30 November 2010

GOP's ideal transportation plan is totally retro!

Streetsblog Capitol Hill: GOP Wants to Bring Transpo Policy Back to the 1950s
"Meanwhile, [Republican staff director of the House Highways and Transit Subcommittee Jim] Tymon said the Republicans want to bring transportation spending back to it roots in the 1950s-ā€“-interstate commerce and travel, with a strong focus on the National Highway System. It all adds up to a possible revision of the longstanding 80/20 ratio governing highway and transit spending, with transit losing ground. Tymon confirmed that a new calculus could be coming."
In other news, this.

Why is there a bike lane on Canal between Adams and Jackson?

I don't think anyone other than myself, who is stupid and always forgets, ever uses it.

[Union Station.]

29 November 2010

You go, roadies!

By tomorrow, this will be all over Teh Intertubz, and all the usual suspects are going to make all the usual complaints about all the lycra in all the photos. I say, go roadies! I'd love to have a boss who invited me on a 30-mile bike ride every day at lunch. Maybe after a while I'd be fast enough to have time to actually eat lunch, too. And then I'd look good in lycra.

Death by explosive tire overinflation

And you thought I was just being paranoid.

25 November 2010

Amtrak Hiawatha line booming; passengers enjoy using socialist electronic devices while not driving

Fox 6 News, via Midwest High Speed Rail.

23 November 2010

When will I finally feel like I deserve my Cross-Check?

I've owned it 15 months and it already looks like a pile of crap. And yet, I still feel completely unworthy of owning such a nice bicycle, like I just don't ride fast, far, often, or epically enough to deserve it. I stare at it sadly and think "I'm so sorry that you got stuck with me." Or sometimes "Why the hell did I buy this thing? I'm broke, and I never ride it anywhere I can't ride the hybrid instead."

22 November 2010

Tornado watch expanded east to NW Indiana counties

Weather Underground warnings for Cook Co., IL

Be safe out there.

Because I don't intend for them to be a permanent fixture

I want quick-release roadie fenders, front and back, for fat tires. Do those exist?

I don't mind getting grimy, but I do mind being glared at by store employees.

20 November 2010

Five engines and moving at bicycle pace

What's the deal with that? The train I mean.

I am never flying anywhere ever

Wedding in Boston? Congratulations; I'm not coming.

18 November 2010

Seneca bridge is falling down

"On purpose."

16 November 2010


Fullmetal is a 2010 2009 Surly Cross-Check. (Mine is boring basic black because it was either that color or poop "beef gravy" brown that year. Ah well.) The name is from Edward Elric's title of Fullmetal Alchemist, so given because of his automail (metal prosthetic) arm and leg. A more accurate English translation of the original Japanese title (so I've heard) is "Alchemist of Steel"; similarly, Fullmetal is my Bicycle of Steel. Moreover, my Cross-Check is a continual reminder of the principle of Equivalent Exchange: I worked and saved for so long so that this bike could be mine, and I continue to work and save so that I can ride it to places more interesting than Walgreens.

Avenger is a 2005 Trek 7100 Multi-Trak. The name is from Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. Avenger is Harvey Birdman's sidekick/legal assistant. If there was any logic to naming my bike thus, I've forgotten it by now. I think it just sounded cool.

Scooty-Puff is a 2007 (I think) Breezer Zig7, which is basically a clone of a Dahon Boardwalk D7. The name is from Futurama. It is, well, read for yourself.

Let's boycott Wisconsin

I cringe to remember how much money I spent on our trip to Sparta, WI, this past summer. Now double it, because I wasn't traveling alone for once. We started tossing around plans for another trip the following summer, ideally for a whole week this time, before we'd even checked out of the motel.

But if Wisconsin is going to be stupid, then screw 'em, and we FIBs will take our money to some other state next year.

Don't need no stinkin' train to Madison, huh? Labor Day afternoon, I-90 was a solid mass all the way from Wisconsin Dells to Rockford, and likely all the way from Rockford to Chicago and beyond. I rode the Empire Builder on Labor Day a few years ago; it was insanely crowded but it ran pretty much on time. I'm the sort of person who would pay anything---ANYTHING---not to have to sit in a car in traffic going nowhere. (I would similarly pay anything to avoid having to go through an airport for the rest of my life, especially with TSA's new groping policy. Pre-boyfriend I might actually have enjoyed that because you take what you can get, right? but certainly not anymore.)

Anyway, I can't possibly be a minority of 1 on this.

