To the Bike Path, My Happy Place

For the first time in a couple of weeks, I retreated to the lakefront bike path for my commute to and from work. Taking the car-free path adds about 1.5 miles to my normal 4.5 mile ride, but the beauty and stress-free commute is worth it when I’m not focused on getting to work quickly.

In stark contrast to the winter, when I have the path to myself, lots of people are out and about. Most of the cyclists on the path are lycra racer types, with a smattering of tourist on rental bikes, plus joggers, roller bladers and dog walkers. Despite the crowds (which have not yet hit summer congestion heights) I love taking the path.

As I’ve discussed before, without the path I never would have attempted to ride all the way downtown to work when I first started cycling. Even now that I am a seasoned city street rider, I still appreciate the protection and beauty of the bike path, where I feel safe enough to let my hair flow freely without a helmet* and just chill out without cars breathing down my neck.

{*Riding 10 mph on a Dutch bike cautiously without cars, I have decided that this is not risky. Please resist the urge to argue with me otherwise.}

I’m so lucky to have a happy place to retreat to when needed (thought not quite as luxurious as CYLRAB Adrienne’s happy place). :)

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27 thoughts on “To the Bike Path, My Happy Place

  1. Matt says:

    Agreed! Paths are like a long driveway for adults–as safe and lovely as it gets.

  2. Cat says:

    i totally agree. i can easily cycle to work withing 10 minutes on the road through downtown vancouver; but sometimes it is really nice to take the long way and ride along the seawall which takes 30 minutes but is such a beautiful way to start and end my work day.

  3. David says:

    I know the feeling of having the bikepath to yourself. In the winter, my bikepath commute was just me and a few obvious commuters. The serious, fast, thin-tire cyclists were long gone. Now, they are out, along with the roller-bladers, and those x-country ski things that take up the whole two-way path (Can’t they do something else in the summer?).

    I like it though. It was kind of lonely in the winter. It’s nice seeing the people, and coming to intersections together in a big horde!

    I too take a longer route to avoid cars. I’m very paranoid that a Wisconsin morning drunkard is going to take me out from behind.

    I would like to ride on those Chicago paths sometimes. Maybe we can rent some bikes. I’m learning from your blog that maybe Chicago is bike friendly. I would have never figured. Isn’t it like the fattest city in the US? I’ve been there enough to know that people are pretty rude there. But that’s all I know about it. Plus there’s lot’s of food there (people are fat). Very good restaurants of course.

    • Dottie says:

      Ha, we do love our food! I thought Southerners ate heavily, but I never discovered deep dish pizza until I moved to Chicago. Mmmmmmm, I looooove deep dish pizza.

      Sorry, I got side-tracked. I think Chicago is very bike-friendly, once you learn the ropes. Most drivers are perfectly kind. There are several bike rental spots along the Lakefront Trail, which is a great place for visitors to start, as long as they stay to the right (for the love of God) and shoulder check before passing others.

      I like having others around, too. That’s one thing that I love about Chicago – people enjoying the outdoors as soon as the temps hit the 60’s. Coming from North Carolina, where everyone spends the summers hunkered down in the air conditioning, it’s quite refreshing :)

      • Dave says:

        Portland is like that too – the first weekend it hits 60 degrees with sun, you see people out running without shirts on and walking around the waterfront in shorts and sandals and sunglasses :)

        • David says:

          People are like that in Madison, but when it hits 50’s. You’ll see people in shorts and sandals, and some riding motorcycles. Brrr.

          77 right now, loving it.

  4. Anne Hawley says:

    I sure like your bike! :D

    I’m lucky in that my best, shortest, and safest route to work is also the bike-path way, and I get to ride along the waterfront twice a day, every day.

    In the summer, however, it’s actually safer to be in car traffic on the parallel street, than on the path choked with multi-modal users. My two nearest-miss bad accidents have been because a child in one case and a dog in the other stepped out in front of me. Fortunately, I was able to stop! Like you, I’m not zooming.

