This is a random picture from my ride home, an example of a “marked shared lane” in Chicago. They put these where the road is pretty wide, but not wide enough for an actual bike lane. This sharrow is from Lincoln Avenue, which is a long diagonal street that cuts northwest from downtown. This avenue alternates between sharrows and bike lanes. The sharrows make me feel a little better and make it clear to cars that I belong. They certainly helped me feel more comfortable when I was starting out riding in traffic, an important factor for getting more people on bikes.
I took a picture of this bus with the intention of saying that cyclists should stay behind a bus at a stop light. When the light turns green, the bus will be ready to go and you don’t want to play leapfrog with a CTA driver. (This advice would not apply if you’re super fast and cooler than I, but for most people puttering around the city, it’s a good general rule.) However, as soon as I took this picture, the light turned green and the bus didn’t move and I realized that it was sitting there completely empty. So I went around it. Damn bus.
I recently saw this Bike Commuter Kit at Fleet Feet. Contents: reflective ankle strap, reflective vest, reflective stickers, blinky lights, body wipes. Okay, there’s nothing wrong with this kit if that’s what you’re into. Certainly, wearing a reflective vest does no harm. I never wear them because I do not see value in them in the well-lit city. I’m sure others would disagree and that’s fine. But wearing this stuff does not mean you will be safe. Neon yellow is not a magic safety bubble. Twice in one day this week I saw cyclists almost get creamed by entering intersections when their lights were red. Both of these men were covered with neon.
Three weeks ago a great tragedy befell my household – two bikes were stolen from my garage, my sister’s Specialized Globe and my Jamis Commuter. One might think that keeping bikes in a locked garage would be safe and that locking the bike with a cable in the garage would be super safe. If in Chicago, one would be wrong. The theives broke in through the back door of my neighbor’s attached garage, through which they could access my garage. Those two bikes, my car bike carrier, and my floor pump were stolen. As my luck would have it, my neighbor’s unlocked bike (that she never, ever rode) standing next to mine was untouched.
Hello, I’ll be the other contributor to this blog. I live in Chicago and ride my bike to work daily (a 14 mile round trip) plus pretty much everywhere else I go. It was not always so.
In June 2008, following the brilliant footsteps of my co-blogger Ms. T, I began riding a bike to work. I say “a” bike instead of “my” bike because I did not own a bicycle at the time. Other than the occasional beach cruiser rental while on vacation, I had not ridden a bike since junior high.
There are a lot of cyclists in Chicago, though, and a combination of seeing them everywhere, hearing about Trisha’s biking, and often walking by my neighborhood bike shop put the idea in my head that maybe I could ride a bike, too. At the end of May, armed with my “stimulus” check, I purchased a bike. I told the owner of the shop that I was thinking of maybe, possibly, perhaps trying to ride my bike to work downtown. She told me that it was totally doable, grabbed a Chicago Bike Map and showed me the best route to get from my house to the lake front bicycle path, which would take me along Lake Michigan straight to downtown. I was feeling pumped up, until I rode the bike home and around the block a bit. I was nervous, wobbly, and absolutely ridiculous. I thought I had wasted hundreds of dollars on a bike that I would never be able to ride around the block, let alone downtown.
Not ready to give up, I turned to my default activity – I read. A lot. About when to take the lane, what the door zone is, proper signaling, everything. Bicycling blogs were – and still are – the best source of on-the-ground information for cycling in the city. The next day, my husband and I rode our bikes to the lake front bicycle path. After 1.5 miles of white-knuckled (for me), totally quiet and peaceful side-street riding, we got to the bike path. Then something clicked: simply riding my bike down the crowded lane was the most fun I’d had in years. I’ve had a lot of fabulous food, fun vacation, wine consuming, good friend fun in the last few years, but this simple bike ride was somehow different. Later the same day I had a dentist appointment a couple of miles from my house. I decided to ride my bike instead of take the bus or drive. I felt self-assured and confident. I met drivers’ eyes. I firmly maintained my position in the road. It was pretty cool. Once I realized that I could control a lot of the situation by riding calmly and defensively, I was set. I rode my bike to work that Monday and I’ve been riding like that ever since.