29 April 2009

New bell 2.0

From Dimension Bike Products; acquired at Blackstone Bicycle Works for $7, which is $7 more than I paid for my previous new bell. With luck this one will last longer. (Wasn't the other bell's fault, though.)

In related news, don't trust your kickstand anywhere but on completely flat, clean pavement.

Get your train on

May 9 is National Train Day. (Second annual, as I recall.)

I saw this ad in the Amtrak waiting room at Chicago Union Station:

It occurs to me that Amtrak might make (or lose) slightly more (or less) money if they didn't advertise only themselves in their own waiting room, unless people are actually buying those posters. Can you actually buy those posters?

Anyway, there will be stuff going on at Union Station, including "train equipment displays," which hopefully isn't just a big photographer sting, and a "snapshot station" utilizing "green screen technology" to create a "custom train-themed photo backdrop," for those of you who'd rather not risk controversial arrest finding your own train-themed photo backdrop.

The railfan-lite fun starts at 10am and goes on until 3pm. Check out the Web site for ironic driving directions, if you must.

28 April 2009

Quad Cities depot makes Landmarks Illinois' top ten list

Landmarks Illinois' 2009 Ten Most Endangered Historic Places includes the Davenport, Rock Island and Northwestern Depot:

"Located in the Quad Cities along the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, this turn-of-the-century train depot was designed by architect Olaf Z. Cervin of Rock Island, completed in 1900, and was in active use for over 30 years. In 1934, the decommissioned depot was converted into offices for the Frank Foundry Company. The City of Moline purchased the building in 1994, designated it a local landmark, and renovated it as a Visitor Center. That facility closed in May 2008 and the building is now vacant. A new federal highway bridge is scheduled for construction at this location, and the depot stands in the way of an off-ramp."

I passed this building some number of times while on two GITAPs and an independent overnight trip last spring. I went inside and picked up Bicycle Trails of Illinois, several postcards, and a whole stack of free maps/guides when it still was a visitor center. I'd be very sad to see it razed for a mere off-ramp.

(Pertinent question: What would said construction do to the Great River Trail, which runs through the parking lot of that very depot? There are plans for a reroute and a temporary detour in the meantime, right? Right?)

26 April 2009

I find this completely terrifying for some reason

From the Herald News:
Boy hurt in 'freak' driveway accident

"In what officials are calling a freak accident, a child was critically injured after a SUV — carrying a 2-year-old girl who had opened a car door to place a doll inside — shifted out of gear and rolled backwards into a 5-year-old bicyclist in a driveway Friday evening in unincorporated Will County near Plainfield..."

24 April 2009

Ass coverage first, safety second

Make sure your bike has a headlight in front---you never know when you'll be hit from behind!

In other news, don't ever argue with the police. Just don't.

Oh crud, I was going to go to the Indiana Dunes this weekend

South Shore Trains Halted After Car Accident

Something tells me it was no "accident" if the driver fled the scene on foot. Sheesh, not even trains are safe from negligent asswipes behind the wheel these days.

22 April 2009

True or false: In which I transform a simple bike ride into a complex moral dilemma and thus reveal my myriad character flaws

I should ride in Critical Mass on Friday.

Now, regular readers will recall that I seldom do Critical Mass, on principle. However, there's a word for someone who regularly refuses to do things on principle, and that word is "asshole." Everyone else in the so-called cycling community does Critical Mass and has tons of fun, so why not me?

And if everyone else started jumping off a cliff, would you do it?

Well, that actually depends a lot on the conditions of this cliff-jumping. If people are merely hurling themselves into oblivion like so many mindless lemmings, then of course not. But if I'm a member of a group outfitted with the proper safety equipment that's participating in a high ropes course as part of some team-building exercise, and the success of said group is contingent upon my jumping off said cliff, then what kind of asshole would I be to refuse?

So the question here is whether riding in Critical Mass would be closer to the former situation, or the latter.

On the other hand, something about fragrantly breaking the Illinois Vehicle Code simply to have a good time really grates on me.

But on yet another hand (pretend I have three hands, if you must), I really need to get out more. Everyone else always has so much fun at CCM ("That's too bad; you missed out on a really great ride."), and deliberately sitting out on that much fun ("Maybe if you didn't take principled stands against everything all the time."), month after month after month ("I held out my hand; you bit it off. What do you want from me?"), kinda keeps me from meeting new people. ("He told me that you're just always so depressing, he got tired of talking to you.") And then I get lonely ("I'm sorry, but you're really a drain on me."), so I sit here and blog ("Why aren't you on Facebook, anyway?"), until even that ceases to be interesting. ("So what have you been up to?") And do other things. ("Jenny, please get better.")

