Monthly Archives: August 2009

Safety and Security Concerns

I’ve mentioned before that I live a couple of blocks from Elizabeth, a blogger at BikeCommuters.Com. We met by chance last winter on our way home from work in the dark and freezing cold. I was waiting at a light and when it turned green I told her to go ahead because she would be faster than me. I managed to stay with her about half way home and we chatted a bit before she dropped me and Oma :)

Elizabeth and Me

Elizabeth and Me

We met up last night for a beer (or two) in our neighborhood, and she had just attended a focus group discussion on women’s safety and security issues with bicycling and walking. I wanted to participate, but had a scheduling conflict. Elizabeth gave me her discussion guide print out and I thought I’d post some of the questions here to see what you all think. The focus group was women-specific, but I’m interested in hearing from everyone.

How safe do you feel in your residential neighborhood? Is it a comfort level that allows you to bicycle and walk at any time of day of if you chose to?

What are some of the things that influence your decision to bicycle or not to bicycle?

What do you see as major safety and security concerns?

My thoughts: I feel very safe in my residential neighborhood. Chicago is a big city and I’m sure lots of people don’t cycle for fear of crime, but I’m privileged enough to live in a fairly affluent neighborhood on the north side. Still, I don’t walk alone after dark.  I feel much less vulnerable on my bike, so I will cycle alone after dark, but not later than midnight or so. I hate taking public transit alone at night – I don’t feel that the el trains have enough security. Overall, my major safety concerns deal a lot more with traffic (drunk drivers, dooring) than with crime.

How about you?

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The Essence of Stylish Cycling on Film

Miss Sarah of Girls and Bicycles created a video of her cycling through Edmonton on her Pashley Princess. Watching it was a delight and now I can’t get the song out of my head :) This is a must-see film – so fun, cute and stylish!

A still shot from Miss Sarah's video

Watch here! This is an entry in an “Edmonton Stories” contest, so don’t forget to vote. Read more about the film from Miss Sarah here.

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Of Car Doors and Bike Bells

When I get on my bike I become much more assertive than usual. I don’t worry about being too pushy because I’m confident in my skills and understand the danger of someone screwing up. At the same time, the super polite manner that my mom instilled in me is hard to kick. The result is me speaking up often, but in a feigned sweet tone. Two circumstances always make me speak up: when a driver opens a car door in my path and when a cyclist passes me in traffic without any warning. These things happen all the time riding in Chicago.

Bike Lane on Wells

Bike Lane on Wells

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Where Bike Gear and Fashion Intersect

Though my college days are behind me, one of my favorite fashion sites (along with academichic, of course!) is CollegeFashion. Working in publishing has me on something resembling a college clothing budget, so I appreciate the list of sales and discounts they post every Friday. And though some of the trends they highlight are not appropriate for my age or location (something tells me the exposed bra thing is not going to be big down here) it can be inspiring.

All this is to say that today’s “Would you wear . . .?” question focused on none other than bike shorts. Yes folks, along with fluorescents, hammer pants and Doc Martens, this scourge of the late 80s appears to have returned. This time around they’re paired with denim, especially under jean shorts as shown in the pic below (nabbed from CollegeFashion).

08.12bikeshortsI have to say, I like the middle look, with the lace shorts and long top. Seems like it would be both practical and stylish for a weekend ride, though I’m not sure how flattering it would be on my particular shape. What say you, female readers? Would you wear?

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Jobs I Would Like to Have

Note to the blogosphere: when someone sends me a link that is summarized like this

I just read this on yahoo and thought of you.  Bikes!  France!  Technology!  Oh my!!!!

it will be clicked on. Immediately. (The only noun that could have been added to make this even this more appropriate for me would have been “books” or perhaps, “cheese.”)

This is what I found.

Picture 2(click on photo to see more photos)

That is the La Defense. In Paris! And the person on the trike has been paid by Google to ride around the city taking pictures for Google Street View. They plan to do a Street View of all major tourist cities in France. Paris stops include Les Halles, le Jardin du Luxembourg and Versailles. You can read the full article hereCharlotte, did you spot any of these guys? (ETA: Apparently they’re cruising around England, too.)

