Nashville is known for many things: country music, Southern gentility, comfort food, and Nicole Kidman sightings. Cycling is not among these distinctions.
Tandem at Halcyon Bike Shop – Trisha and I need one of these!!
When people speak of bike friendly cities in the US, they speak of Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Boulder, Davis, San Francisco, Madison, and Chicago. I am quick to extol the virtues of Chicago’s efforts to promote cycling. Does it follow that Chicago is bike friendly? Usually I think so, at least for North America, but riding in the chaotic and congested city is often stressful and occasionally scary.
One of the best things about traveling is seeing how the place you’re visiting is different from your home. I’ve traveled widely in Europe and Russia was probably the most different place I’ve been yet. To sum it up in one sentence: Russia is not for wimps.
There didn’t seem to be many rules there at all, and many of the public health things we now take for granted—safe and stable stairways, pedestrian crossings, lanes on the interstates, no holes in sidewalks smoking bans—do not exist. Not even medicines cater to the weak—check out the non-coated tablets.
Sensitive stomach? Too bad!
You all probably know by now that I really enjoy taking pictures of oddball things. Here are a few more images from weird and wonderful Russia:
Sunday morning Chicago held its annual Bike the Drive, an event put on by the Active Transportation Alliance where the city closes Lake Shore Drive (the main scenic highway that cuts down the city parallel to Lake Michigan) to motor traffic and opens it up for cyclists. An estimated 18,000 cyclists participated! What an amazing sight and beautiful way to reclaim our streets!
An estimated 18,000 biked the Drive
We had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to get ready and cycle the 7 miles downtown to get started at 5:30. Totally worth it for the sunrise alone.
There is a beautiful bike in my living room today and it’s all due to my fabulous parents.
You may recall my riding the Batavus in England and then heading off to Russia. Since I wasn’t going back via the UK, there was no way I could bring the bike home myself. Luckily, my brother and I had bought tickets for my parents to visit Prague and London last fall, for their upcoming 30th anniversary — and they generously offered to take the bike back for me. I arranged to have it delivered to their hotel, and they would simply take it to the airport on a shuttle, check it, and take it to Alabama. Easy peasy? Not so much, when you’re talking about a fully assembled Dutch Bike. Anyone who thinks they might be traveling with a bike in future, read on!
Mom and Dad decided to take the bike from the box and transport it in the cardboard sleeve, since the box was so unwieldy.
A Batavus packed in a cardboard sleeve for transport.
When they came rolling up to the check-in counter, the United Airlines people at Heathrow looked at them like they were aliens. The woman at the counter asked my dad what she was supposed to do with it…he said, “Well, I was hoping you’d put it on the plane.” They made them deflate the tires because they were worried they’d explode. Luckily, they were too taken aback to realize they could have charged $200 for transporting the bike. Score one for my budget!
Our last day in Russia (a week ago today) also happened to be my 29th birthday. Spending it riding bikes with one of my fave people was definitely the way to go. The day in pictures:
We started out by climbing the 200-odd steps of St. Isaac’s cathedral to admire the view.
Dottie and me on top of St. Isaac's cathedral.
Then it was time to head to Krestovsky Island for a bike ride and picnic.
Forgive the non bike-related post, but I can tie it to cycling by mentioning that later today I will be riding in Chicago’s inaugural Tweed Ride, so I feel like reminiscing about how Trisha and I recently were proper ladies in London having tea at Claridge’s. Well, okay, as proper as two sailor-mouthed Americans taking digital photos of themselves at fancy restaurants can be.
So, the St. Petersburg cycling scene was quite different from the London one Dottie wrote about last week. Though we spotted more bikes than we expected to see in a city that doesn’t exactly make cycling easy, there was nary a skirt or Dutch bike in sight.
BMX bandits are alive and well in Petersburg: a cyclist in Moskovskaya Ploschad.
London cycling infrastructure has some interesting ideas, but it does not come across as a coherent system. What I saw was a hodgepodge of stuff spread around the city with not much of an overall plan or connection.
For example, I saw a few of these bike signal lights. Oddly, they were in the crosswalk with the walk signal, not with the lights for the cars. Since bikes ride in regular car lanes, I’m not sure the point – anyone have insight?
I didn’t see a lot of bike lanes compared to Chicago, but the ones I saw were pretty special.
Cycling is quite prominent in London, although the city obviously has a long way to go. The narrow streets, huge double-decker buses, and tiny speeding cars present special challenges for cyclists, but many Londoners are up for the challenge. Walking down the main streets downtown, I watched several cyclists go by each minute. A lot had sportier bikes and special gear, but the vast majority looked quite stylish. I saw a few Pashleys and some Dutch bikes, as well. I took as many pictures of interesting cyclists as I could manage whilst site-seeing. I don’t know how Riding Pretty, Chic Cyclist and others do it so well, because it’s been hard for me to hit a moving target.
My favorite find was this lovely lady on a Dutch bike. Love the flowing locks!
More cycling Londoners:
I owe a lot to an atrociously ugly (even, dare I say, fugly) beach cruiser. In the spring of 2007, I went on vacation in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. The whole place is basically a huge retirement community with some of the coolest older folks. They were up with the sunrise to play bridge by the pool and stayed up for the sunset to play dominoes by the pool – sign me up! Anyway, in this bucolic place a natural activity, after tennis and shuffleboard, was to rent a couple of beach cruisers and explore the nice bike path down the beach to the park.
might want to raise the seat a bit…
The bikes were god awful ugly, but I don’t think I was fully aware of the severity of their aesthetic failures at the time. Besides having been beaten by the proverbial ugly stick, they were also not so comfortable. BUT. (more…)