I should probably stay home after all.

20 April 2009

Bike repair for the uninitiated

I want to ride my bike more this summer, but it's old and probably needs fixing. What do I do?
Take it to a bike shop for a tune-up. Explain if you have to that you aren't looking to work out or start commuting, but for now you just need something functional enough to get you around on the trails in your community.

But it's a cheap-ass Huffy. Won't they make fun of me?
If they do, then find another shop.

There is no other bike shop around here.
Then I guess you're out of luck. Don't you have any friends who are bike buffs?

No; that biking-all-the-time stuff is for dorks.
Thanks. Now stay the hell off my bike trail, loser.

No, wait! That came out wrong. I'm sorry. I need your help.
Okay, I'm trying to give it to you.

Is there anyway I can avoid going to the bike shop? In These Tough Economic Times and all.
You know, you could probably save a lot of money by biking instead of driving for some things.

Yes yes, I know, but I'm not there yet. For now I just want to fix up my cheap-ass Huffy so I can ride around on the trails where I live.
Okay, first inflate the tires.

I don't have a bike pump.
Go to the bike shop and get a pump.

Aw man!

Okay, now what?
Make sure you get one with a pressure gauge.

Wait, so I have to return the one I just bought and get the one with the dial thingy on it, even though it's more expensive?

Alright, alright, sheesh. I just can't believe how much this bike stuff is costing me.
For cryin' out loud, you bought a freaking pump! That's like the cheapest, most basic accessory there is!

Yeah, but In These Tough Economic Times...
Hey, do you want to ride your bike or not?

Yes, I do!
Okay, now inflate both tires.

How much?
There should be a number on them somewhere telling you the maximum pressure. Pump air into them until the gauge is at that number, and then stop.

Why not a little extra? You know, just in case?
Because your inner tubes will explode.

Whoa, seriously?
Well, it happened to me once.

So now what?
Find someplace where you can pedal around slowly without dying. You need to make sure the brakes work.

They don't. How do I fix them?
Take your bike to a shop or find a bike dork.

You're kidding!
Seriously, you really shouldn't be fiddling around with your own brakes.

Okay, well, they sort of work. I mean, it's hard to stop when I go fast, but I'm not going to be going fast, right?
Well, just be aware that they're going to need to be fixed at some point by someone who already knows how to do it.

What's next?
Try shifting.

I'm kind of stuck.
Are you kind of stuck in a gear where you can pedal easily and stop safely?

Yeah, I guess.
Then you're good to go.

Wait, so that's it?
Yeah, pretty much.

But my bike is still broken!
*sigh* Then take it to a bike shop and get a tune-up. I told you that already.

But it's a cheap-ass Huffy. It's probably not worth what I'd pay for a full tune-up.
Then maybe it's time for a new bike. Something better than a cheap-ass Huffy, perhaps.

But that's expensive!
Well, that's life. How much was your car?

That's different.
Then why don't you just go on a nice drive instead of riding your bike? Cheapass.

Hey, I was told biking was cheap.
It is cheap, but "cheap" doesn't mean "free." Would you, I dunno, decide you want to take up knitting so you could make your own scarf, but then stamp your foot and refuse to buy yarn?

Okay, I see your point.
See you on the bike trail, then.

In case your day has been going too well

Check out these beauties.

The division bell

My ring-ring bell, which I got free at the member meeting of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation on the infamous night that it transformed into the Active Transportation Alliance, has broken.

Who sells those?

In other news, I'm fat and I hate myself.

19 April 2009

People make me sad

Country Club Hills farmhouse offers glimpse into past

concerned in cch wrote:
What a touching story but remind me again why during these hard economic times are [Country Club Hills] tax paying residents paying for this?

18 April 2009

Lawmakers behold decrepit transit system, express surprise

From Chicago Breaking News:
Legislators see the worst of transit system
"[Eight lawmakers on a tour of Metra and CTA stations] called the Cicero [Metra] station and other scenes of rust-streaked decay 'eye-opening' and vowed to push their Springfield colleagues for a multibillion-dollar program to maintain and upgrade equipment and facilities..."