13 November 2010

Explore Metra

Just off the Tracks

12 November 2010

Invention idea: Chain lube gun

I got this idea on the amazingly crowded Elroy-Sparta Trail back during Labor Day weekend. All the vacationing seasonal weekend warriors [she said, as she put her road bike she rides twice a month into winter storage] were out in force, and the rusty, squeaky chains of their big-box bikes echoed throughout the otherwise quiet hills of western Wisconsin. Toward the end of the day, with a headache in development, I expressed a desire for a water pistol full of chain lube to squirt at all the neglected drivetrains as we passed them. Pow! You're welcome.

Who was that bug-eyed stranger? It must be... The Lubricator! Okay, no, that won't work. Nevermind.

I can't sleep. I thought I was tired, but then my brain wouldn't shut off.

Socialist drivers feel entitled to drive right through school playground

Superintendent: ā€œIā€™m not sure why people are so confused."

11 November 2010

And another thing: Why the false dichotomy?

Good lord, these bike fashion articles are so inanely formulaic that I'm starting to wonder if there's actually a style guide for them somewhere. They always, always, always start out exactly the same way. First, the "traditional cyclist" is introduced: a male athlete who wears spandex (Lance Armstrong will probably be mentioned). Lately the the male "outlaw" with the messenger bag and the fixie is paired with the male athlete, but for the purpose of the article they both represent the same thing: a high-testosterone adrenaline junkie in a silly hat. Contrast with today's typical cyclist: a beautiful woman in a skirt and heels. Fashionable! Fun! Just like in places like Copenhagen and the Netherlands, where [some huge number] percent of people ride bikes. Take lots of eye candy photos and interview at least one female person in the fashion industry (designer, model, fashion editor, etc.) who bike commutes. List the brands of designer bikes/accessories and quote at least one designer on the increasing consumer demand for their products. More eye candy. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Enough already. We get it. This isn't news anymore. The false dichotomy between male athlete/outlaw and female fahionista (Choose one! But only one!) was useful when Cycle Chic was still a novel idea in this country, but I think it's just about outlived its usefulness and could potentially backfire if it continues for too long. The "average" American, who is neither athletic nor fashionable, is going to continue to dismiss bicycling as just another thing that isn't suitable for most people in normal situations.

Where, in these articles, is the suburban housewife who rides to the park with her kids? Where is the middle-aged bachelor who rides to the convenience store to buy milk? Where is the athlete who is also a commuter? Where is the eccentric professor who has been riding around in tweed on an old Schwinn for decades and is amused by the fact that all the hip young students are suddenly doing the same thing? Where is the elderly person with arthritis, the cancer survivor who's found a new source of strength, the harried intern coping with stress, the DUI convict, the working poor---where are all of these people in these articles, really the same article every time, about the new "typical" American bicyclist?

I really do think that these regular, boring, normal, actually average people are the ones who actually comprise most of the people who ride bikes in this country---and yet they're never mentioned. (Okay, they mostly ride for the dreaded R-word---recreation---but wouldn't that be a better hook? "So-and-so used to only go for an occasional ride on the bike trail, but then one day she started biking to work..." Yeah, didn't I read that one once? Wasn't I even interviewed for that one once? In the CBF newsletter or something, once upon a time?)

Anyway, the constructed contrast between sports and fashion, once established, creates this giant, gaping chasm into which everyone else just disappears. "Oh look, riding a bike without looking like Lance Armstrong, that's nice. Not for me, though." And then what?

Wasting time blogging about cycle chic yet again, but this time I actually have a useful revelation

I realized today that my bright yellow bike jacket of fashion doom has become so integrated into my everyday personal style that I've been wearing it even when I'm nowhere near my bike. It's now a fashion statement. It says, "Look at me! I'm bright yellow!" Sure, at first it was weird standing out so much when there wasn't any need to stand out, but now I'm enjoying the heck out of it. Yellow! I love it!

So to everyone who would like to try transportation cycling but are afraid that doing so means sacrificing style, I now say, what are you so afraid of, anyway? Go ahead and get a goofy bike accessory in a bright fun color or with lots of reflective detailing and just wear or use it every day and see what happens. You just might decide that you like it after all.

In other words, there are actually two solutions to the perceived problem of cycling and style. The first is to incorporate "style" into cycling. This is the essence of the Cycle Chic movement, and in theory it's about riding a bike in whatever outfit you already happen to be wearing with no need for special bike accessories, but in practice it's driving a whole industry of special bike accessories that are cleverly designed not to look like special bike accessories (eg, trunk bags that look like handbags, helmets that look like hats).

The second solution is to incorporate cycling into your own personal style as needed. Styrofoam hat? Whatever. Balaclava? Yeah, okay. Lobster gloves? That's fine. Huge rectangular sack with hooks on the back? Of course. Bright yellow waterproof jacket with armpit zippers and butt flap? Sure, why not.