    And you’ll get no argument from me on the helmet thing. I’m happy and comfortable riding without mine, and I think the biggest worriers on the subject ride fast, horizontally-aligned bikes where you very well could go over the handlebars, and at 20 mph that could be a killer.

    As you say, on a Dutch bike at 10 mph, there’s virtually zero chance of that happening.

  5. cycler says:

    At least for me, the number one reason to ride on the bike path this time of year is the beauty of the trees! It’s just so gorgeous this time of year, I’d hate to miss it just to play in traffic!

  6. Dottie,

    The spring photos make me think it’s time for Ashley and I to return to Chicago. If it were easier to visit with our bicycles we’d do it right away.

    You’ll like my photo from earlier today:

    • Dottie says:

      Love the photo! Super chic and visible cargo compartment :)

      Yes, you and Ashley need to visit again. I still feel bad that your last visit was so cold and rainy.

  7. Cherilyn says:

    It’s so very lovely to ride without having to be defensive the whole time. Enjoy!

  8. Adrienne says:

    My happy place rocks! Not that yours doesn’t, but it doesn’t have a sauna or salt rubs : )

  9. carolyn says:

    Your bike is incredible – I’ve never seen one like it! (Except maybe in old fashioned photographs!) And the photos are beautiful.
    I live in Greece and it’s not the most bike friendly of places (surprising given the weather!). But we’ve just had a cycle path in the city centre, running along the sea front. It was such a joy to ride with my little girl in tow. Hopefully it’ll encourage more people to get out on theirs.

  10. Academichic says:

    Gorgeous photos as usual! Makes me so look forward to getting home and riding my bike (oh, and thanks for the nice words about our site in response to my last comment!)

    As for the helmet issue – I am in total agreement on that one. S

  11. anna says:

    Seems like a really sweet path. I don’t have a favourite path myself, but there are certain sections I like almost everywhere.

    By the way, as I just see your bike with the Basil bag: I was considering buying one of those too. Is it easily attachable and easy to balance on the bike if you just have one on one side? How much stuff can you put in there? A laptop too?

  12. welshcyclist says:

    There you are again, complete style, elegance and beauty on a bicycle, I envy all those who share your cyclepath. I only get to see lycra clad racers fly past me, oh for the chance to see a vision of cycling loveliness such as you on my commutes. Still I live in hopes, more and more are cycling here, but not girls or ladies, yet at least.

  13. dukiebiddle says:

    Unfortunately, the annual crime spike in my city that comes with the nice weather has forced me in the opposite direction and I’m seeking out the most congested and heavily driven routes for safety. I am having the toughest spring. So far I’ve been attacked by a group of younger teens on a bike boulevard, been routed around a daytime murder and mistakenly rode through a barricade situation (where the police forgot to block off a alleyway I used to get around the yellow tape) and ended up with an officer’s shotgun pointed at my head, which is all very bizarre as my city is having its lowest crime rates this year since the mid-seventies.

    • David says:

      That’s too bad dukie. I remember a few years back there was regular crime activity on a strech of bike path here. I suppose it’s secluded, and there’s bushes for them to hide and jump you. It was teens, and I believe it was the same group. I haven’t heard that going on lately. I did think it was a little funny that they were trying to mug joggers! I jog, and I um, don’t carry a wallet. What idiots.

      Sound like you have to chose between getting mugged and riding with cars. Riding with cars doesn’t seem to bad then. Maybe carry some weapons on your bike? Does anyone do that, or have suggestions for protection?