17 April 2009

Schnauzer, Joey Ms.
age 15 1/2, was born in Joliet, IL. A lifelong resident of Chicago, she was co-founder of Chicago Cycling Club and its club mascot for 15 years. She also rode with Chicago Critical Mass, San Francisco Critical Mass, and Cycling Sisters Chicago. She rode RAGBRAI ten times, cycled in France, Portugal, California, New York, Minnesota, Oregon, and Utah, and rode from Ottawa, Canada to Washington, D.C. Joey led a ride in honor of her Bark Mitzvah. It was a Tour of Temples. Her mileage was as high as 2,000/year for several years of her short life. She always wore her helmet. She won countless prizes for costumes at Halloween. Her best one was Elvis in her pink Cadillac based on a bicycle trailer. She was the October, 2008 calendar girl for the P.A.W.S. calendar. She appeared on many TV news programs and in magazines and newspapers. She had her own Web site, http://www.kangarooconnection.com/joeyspage.html. She went over the rainbow on Monday, April 13th at 10:30AM. She is survived by her dog guardian Kathy Schubert, her groomer Missy Baumgarten, her Uncle Ernie in Florida, and countless friends in Illinois and Iowa. Donations may be made in her honor to P.A.W.S., http://www.pawschicago.org, 1110 W. 35th Street, Chicago, IL 60609; or West Town Bikes, http://westtownbikes.org, 2459 W Division St, Chicago IL 60622.

Via Cycling Sisters.

16 April 2009

The chainlink

Well, I'm on the chainlink now. Not sure what I'm supposed to do with it.

Beware copy editors on bikes

We are not easily defeated.

[Helmet tip to Roger Kramer Cycling.]

In other news *cough*reallyboring*cough*, this.

15 April 2009

CN: "It's not our fault"

Update: Better reporting in the SouthtownStar:
EJ&E report: Blocked crossings not from CN trains
"But critics said CN officials failed to mention the numerous delays caused by its freight traffic, as well as a brush fires in Plainfield and Crest Hill started by CN equipment on March 17."
Whoa, brush fires? That's not good. Lot's of forest preserve land along that line.

In other news, states seek stimulus money for high-speed rail. According to that report, one of the top priorities is upgrading the passenger route between Chicago and Madison---pretty ambitious, considering that such a route doesn't even exist.

From Chicago Breaking News:
Railway files report on EJ&E crossing blockages
"In [February and March], four crossings were blocked more than two hours and eight others from Wayne to Naperville to Gary were blocked for more than an hour for mainly mechanical and switching reasons, the data filed with the federal Surface Transportation Board showed today.

"In [CN's] report, the first one it has filed with the transportation board, the Montreal-based railroad pointed out that most of the blocked crossings were caused by EJ&E trains, not CN trains. CN only started running its trains on the EJ&E on March 11..."

[Van Dyke Rd. in Plainfield.]

Obligatory post about bikes appearing briefly in regular pop culture

Before people start assaulting me with the URL, yes, I have seen that CSI: NY episode where they interview the guy who plays bike polo. (Tron helmet tip to Cyclelicious.)

As I don't play bike polo it would seem irrelevant, but I realize that everyone outside the so-called bicycle community thinks we're all pretty much the same, so I suppose I ought to say that I appreciate the thought, but now I've spared you the trouble of telling me that there were a bunch of guys playing bike polo on CSI: NY the other night.

Irrelevant "bike culture" question of the day: If the whole appeal of brakeless fixies is their uncluttered simplicity, then why all the spoke cards?

14 April 2009

Little help

Is there a Will Co. bikeway map, and if so, where could I get one?

I have a very nice planning map for DuPage and a BLOS map for Kane (albeit some years out of date), but all I have for Will is a forest preserve map and (naturally) the Chicagoland Bicycle Map, which is unfortunately quite useless in that area now.

Speaking of ActiveTrans, I saw from the train somewhere in Minnesota a company that had a logo very similar to the new one that I don't like. You know, kind of shield-shaped, which a gray field on top and a green field on the bottom, and a white slash or swoop through the middle separating the two fields. Or maybe it was more circular. I think it was either a bank or some agricultural company. I desperately wanted to get a picture but (miraculously) the train was going too fast at the time. Or was I in the car? Maybe it was actually in Wisconsin. In any case, I am NOT making this up. Whatever it was, I saw it, and it looked almost exactly like the ATA logo, except it was for a bank, or some sort of agricultural company, and I found it so hilarious that I snorted whatever beverage I was drinking all over myself and then had rather conspicuous stain all over the crotch of my pants for the rest of the day, which is why I remember seeing it at all.