10 November 2010

Brakeful bicycling

Fullmetal has been rebraked. The new brakes are more sticky-outy than the old ones; hopefully this won't cause entanglement-related damage when he goes for a ride in the back of the Fit. We are already seeing the beginnings of complementary scratches worn into the forks of both bikes from being rattled together so often. Clearly, this means we should be driving less. He's been spoiling me, he has, with that car of his. I can't remember the last time I rode Metra with my bike out to the suburbs and actually pedaled away from the station. It must have been last summer.

Anyway, the new brakes, which were frightfully expensive (if you're wondering what to get me for my birthday, you can just send me a check with "new brakes" in the memo field) because I was lazy and didn't get around to replacing them until after the warranty had already expired. Actually it wasn't so much laziness as the fact that it took me a fraking year to figure out how to ride that thing and then another few months to realize that the development of a blindingly fast foot-dropping reflex was actually not so much impressive as an indication that the original brakes were severely inadequate for all the non-cyclocross ways that I was utilizing my cyclocross bike that I don't deserve but love to ride anyway. (Supposedly it was akin to getting fantastically good at engine braking in the absence of any hills.) I was in need of cantilever brakes with bigger cantilevers. Give me a cantilever large enough, and maybe I can stop this thing before I get right-hooked on the Lakefront Trail at Navy Pier again. And then maybe my left and right shoes will wear out more evenly.

So I got the expensive new brakes (which weren't, all things considered; I just hadn't anticipated spending so much on replacement parts already), and they look simply awful, all sticky-outy and absolutely ruining the streamlined look that it used to have, once upon a time, at least before I started attaching all those silly things to it, like two bottle cages and a bracket for a pump that I hardly ever carry and a front reflector that's always more than slightly askew. I didn't think it was possible to make my poor Cross-Check look any more awful than I've already made it look, short of putting rude stickers all over the frame and then maybe throwing it against a wall several times, but I somehow found a way to do it. I suppose I could get even bigger tires if I ever want to outdo myself again.

09 November 2010

LaHood: "There seems to be some confusion"

Trib: LaHood threatens to stop Wisconsin rail project

If we can survive the next two years, they are certainly going to be interesting.

08 November 2010

I'm a bike?

2010 Jenny by Schwinn

It's even high-vis yellow, my favorite bike-related color.

Bike to skate!

At Millennium Park, the season begins on 17 November and continues through 13 March. Hours are 12pm-8pm Mon-Thu, 12pm-10pm Fri, and 10am-9pm Sat-Sun (barring private events). Those seem like shorter hours than I seem to recall from the past year or two. Skating is free but skate rental is $10.

At the Chicago Park District rinks, the season begins on 26 November and continues through February, weather permitting. Hours vary from park to park. Skating is free (except at McFetridge in California Park) but skate rental varies from park to park.

The Rink at Wrigley (I love the nice, succinct name), to which I've never been so stop asking, opens 1 December, allegedly. Skating is not free.

Ample bike parking should be available at all of these places.

07 November 2010

I have a socialist headache

I'm continuing to procrastinate on my freelance assignments. Monday and Tuesday are going to be very not fun.

06 November 2010

Socialist cold weather continues through today

I know, it's November. Meteorological winter began on Monday.

Aging Metra locomotive fleet emits high levels of socialist air pollution

Metra responds along the lines of "Y'know, we'd love to replace those dirty old engines, but we're still kinda broke right now..."

05 November 2010

Governor-elect of Wisconsin wants funds diverted from socialist high-speed rail to even more socialist highway projects

WISN: Doyle Suspends High-Speed Train Project

I'm going to do what the teabaggers do and just keep appending the word "socialist" to things I don't like until it sticks.

Socialist Kennedy Expressway turns 50

Trib: After 50 years, Kennedy opening recalled with fondness, fear

04 November 2010

$5000 reward for copper thieves along South Shore Line

CBS2: Copper Thieves Disrupt South Shore Line

29th birthday bash

I'm having one. Probably nobody will come because we all have better things to do over Thanksgiving weekend than go to some dork's birthday party, but I'm having one nonetheless. I figure that since I have only one year left to be young and stupid before it's seriously time to act like a grownup already, then I'd better kick it off right.

Ignorable post-election thoughts

The thing is, the GOP is now styling itself as the party of people who hate me personally.

03 November 2010

Helmet? Check. Headlight? Check. Patch kit? Check. iPhone? Aw crap...

iWrecked: Auto accident assistant app for iPhone

Assuming you have an iPhone, of course, which it seems most cyclists do by now. I predict that in 2012 we'll start seeing fix-a-flat/find-a-network classes for beginners.


Tired of running into brokeass hipster bike ninjas with no lights? Here's your chance to do something about it!

Donate $5 or $25 with some Groupon thing for Active Trans!

I don't do Groupon, so I have no idea how this works.