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.