31 March 2009

"True voyage is return"

Name that quote and win my admiration! (No Google or Wikipedia; that's cheating.)

Anyway, maybe winter biking really is more fun and easy than your mom, but spring cycling is an absolute pain in the fraking ass. The soaking wet fat chick with the blue coat and the folding Breezer that you may have seen pedaling with comical slowness and screaming in agony into the headwind on the Lakefront Trail in the pouring rain on Tuesday evening was me. Hope I didn't scare you.

Anyway, short moral of the story: If you're considering commuting by bike for the first time this spring, don't let anyone fool you into thinking that you don't need fancy waterproof outerwear, or that any ol' bag strapped to the rear carrying rack will be sufficient to hold your stuff. Eventually one of these days you will be very sorry you didn't invest in (or bother to bring with you because you're only riding a couple of miles, in order to streamline operations and show everyone how easy it is) all that fancy bike-specific gear you thought made you look really silly, because it will rain. Oh, will it rain. But that's spring for you.

29 March 2009

For the hell of it, of course

I've decided that I want an old train signal to stick in a corner in my apartment and be decorative.

27 March 2009

Another episode of Hybrid and Folder: Under the weather

Dear Hybrid,

I can't believe I got dragged up to Minnesota again. Why do I keep agreeing to this? At least this time I didn't have to ride the Empire Builder. Well, I didn't have to ride it from Chicago, anyway. That was really the biggest pain in the back wheel last time, you know. And the driver who loaded me onto the bus actually treated me with care and courtesy when he was informed that yours truly, folded up and chillin' in my huge bag, was also a bicycle. (Some student-type hipster fixie, possibly heading back to UW-Madison from spring break, boarded the bus before I did. Must be nice not to have derailleurs and cantilever brakes. You know, in some situations. But I simply cannot imagine ever going without a rear carrying rack. I'd rather lose my fenders!)

Anyway, upon arriving in Madison (which really was like bike paradise---and I didn't even get to see it!), I discovered that I'd be sharing the trunk of the Essmobile with several suitcases, a laundry basket, and a dog kennel (among other cumbersome items). I actually had to be disassembled in order to fit inside with everything else. Me! A folding bike! I know, I know, you're probably laughing your reflectors off right now just thinking about it. Trust me, your big wheels wouldn't have fit in there anyway, so don't even think about rubbing it in when I get home.

Well, we arrived in Hancock in the middle of an epic rainstorm that has flooded much of the tristate area. (I'm sure that particular storm system eventually made its way down through northern Illinois.) The rain was followed almost immediately by plunging temperatures and an inch or two of snow, and then all this week it's been cold and windy and snowy, so I've been spending most of my time in the garage wondering why I even bothered to come all the way up here. It's spring break, darn it! I want spring! I'm sure the weather's been lovely in Chicago this whole time (aside from that storm, of course)---and I'm also sure you won't hesitate to rub that in, either. Oh well.

I hear there have been plenty of bikes spotted in Morris despite the wintry weather, but no one here has seen fit to bring me along. Maybe this weekend? I'm not sure what everyone else has planned for the rest of my stay, but it might be kind of cool to wander around a town large enough to actually have a supermarket. Or maybe I'll just take a spin along that road parallel to the railroad tracks and see if I can get some cool pictures of trains. The sun has been making brief appearances all day, and the dusting of snow on the fields actually looks kind of scenic. Perhaps I could even make myself useful and help with the recycling or something. Don't worry, I won't go anywhere you wouldn't!

That's all for now, I guess. Give my regards to any other folding bikes you see, if you decide to sneak out for Critical Mass this evening. See you again next week!


PS: I'll try to stay awake this time on the train when we pass the bike trail, I promise.

Walkability and urban communities (quick detour)

Read this while I wander around the campus of University of Minnesota Morris*:

Restoring Burnham's Vision for a Grand Gateway to the Lake

It's part 3 of a piece by Lynn Becker, but that's the part I found the most interesting. (You know, if you only have time to read one and trust my judgement on anything.)

*It's like the Bradley University campus, but without the unimaginable horror of having to be in Peoria.

Walkability and rural communities

The concern is mainly traffic (a significant portion of which is tractor trailers) passing through town rather quickly along the state or county highways on the way to some other destination. Therefore, it seems reasonable to me that the highways should have sidewalks where where they pass through these little towns, unbroken within the town boundaries (not just limited to the historic "downtown" area) and on both sides of the streets. I would imagine these sidewalks would be built and maintained by the state/county/whatever, but there'd probably have to be some complicated funding formula involved.

