and it’s totally free.

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Chicago Countryside

Chicago is the third-largest city in America. Skyscrapers, taxis, tourists, crime – it’s all there. However, jump on your bike and ride a few miles south of downtown for this scenery.

The Chicago Countryside is closer than you think :)

{I could not help posting more pictures from our Sunday ride.}

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A Different View of Chicago

This morning Mr. Dottie and I set out at 9 o’clock for brunch at the home of friends. The catch: they live over 15 miles away (31 miles roundtrip) in Hyde Park, aka Obama’s neighborhood. The ride was totally worth it for their fantastic food and company, plus I always like an excuse for a bike expedition.

Thanks to the Lakefront Trail, the ride there was simple and beautiful. From our house we rode a mile east to the Trail, then 14 miles south down the Trail, then a mile west to their house. I often ride along the north side of the trail, but very rarely along the south side. The south side is much quieter and less crowded, more nature-like and removed from the city.

Me at Promontory Point - view of skyline from the south side

Greg and Sir Raleigh at Promontory Point

Museum of Science and Industry

I'm on a boat! Not really, I only wish I were.

Part of the skyline from the south

Chicago skyline with kid biking

I wish I could convey the feel of the 90-degree heat, burning sun, miraculously cold lake breeze, cookout smells, boom box music, children laughing… We returned home at 5:30 pm, exhausted in a good way, feeling alive.

This is going down as a Summer Games event, “explore a new part of town by bike.” Although I’ve been there before, I don’t go often, and I’m not eligible for prizes, anyway :)

Read about my ride to Hyde Park last year here.

While you’re at it, check out this fun write-up with photos of the south side Lakefront Trail from Bike Bliss.

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Bike Camping Trip

This weekend I took my first official bike camping trip. I’ve camped plenty of times and taken my bike before, but I’d never biked to the campsite or carried my camping gear on my bike.  Rivendell has termed this kind of small adventure the S24O, for sub 24-hour overnight trip.

The basics:

  • Packed a change of clothes, essential toiletries and some food and dishes into panniers.  Zip tied sleeping bags to racks.
  • Biked to Union Station in downtown Chicago.
  • Took Metra train one hour out of the city.  Bikes are allowed on train for free.
  • Met Melissa at the destination station and the three of us biked together to the forest preserve campsite.
  • Met Chanh at the campsite in his car.  Good for people who are not comfortable riding the whole route and/or carrying bigger items like tents and coolers (although we could have fit a tent on our bikes).
  • Biked around, played with fire, drank beer and canoed.
  • Biked to the train station, took train back to Union Station, biked home.

The details:  Once we set up camp, all four of us set out for Two Brothers Brewery. The route was a nice mix of nature bike paths, quiet neighborhood streets and fast roads with wide shoulders, with some interesting sites along the way.

After super fresh beer, food and more bike riding, we returned to the campsite to watch the sunset.  Songs, fire and more beer drinking followed late into the night.

The next morning started with s’mores – the breakfast of champions! – and Melissa’s guitar.

A quick rain shower cleared up in time for us to hit the lake.  Mr. Dottie and I took a canoe, while Melissa and Chanh chose a tandem kayak.

After packing up, we biked to a diner for lunch and then biked to the train station.  Mr. Dottie and I took the train to downtown Chicago and biked home. In our neighborhood we stopped for frozen custard, and it’s amazing how well the turtle sundae recharged my batteries.

My Rivendell Betty Foy, which I bought for the versatility of commuting and light touring, handled everything perfectly and felt wonderful.

By the end of the whirlwind weekend, I was exhausted but happy.  I want to do this more often.  The next-to-nothing cost and planning make it easy to accomplish on any given weekend.  The opportunity to escape the city and enjoy life’s simple pleasures make me want to do it every weekend!

Who else has experience with bike camping, either S24O’s or longer tours?

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