In completely different news, a parable.

11 April 2009

Roadie and the Dutch: An alt-trans romance

She was a vehicular cyclist who raced competitively and had a wardrobe full of jerseys, each more colorful than the last.

He cruised on a European-made townie in a three-piece suit and tie and advocated passionately for separate bike facilities.

Their paths had never crossed, but one red light run cautiously---or so she thought---would change both their lives forever...

Maybe I don't feel like playing Good Citizen today

Silver 2007 Breezer Zig7. That’s the bike I ride---and if you’re driving a black 2001 Saturn SC2 on the road and acting like a total asshole and I see your car, I hope you’re wearing a helmet, because I might smash my U-lock through the driver's side window.


Because you see, with all the shit I have to put up with on my bike nowadays, such as arrogant blowhards who place their convenience over my safety and threaten to hit me if I don't get out of their way, or claim not to see me even though I'm more lit than your mom on Christmas Eve, I might not care how late you are for your damn biology lab.

And, considering you are driving like it's your divine right to exterminate any bicyclist you encounter, I might hit you. In fact, I probably will. Asshole.

Drivers need to stay on the interstate.

06 April 2009

If I ran the zooRTA

Universal farecards already. One card lets you ride everything everywhere and anywhere anytime, regardless of how that fare is determined. You can either link it to a credit/debit card or reload it with cash at one of many, many transit farecard kiosks. And I mean many. They'll be just as common as ATMs. In fact, I think I'll even make it a requirement---any bank branch that wants to open an ATM lobby will also have to install at least one transit kiosk, and you'll be able to open the door with your farecard after hours so you can reload it. Buses will no longer take cash, period, end of discussion. If you just need to get to a shelter, you'll be able to call a number and something like Paratransit will come pick you up and give you a free ride to the nearest shelter. If all you really want is money, then you'll have to come up with some other reason why strangers should give you their spare change. Oh, and bikes-only cars on all trains, of course. And anyone caught trying to defend their regular seat on Metra will be publicly humiliated and tossed off the train at the next stop. Same for anyone caught peeing on the L. And my name shall be plastered all over northeastern Illinois, and all who hate public transportation shall curse it, and all who love it shall bow down and worship me and gladly do my bidding so that with my vast army of adoring transit geeks I can take over the world---BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Um, well, let's at least start with universal farecards already.

05 April 2009

Thank you, sir, may I have another?

Chicago Sun-Times:
Beach for Olympians would close lake path

Is there anyone left who still harbors those delusional notions that the Olympics would actually improve so-called alternative transportation down here?

04 April 2009

STAR Line open thread

Metra's proposed STAR Line: Love it? Hate it? Read about it? Don't know what it is? Please share your comments, complaints, and compliments. Don't be shy. (But please be polite!)

I know I have readers all over Chicagoland and beyond (or at least I used to). I also know what a few vociferous bloggers and a couple of Real Life acquaintances think of the STAR Line, but that's about it. Is there a general consensus? Is there antagonism between certain groups? What's going on? What do you think?

Oh no, not again

Damn it all, now that it's spring (sort of) I'm starting to get those pesky thoughts of shoving all I have worth saving into a storage locker and just riding my bike around the country until I either die or run out of money; and then, in the latter case, I'd really throw myself into the job hunt like I'm supposed to do, like all the people who are, in fact, getting jobs.

(I mean, at least it would give me something interesting to tell about myself at interviews, right? At present I'm really at a loss about what to say. There's just not much of me left anymore, just someone else who's occupying this space for the indeterminate future and vaguely remembers being intelligent and great fun at parties once upon a time. But there I go again.)

Anyway, someone's going to tell me to go ahead and do it, and I won't, because I'm not that kind of person, and I'm terrified of being broke, really broke. I've seen people barely scrape by as a result of daring decisions in the past to do something interesting, and they really don't seem to be any happier for it once the thrills turn into bills.

So, do I want a lifetime of misery, or... a lifetime of misery?

If drivers won't even yield to pedestrians...

...then why should we expect them to stop for endangered turtles?

03 April 2009

Sudden thought

Of all the self-proclaimed hipsters I knew in college and shortly thereafter (admittedly there weren't many of them), exactly zero rode any kind of bike anywhere.

In fact, they all rather thought I was a huge dork for doing so. (And that was back when hybrids were cool.)

So where did the track bike hipster culture trend thing come from? And when?

Those CSX ads!