      • dukiebiddle says:

        Funny you should mention weapons. I usually keep my U-lock in a way that I can easily grab it, but I didn’t have on me on that day because I was headed towards a dirt trail and hate to listen to the U-lock rattle. At the same time, I’m sort of glad I didn’t have it, because they were 14ish and if anything had happened to them, even though it would have been self defense, I would have been in huge trouble and in the very least would have been processed at central booking, which would likely have resulted a severe beating. At the end of the day, it’s probably best to never have weapons and just take your licks if you’re a guy

      • donna says:

        As a female bike commuter (only 2 days a week due to child care constraints), I immediately became aware of some of the more vulnerable places along the 14-mile-each-way-route I travel. Some of them are ones you wouldn’t expect, long stretches of farm land, but very light traffic, so it’s very obvious when the same mid 80’s red toyota pickup passes you for the third time in 10 minutes…
        I signed up for Krav Maga at a local school about 6 months ago (about two weeks into bike commuting), and it’s the best decision I ever made. I made my 18 year old daughter join me as she is heading to college in August. I am (oddly enough) a pacifist, but was willing to put my distaste for violence aside in order to learn simple ways to get out of life threatening situations. Krav Maga teaches gun and knife defenses, among all the normal self-defense type things. Also, it’s not like Karate or such, where there are “forms” and you learn sequences, or you focus on a spiritual aspect. It’s a street fighting/reality based “martial art.” It was developed for the Israeli Army, and because they have a mandatory 1 year requirement for men AND women, it’s something women can excel out without having massive muscles. Also, most people are proficient in 3-6 months.

        One of the things you learn: everything is a weapon. We learned 8 ways to strike with an expo(dry erase) marker! I’m not to be trifled with in meetings, now. :D

        I purchased a Kubaton from an online retailer for $5.95 (and one for each daughter). They are legal everywhere in the US (though apparently questionably in the UK) as far as everything I’ve read (not legal advice – research your area of the country). Learning to use it to strike pressure points where the attacker will reflexively have to let you go (because their arm will be twitching uncontrollably!!) is something any self-defense teacher should be able to help you with.
        I also keep “spray” sunblock SPF 100 in my handle bar bag…what a great form of Mace that would make, don’t you think? It would hurt, nothing permanent, but they’d be hard pressed to make out my blurry image running away…
        The other thing, I bought one of those silly Tony Hawk Helmet cameras. They use SD cards and the batteries last fairly well. It wasn’t too expensive either, like $30.00!!! You can get more expensive ones. I figure that is more for the “Car runs me over, I am too disoriented to see the license plate” type scenarios. Paranoid much? Completely.

        Regardless, we are constantly taught in class, if they are just after your wallet, give it. It’s when they want more, order you to follow them, or touch you that you act in self-preservation. A wallet isn’t worth the risk of physical harm that might come from an altercation. But if they use threats or intimidation to move you to another location, they touch you in any threatening way…then you have to defend yourself right there. Never let them take you anywhere.

        Anyway – just my $0.02. I’m still a pacifist…I’m just a pacifist that can knock you cold so I can make my hasty retreat!!!

  14. I loved the lakefront trail when I visited Chicago! I would take the 1.5 mile detour just to ride it, too!

    I love the magnolia bud pictures. My tree is now in full bloom. I love coming down my street toward my house and knowing that the beautiful flowering tree is in my yard!

  15. Dave says:

    My daily commute also takes me all along our waterfront park for about 2 miles (which used to be a freeway) after a couple of miles on roads/bridges (most of which have bike lanes or separated paths) to get there, and I love just casually pedaling past fountains, grass, enjoying the nice old buildings you can see across the street in downtown, and the sun coming up over the river. This is actually a very direct route for me to work, so it works out as a kind of double bonus :)

    That area does, however, get rather crowded in the summer (as Anne mentioned), especially in the afternoon, but I don’t really have a better way to go, so I just ride slowly :)

    Happy Spring!

  16. One nice thing about having a black and white bike, is how well it adapts to seasonal wardrobe change. Your Oma looks as appropriate at XMas time as it does amidst the spring flowers.

  17. Melissa S. says:

    I love riding on the path during my commute! It’s peaceful and beautiful. My helmet goes off as well.

  18. dan says:

    Beautiful ladies on bikes. Great pictures. I love reading your posts.

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