Elsewhere in town you could probably barbecue in the middle of the street and nobody would care, so the lack of sidewalks isn't an issue. Half the streets aren't even paved.

23 March 2009

Bad news, everyone

Metra's SouthWest Service Adds Saturday Trips!

I was ecstatically happy---until I picked up a new schedule and saw that the first outbound train to Manhattan arrives at 2:55pm. Even worse, the last train back into the city departs a scant 20 minutes later. (It's probably the same train.)

This would be fine if all I wanted to do was hang out at the station for a while, but unfortunately I still harbor delusional dreams of glory Kankakee River State Park. Have you any idea how freakin' far that is from Joliet Union Station? Seriously, how far is it? I can't remember at this moment, but I do know that it's pretty darn far for a round-trip bike ride.


In addition, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is still just as far away as it was last summer. Damn.

21 March 2009

Okay, so now I have a jacket with armpit zippers

What am I supposed to do with them?

Chicagoland II

The Active Transportation Alliance, formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, is still claiming that the word "Chicagoland" was ditched from the name because it's too ambiguous. I was starting to think that perhaps they were right, that the only people who know what "Chicagoland" refers to are Tribune readers and railfans. Then I found this map, which seems straightforward enough for even the densest denizens of our expansive metropolitan area.

Now, normally I don't spend $6 on a map I don't need, so would anyone like to buy a used, slightly out-of-date (no I-355 extension, oddly enough) map of Chicagoland? Or perhaps I should hold onto it anyway; I have precious few "ordinary" road maps of anything.

This Chicagoland map extends along Lake Michigan to Pleasant Prairie, WI in one direction and Portage, IN in the other; southeast to Demotte, IN; along I-57 to Bourbonnais and Bradley; southwest to Ransom; along the Illinois River to Seneca and Marseilles; along I-88 to DeKalb; and northwest to Capron, Sharon, WI, and Walworth, WI.

It's the largest area I've ever seen of any one Chicago-area map. (And all on one side! That's devilishly hard to find.) This lovely map also notes to locations of dozens of tiny unincorporated towns that nobody knows exist, even well within the expanse of the more established suburbs' interlocking municipal boundaries. All the expressways are named, all the state parks and forest preserves are properly labeled, and points of interest include the Illinois Railway Museum and Dresden Nuclear Power Plant. I'm quite impressed, actually. In fact, I think I'm in love. Nevermind, then; it's not for sale after all.

Anyway, I still don't understand how anyone (especially around here) could be confused by the term "Chicagoland." What else could that mean but the City of Chicago and the land surrounding it?

Unless I'm mostly just scowling at the thought of all the money I donated going toward bike-plan consultation in Cedar Rapids, IA. That just seems like a bit of a reach to me. There isn't enough to be done around here?

20 March 2009

Hyde Park's supposed parking problem is not entirely nonexistent

I was recently visited by a friend of mine who drove in from the suburbs. ("Because the STAR Line doesn't exist yet!") We drove around and around several blocks for several minutes looking for a damn parking spot. We weren't peeved at the fact that we couldn't park directly across the street from my building's front door, we just needed a place to leave the car for a night and a day that was close enough not to risk armed robbery walking back to my apartment (it was kind of late).

During the course of our journey we passed countless cars coated in pigeon poop and wheelcover-deep in snowplow detritus, filthy rusting cars that obviously hadn't gone anywhere in many months. Evidently there are no small number of people in this neighborhood who have cars they never drive, cars they get to leave sitting out on the public way for absolutely free day after day after day after day.

Something's not right.

First of all, what the hell are you doing with a car here in the city if you don't ever drive it? You'd think the whopping cost of a city vehicle sticker would be enough of a deterrent on its own from doing such a thing. If it's so you can visit your parents out in your middle-of-nowhere hometown, then you need to either visit them more often or make them come pick you up. Or just rent a car for the purpose. I can't imagine occasional car rental costing much more than it does to insure your poopmobile here in the city, unless you've lied to the insurance company and told them that you still live with your parents in order to get a cheaper rate. Oh, grow up already, you weenies. When I was your age...