Thanks to Jen for the link!

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Dashing Summer Tweeds?

Summer Cycling Suit

Summer Cycling Suit

Trisha spotted this post “Dashing Tweeds” on the great blog, London Cycle Chic. The outfit pictured is called a “Summer Cycling Suit.” She emailed it to Greg aka Mr. Dottie for his opinion. Although I would have expected him to say a bit about the breaches, his response focused on the “summer” aspect:

That outfit looks like it would be incredibly hot. I would be sweating after a few minutes; not to mention how restrictive it must be. I imagine: sweat running from neck down through sleeves to elbows, back sweat, chest sweat accumulating to be stomach sweat, waist/leg sweating accumulating at the knees. How long does tweed take to dry and does it smell when sweaty?

Ha. I don’t think tweed smells, but I agree that the outfit looks like a nightmare for summer cycling, no matter how slowly one pedals. Is it nostalgia that makes such an outfit seem like a good idea, the same way that I want to dress like Betty Draper on Mad Men without contemplating the reality of girdles, pantyhose and crinoline? Or perhaps it’s the Vogue magazine phenomenon, with photo spreads of aesthetically interesting clothing that no one would actually wear? Seriously, I love fun clothes, but you gotta draw the line somewhere.

I do covet this cape, though. Unfortunately, 400 pounds is a lot of dollars. And I’d probably wear it with pants.


Biking in the ‘Burbs

I spent Sunday in the suburbs visiting Melissa. I took the local L train to Union Station downtown, then took the Metra suburb train the rest of the way. Betty Foy wanted to come with me, but bikes were not allowed on the trains this weekend because of the Lollapalooza music festival, so Melissa picked me up from the train station in her car.

Bike path beauty

Bike path beauty Melissa

When we got to her place we parked the car, picked up the bikes and set out to the liquor store. Continue reading

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Trisha, Mr. Dottie and I are all huge True Blood fans. Not only do we watch and then discuss in length the HBO series starring Anna Paquin, but the two of them also read the Charlaine Harris book series. So I must post these fab pictures of Ms. Paquin and say in my best Bill voice: SOOKIE!

I don’t quite understand celebrities’ obsession with these Nirve cruisers. They are cute and only about $300, but there are plenty of other bikes I’d be riding if I were rich and famous!

As seen on Cyclelicious.

Made in the USA: Greenbeard Trailers

One of the best things about the Internet is when it lets you keep up with old friends, especially when it means discovering you have a common interest. Last week a high school friend of mine, who now lives in Missoula, Montana, blogged about how she and her partner, “the Handyman,” had started a business: building bicycle trailers!

Daisy pulls the "skinny legs" trailer.

Daisy pulls the "skinny legs" trailer.

According to the GreenBeard Trailers website (designed by Daisy) the “Skinny Legs” weighs only 16 pounds but can haul up to 125 pounds. It’s made of aluminum and impact-resistant plastic. The Skinny Legs is the standard model, but they’re also willing to customize it. If you’re wondering what the “GreenBeard” name is all about, here’s their explanation:

It’s a fancy science theory that explains why ants and bees and even beer yeast are helpful and nice to each other; even if they’re not related.

We think that’s kind of cool.  And we want to contribute to all that helpful kindness that goes on among bikers.  That’s why we’ve started GreenBeard Trailers.  Because we think that there’d be even more people out on their bicycles if they had enough room to cart groceries or construction supplies or library books or whatever you need to carry that can’t fit in that spiffy basket you have on your handlebars.

Love it! It’s always fun to see independent businesses like this popping up, and even better when one belongs to someone you know. Now if I decide I need a trailer, I know where to go. Has anyone tried out a trailer?