Have you seen those CSX ads? I have, and I'm always thrilled when I do. My favorite are "Close to Nothing" and "Transformation," if you must know.

02 April 2009

Another skyline

01 April 2009

And now shifting momentarily to Atheist Blogger(TM) mode

I would like to share with you and dissect a puzzling track tract I found on the Empire Builder yesterday. It's called "How To Destroy Your Church."

Don't attend.
Well, if you're not attending, then it's not really your church anymore, is it. So just admit that already and embrace "weak agnosticism" or whatever it is you want to call it, or else be "born again" or something and go back.
(Corollary 1: You are destroying every single church in the whole world that you don't attend. Corollary 2: Every single church in the whole world is your church, so you'd better attend all of them if you don't want to destroy them.)

If you do attend, arrive late and leave early.
I think this is more "How To Annoy Your Church."

Visit other churches often.
First, this contradicts corollary 2 above, but let's put that aside for now. Why shouldn't you visit other churches? It can be educational and enlightening. At worst it can be infuriating, and thus serve to remind you why you attend your church instead of the one that you just visited. I for one will never forget the time I went to a Lutheran service on what happened to be Reformation Day or something, back when I was still Roman Catholic. At the time I wasn't sure whether I should convert or start arguing.

At every service ask yourself, "What do I get out of this?"
It seems to me that this would be an excellent way to make sure that you don't destroy your church. If you find that you can't answer that question or that the answer is "nothing," then maybe you ought to speak with your pastor about it. Dragging yourself to church even when you feel like you don't get anything out of it is a waste of your time and probably a burden on the rest of the congregation as well. Your flagging faith and waning commitment only weaken the strength of the community. Search your soul and either renew your faith with fresh vigor or find something else that you can believe with all your heart.

Never volunteer for anything. Let the pastor do it.
Okay, if enough people in your church have this attitude, then perhaps it really could suffer a slow death and eventually be sort of passively destroyed. However, I doubt "The Church," of which your former parish was only one small part, would suffer all that much because of your inactivity. (As much as I may sometimes wish that it would...) Volunteer with your church because you're a good person and you like doing it, not because some 5-cent piece of paper left on the train told you to do so.

About what? This is asinine.

Be critical of the pastor and the musicians.
But what if the pastor is molesting the musicians?

Don't give, or wait until the end of the tax year to see if you have any extra money.
If your god would rather you went bankrupt than stop tithing to your church, then your god is an asshole.

Don't talk with others or encourage them.
About what? To do what? Also asinine.

Don't forgive when someone offends you.
Well, that's not very nice at all, but how exactly would it destroy your church?

Avoid praying for your church.
Again, if you've avoided praying for it, then it's not your church.

Extremely local news: Serious for a moment

Ladies (and gentlemen), I am going to tell you what what an upperclassman told my friends and me that very first night of freshman orientation all those years ago.


Do NOT call the University of Chicago Police. Do NOT go to the Student Care Center. Call the city police and go directly to the emergency room. Do so immediately, even (especially) if it's "only" acquaintance rape. To hell with university policy, and to hell with your student insurance (if that's what you have); you can sort it all out after you've been treated and tested and any evidence collected according to procedures that are standard everywhere else. YOUR safety, health, and psychological well-being are ALWAYS more important than any institutional bullshit, and don't you ever forget that.

(In case you were wondering, this is why. I was warned long ago that something like that would happen if I followed the university's procedures.)

And if you're so afraid of date rape that you don't drink and never date, well, that really isn't so bad. More time to study and ride your bike. Or you can just outsource all that stuff to another college.

Bike for sale

Men's 21-speed Trek 7100 hybrid bike with grip shifts and suspension seatpost. Purchased new in 2005 and looks rather worse than its age, but still in good condition and can take a beating if you're willing to give it a little love. I forget the frame size, but I'm 5'6" and rode it comfortably. Rigid fork, new poly BMX pedals, and puncture-resistant Vittoria Randonneur tires with many miles but probably still good for another summer. (The other parts are original and came standard with the 7100 model.) Accessories include rear carrying rack, SKS Chromo-Plastic fenders (silver), bar-end rearview mirror, new bell, two water bottle cages, Kryptonite U-lock, and a couple of stickers that I haven't been able to peel off the frame. Color is maroon and silver, but this is not a bike for people who particularly care about color. Great for commuting and errands around the city, suitable for long-distance weekend rides. Asking price available upon request and willing to negotiate. Also willing to throw in some additional accessories depending on your needs.