Anyway, second of all, while I have no problem with laws and ordinances and taxes and fees and whatnot that are designed to make car ownership in the city prohibitively expensive (because really, aside from the occasional errands run or long-distance trip---for which car sharing and rental, respectively, should suffice---what else do you need a car for around here? especially if you can't afford your own spot in a private residential garage or lot? you're just contributing to the very problems about which you never cease to complain...), driving into a city neighborhood and parking there for a day or two shouldn't cost an arm and a leg---or be impossible to do because residents hog all the free spots with cars they seldom drive. Friends who live in hicksville and elderly relatives who can't walk should not be sighing and tearing their hair at the thought of visiting us here in Hyde Park because it's such a freaking pain in the ass.

I mean, for one thing, it's very bad for local business. For example, my friend and I could have run inside Village Foods to grab some ice cream or something, but by the time we could find a parking spot they had closed for the night.

17 March 2009


Happy Bike Day. I'm grossly out of shape and hence exhausted.

13 March 2009


Now I remember.

I don't ride in winter---which I define as "air temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit"---because my toes are unusually susceptible to frostbite.

I don't know why. I've tried every tip I've ever been given, and none of them have ever worked for me. (Except for those chemical patches, which worked so well that they burned holes in my socks.) I think I just have poor circulation in my feet, because my feet are always cold. Maybe I'm diabetic. I'm probably going to die. And nobody will figure it out until my apartment starts to smell bad.

Anyway, you know the feeling when you stub your toes really hard and the pain actually intensifies with each passing moment? Well, first my toes start to go numb after only about fifteen minutes outside, and then upon returning indoors they feel exactly like that. Maybe a little worse.

I should note that this doesn't happen when I walk, at least not until temperatures get low enough for everyone to be at risk for frostbite.

So, it's not that I'm wimpy or lazy or anything. It's my stupid feet. Would somebody please invent some battery-powered pedal warmers or something? So I can ride my bike in winter like a normal midwestern alt-trans advocate?

12 March 2009

Another episode of Hybrid and Folder: This sucks

Hybrid: This sucks.
Folder: Tell me about it.
Hybrid: Tell you what? You're the one who's been out and about lately.
Folder: Yeah, in Ghetto Hicksville. Everyone thought I was a BMX.
Hybrid: Ouch.
Folder: And there was that fixed-gear who made fun of my last week.
Hybrid: In Zion?
Folder: In the Loop!
Hybrid: Double ouch.
Folder: *sigh*
Hybrid: I don't get it. What happened?
Folder: Huh?
Hybrid: Well, here I am with new pedals and a new bell and new reflective tape, and I'm still just sitting here!
Folder: Well, it got cold again. That's March for you.
Hybrid: Cold shmold! Has she been riding another bike? A new road bike or something?
Folder: Um, no...
Hybrid: Then maybe it's a guy.
Folder: A what?

Zion in the news, or Someday I'll die of cancer

Truth in Politics: Zion Nuclear Power Plant

Beach Fantasy: Sun, Sand and Asbestos

I saw both recently for photographic purposes.


11 March 2009

Five more days of ice skating!

10 March 2009

Back off the saddle

Well, I'm back in the city again for the time being, if you've noticed. (I'm sure all zero of you are thrilled.) I kind of wanted to go for a nice medium-length bike ride this afternoon, but from the news reports it seems that all of northeastern Illinois is underwater, and being jobless means that I don't have anywhere to commute so I can then use this space to complain (with much self-satisfied smugness, of course) about how epically awful it is out there.

I miss bike commuting. Will somebody please hire me just so I'll have an excuse to complain about it all the time again?

Why should the young and stupid have all the fun?

I have a great idea for an art show theme---Inlaw Bike Culture.

Got pics or videos of your spouse's parents happily riding their rental Trek Navigators through the park? Or have they taken up cycling in their retirement and are now Ragin' Roadies riding centuries in their club gear every weekend? Did they bestow your toddlers with tiny bikes for X-mas and have been supervising them as they pedal in adorable circles around the driveway?

This stuff's golden, people!

08 March 2009

Impertinent question

Where do you plug in your electric car if you live in an apartment and park on the street a block away?

It was a nice idea while it lasted

From the SouthtownStar:
Homer Glen suffering an identity crisis
"The disdain for growth and the appreciation for the environment gave Homer Glen an identity like no other suburb around here.

"But times have inevitably changed.

"Homer Glen needs cash.

"Since I-355 opened in 2007, traffic has boomed. Just on 159th Street, volume of cars and trucks has jumped from 14,000 a day to almost 27,000. Those drivers are cutting through the village, creating congestion and wearing out the town's roads in the process while leaving little behind in sales taxes because there's no place to spend money. Even gas stations in Homer Glen are hard to find."
[links added]
Even if you choose not to sprawl, it seems that sprawl will still inevitably come to you.