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How To: Report Dangerous Drivers

In a thread on The Chainlink, a Chicago bicycling online community, I asked what one should do in the situation I was in last month. Recap: I was riding along on a quiet street, lalala, when a guy in an SUV honked continuously at me, pushed by me so closely that my fingers brushed his truck when I put my arm out for him to back off, forced me to pull off the road and then yelled, “stay off the fucking road.” I got his license plate number and description and called the police station when I got home, which told me to call 311, Chicago’s info line. I followed the prompt to file a police report, but after describing the incident calmly and using the term “assault,” the operator told me that the guy’s behavior was just “ignorance” and there was no police report to file for “ignorance.” I was fuming inside, because I know the law and the meaning of “assault” but decided not to pursue it further for my mental health.

Ethan from the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) answered with their advice on how to handle the situation.

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Gratutitous Friday Kitten Post

wallyblogWalter reads up on DIY projects on Cycling Is Good For You. He obviously fits right into this household!

Happy Friday!

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Oma Loves Her Neighborhood

Today Oma got out of the house for a fresh air tour of the neighborhood. I went along for the ride and picked up a fab vintage dress ($15!), cupcakes and beer. This is her travelogue.

Oma loves da Cubs

Oma loves da Cubs

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Quick Question for the Blogosphere


REI's Novara Carema Pro

My friend L. is looking for a road bike. L. sees this as a longterm purchase and wants something well-made and durable, but still reasonably priced—she’s hoping to pay around $1,000. Right now the top contender is the Novara Carema from REI, which has all the features she wants: extremely light, with an aluminum/carbon fiber frame, lots of gears (30!) and higher-end Shimano components.

L. plans on participating (for fun) in sprint triathalons eventually, and wants a bike that will be competitive. She also wants to go on distance rides. Since she doesn’t know a lot about bike maintenance, she has concerns about going vintage. I know we have several road-bike-riding readers who know a lot more about this sort of thing than I do — so please, bring on the recommendations in the comments!

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Developing Street Smarts

Sometimes once you’ve been riding for a while, you forget the little steps you took along the way. A recent comment on our “About Us” page reminded me of that recently. Amy in Chicago said:

Hi Ladies: I just discovered your blog and it’s so inspiring! Seeing what you have both been able to do has made me want to give up the el and start biking more often. . . . my boyfriend has been an avid biker for years. I just bought the Gary Fisher Simple City 3 which I absolutely love, but I’ve only been riding on smaller side streets around our neighborhood. I was hoping you could offer some advice on how you started riding on bigger streets around the city. I have to admit, I’m a bit scared of all the horror stories and oblivious drivers. We live in Wicker Park so I would have to find some major street just to get to the lakefront. How did you both start riding on bigger streets? Can you recommend any resources to learn how to ride more safely? Again, I’m really enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work!

How did I get started riding on bigger streets? Like the origins of my sudden desire to bicycle commute, it seemed murky.

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Busy Bee

I have been a busy bee lately, which is why I’ve not written in a few days. The biggest news is that I resigned from my law firm job and I’m going to take my legal career in a new direction. Not having a new job yet is a bit nerve-wracking, but I’m excited about the future and I need a break. Now that I don’t have a commute, I’ll have to make up more reasons to ride my bike. In other busy bee news, Sunday I was up early to support Melissa running the Chicago Half Marathon. She performed wonderfully, beating her goal time. Yay, Melissa! Maybe her new bike commuting routine helped push her over the edge? :) Then on Monday and Tuesday I had Tori Amos concerts, first in Chicago and second in Milwaukee. I’ve been a huge Tori fan since high school, so her new albums and tours are major life events for me. Last night I was second row center – amazing!

Melissa and me at the Chicago Theatre to see Tori

Melissa and me at the Chicago Theatre to see Tori

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A Hypothetical Situation

While riding a bicycle through an unfamiliar college campus, on unmarked footpaths, crossing one’s fingers that the rain holds off and trying to avoid having haul a quite heavy bicycle up or down the flights of stairs that seem all too likely to pop up in the path from lunch back to work as the crow flies, one might, against the odds, be glad to see cars. And a parking lot. Especially when that parking lot leads to the street one was hoping to find.