Recall that Homer Glen was featured in Chicago Wilderness last year for their light pollution ordinance:
Homer Glen Sees the Light

For future reference

Midwest High Speed Rail Association:
Illinois Central Corridor at Risk

I keep losing that link. Yes, it should be pretty easy to remember that URL, but I'm a fairly complicated person.

07 March 2009

Our nation's crumbling railroad infrastructure

Quite literally.

View Larger Map

You might have heard that the railroad viaduct at 63rd and State started falling apart the other day, prompting street closures and hence CTA bus reroutes and extensive traffic delays.

Of course, I don't need to tell you that by "traffic delays" they all meant "automobile traffic delays."

Something just occurred to me: Of all the stories I read, heard on the radio, and watched on television, not one of them mentioned whether or not the emergency repair work/inspection was causing any train delays.

(Now, maybe that just means that there weren't any, at least not for passenger trains, but I'm not inclined to believe that.)

And then I suddenly remember why everyone was making such a fuss about CN's acquisition of the EJ&E. Which concern is at the top of that list?

My fellow Americans, we must fix our nations crumbling railroad infrastructure---so that cars can pass through it safely and without delay.

Seems that car-head isn't limited to bicycle neglect.

In other depressing news, this. I'm somewhat tempted to take advantage of it.

05 March 2009

They really didn't have anything better to do?

From Bad Astronomy:
Illinois plutocrats are frakkin’ goofy

"The government of Illinois, an an obvious attempt to distract America from Blagojevich’s hair, has declared that Pluto is a planet..."


Does anyone have a Chicagoland Bicycle Map handy? If so, could you look up and tell me the red, orange, and bike-lane labeled streets between the lakefront, the Wisconsin state line, Kenosha Road, and 29th Street in Zion? By, say, early this afternoon?

04 March 2009

Crimes of fashion, or These ARE my "regular" clothes!

In my latest completely weird yet vivid dream, I was on trial for criminally negligent homicide. I'd been biking down the street in my "regular" clothes, minding my own business, when a style-conscious driver saw me and gaped in absolute horror at my grubby sneakers, old Bike the Drive t-shirt, and lack of makeup (Avenger the Ugly As Sin Hybrid probably didn't help, either), and thus was so distracted that she struck and killed a pedestrian. The county prosecutor decided that it would be easier to nail me for failing to wear fashionable apparel while cycling for transportation, since Matt's Law still hadn't passed.

Which reminded me that I need to check on that, seeing as how it was years ago now. Remind me later, or let me know if you know.

Anyway, I really need to stop taking those occasional comments (occasionally directed at me; one young woman at the Bike Winter art show some weeks ago was rather hurtful) by other bike advocates about not wearing "regular clothes" or "normal clothes" so personally, don't I.

02 March 2009

The typical (or stereotypical) bike commuter in Zion, IL

Male, middle-aged, low-income, probably living with some degree of mental illness. Often lives alone or with mother; doesn't drive due to lack of driver's license, inability to afford car ownership, or both. Rides cheap mountain-style bike (up to 15 years old, probably from discount/big-box store) sans any specialized "commuting" accessories to part-time job(s) in service sector (usually retail), most often along the very same high-traffic routes that a driver would use, with the presence or absence of sidewalks/sidepaths being irrelevant.

Wondering how we can make more bike-friendly communities for these folks, seeing as how they already live here, already get around by bike for their own reasons (which seem vastly different from those often given in lists of bike commuting benefits during Bike to Work Week), and probably don't even consider themselves "bike commuters" or "active transportation advocates" or whatever. Theirs is not a problem to which paving more off-street trails and painting more bike lanes would necessarily be the best (or even any) solution.

There's a class issue here that most alt-trans types seem to be ignoring. It could be completely unintentional. Or it could be on purpose, for some reason that could be justified. I can see it either way, but I can't see which it is.

Do you bicycle commute, or do you just ride one to work?

CTA selling real estate

Chicago Tribune:
CTA puts out 'for sale' sign: Transit agency hopes to sell or lease properties

I had to see it for myself to believe it, and here it is:
CTA Real Estate

You can register for electronic alerts, in true CTA fashion.

01 March 2009

Spend your Saturday in Manhattan

Chicago Breaking News:
Metra's SouthWest Service adds Saturday trips