The lot you're looking for

Parking lot leads to road, which means: street signs!

Perhaps getting honked at on 21st isn’t so bad after all. I mean, if such a thing were to happen to a person, she might think that an alternative route clogged with impatient drivers wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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Emma’s Custom Ride

About a month ago, reader Emma Alvarez Gibson mentioned that our site, in combination with her husband’s bike-savvy, was inspiring her to get on a bike again.

Recently, that day came: her husband Roger gave her a gorgeous bike he customized himself for their 10th anniversary. We should all marry such a man. ;-) Emma kindly shared some pictures of her new ride with us.

Emma and her new friend

Emma and her new friend

Emma rides in the LA suburb of San Pedro, just a mile from the ocean. As a freelance writer, she doesn’t have much of a commute, but she does plan on using her new bike to go to local coffee shops, where she writes and holds business meetings. Emma explains, “I’ve ridden a few miles along the coast thus far and I’m really pleased with the way it rides. And of course I’m completely in love with riding. Most things one enjoys as a child lose their charm in adulthood; riding a bike seems only to have gotten more charming.” Definitely a sentiment I can get behind.

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Biking the Biltmore

Good friends. Wine. Wonderful weather. Mountain landscapes. A visit to a  luxury estate. Delicious food. Only one more thing was necessary to make my trip to North Carolina complete: biking!

It wasn’t hard to persuade Jennie and Kristi to get on board. $10 and a trip to the activity center at the Biltmore Estate took care of that little omission. We chose the Trek Single cruisers and set off for a quick ride to the lagoon and back, past fields of grapevines and sunflowers. It was the perfect post-lunch, pre-wine-tasting-and-concert activity.

Before we set out, we spotted these adorable young cyclists riding along the path.

Starting early

Don't worry mom and dad, we're only taking their picture to post it on the Internet!

After paying, we headed out to the barn where bike mechanic Jessica had the Treks all ready for us — complete with baskets for our purses.

And . . . they're off!

And . . . we're off!

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Sunday Style

08.02marieclaire-idees-06-09The other day at the bookstore I treated myself to a French magazine. They can be pricey but always provide a different angle on style and fashion as well as a new vocabulary word or two.

My faves are the Elle family, especially Elle à Table, but today’s selection was Marie Claire Ideés. It had a bicycle on the cover — no contest.

This magazine, which has no American equivalent as far as I know (maybe one of Martha Stewart’s line?), is full of beautiful photos of craft projects, theme parties, fashions, etc., and then contains instructions for doing them yourself at the back.

Unfortunately, the only bike project they had instructions for was a saddle cover — but the inside spread provided a lot of inspiration for customizing your bicycle.

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The Chai Cyclist Buys An Azor

Two Azors

Two Azors

Today I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow blogger of Chai Cyclist and Icicle Bicycle fame. He’s visiting Chicago from Minneapolis to buy an Azor Transport from Dutch Bike Chicago. (They’re running a swift business, selling three bikes while I was there, including a bakfiets.) Mr. Dottie and I met him and his cousin at the shop and then all went for a ride on the Lakefront Trail, stopping for ice cream at Navy Pier. The light rain was just enough to keep the trail from being crowded, but not enough to keep our group of year-round riders away. A lovely way to spend a Saturday. Enjoy cruising in comfort and style!

Tara and her Azor Swan

Tara and her Azor Swan

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Tara. I saw her by the trail with her Azor Swan and had to pull over to talk to her. She bought the Swan six weeks ago and loves it. She said she probably saw me around before and has stumbled across this blog. Today I realized that I have seen her before – I was riding home before a Cubs game and she was holding a parking sign (you can get good money for letting someone park in your space on a game day if you live close enough to Wrigley Field). I went by and she called out, “Yay, Dutch bike, I have one of those.” At least, I think that was her. Mr. Dottie thinks so. Very cool. If you’re out there, Tara, say hi :)

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