28 February 2011


So, I was hit by a car nine days ago. I was walking. In a crosswalk, at a four-way stop. Injuries were sustained. I'm not supposed to talk about it. So, that's all.

Now that it's been fendered...

How silly would this look on this?

(The dual water bottle cages say "This date's so hot there's a risk of dehydration!")

24 February 2011

Bike for... away

Another update: I forgot that the Chicago Cycle Swap on Saturday is actually, you know, a bike swap! And here I was all set to go just for the morale. (Did I mention I was hit by a car last weekend? I need morale.) I'm not looking to swap an entire bike for another entire bike; paring down the number of full-sized bikes from two to one was kind of the whole point of this endeavor, after all. But the thought of just dumping it at Blackstone Bicycle Works like your sister's broken Huffy makes me feel sad. I think my first real city bike deserves a slightly more dignified end. So look for me and/or the hybrid there on Saturday. It'll still make a nice winter beater with some decent tires (not included).

Aesthetic warning: I haven't been able to peel off all the stickers, and part of the frame is wrapped in clear plastic postal tape. (This is actually a kludge from a separate partial destickering episode last winter. I was tired of my pants getting fuzzballed. Sorry.)

Updated update: See my newly dorkified Cross-Check here! I got the fenders on without taking the wheels off!

Addendum: I forgot that I have yet another bike! The web-spring saddle that came stock on the hybrid has been replaced with the basic saddle that came stock on the folder. The latter isn't as comfortable as the former (which is why I kept it and put it on the folder), but it is a definite improvement over the stick-up-your-ass roadie saddle that came stock on the road bike. (In other news, does anyone of male physiology need a basic stick-up-your-ass roadie saddle?) Speaking of the road bike, that one is now sporting a pair of fat-ass fenders that make it finally look ridiculous enough to be owned by me. Actually, I wonder how even stupider my roadie-style bike would look with the web-spring saddle, because a bike that cannot be ridden for any appreciable length of time without the aid of padded underpants probably still has the wrong saddle on it. Not that any of this matters, given that I was just HIT BY A CAR. Aren't I overdue for some good luck already?

As to my weekend project that was interrupted...

It's been a wonderful six years (sniff), but it's finally time to say goodbye to Avenger the Dependable Trek Hybrid and take him out behind the shed and put him out of his misery find him a nice older couple with a farm out in the country pass it on to some other aspiring n00b. I'm still waiting to hear from two or three other short people I sort of know personally, so this is just a heads up.

This bike will NOT make you cool, except possibly in Hyde Park, where a beat-up old Americanized hybrid of moderate original retail value may give you some "quad cred" among middle-aged intellectuals. (Note that this group arguably includes no less personage than the President of the United States of America, so perhaps that's something to consider.) It will get you and some of your stuff from point A to point B with a reasonable amount of comfort, minimal fuss, and absolutely no style, provided that points A and B are between 1 and maybe 50 miles apart. After 50 miles, you may start to wish that you had something better.

I'm stripping the fenders, flat-resistant tires, springy saddle, headlight, and one water bottle cage. I'm replacing the tires with basic tires and the saddle with the basic---though admittedly not very comfortable---saddle that came stock with the Cross-Check. Regarding the saddle, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to ride comfortably on the Lakefront Trail for an afternoon, so I'll leave it up to a n00b to replace it when he or she finds it necessary and an expert to replace it at his or her preference right away.

As I said, I want to wait to hear from a few friends first, so this is just an FYI that it's getting a little too crowded with bikes and bike stuff in here and that I've finally come to realize that I've simply outgrown the hybrid.

23 February 2011

Media blames low voter turnout on voters for letting the media discourage them from voting

Rahmbo wins. It was inevitable. Months of saying that it was inevitable made it so.

It's like the whole city is just one big, smoke-filled room.

20 February 2011

Hit by a car!

Walking! Saturday evening! Crosswalk! Four-way stop! Two blocks from home!

Physically: No head injury, no broken bones.
Emotionally: ??!!!!!!

19 February 2011

In other news, this

9:54 PM Tuesday, February 1. I miss the snow already; it gave me a perfectly legitimate reason to stay home and not ride my bike anywhere.

Jacked up

Are most roadies and fixies unusually tall, or is raising one's saddle way up into the sky some kind of fashion statement?

17 February 2011

Smart Car marketing fail

I didn't get pictures, but one of the Smart Cars on display at the Chicago Auto Show had a shiny new Magna full-suspension mountain-style bicycle-shaped object on the back of it.

When I was your age...

...we had to ride on a SIDEWALK appended to the lower deck of the Link Bridge on Lake Shore Drive! Uphill both ways! In the snow! You young whippersnappers with your Navy Pier Flyover don't know how good you have it now!

16 February 2011

Bike cars on Metra: Don't hold your breath

It's not because they hate us, it's because they're broke.

As seen on The Chainlink:
Reply by Active Transportation Alliance
And, to answer the question that always comes up: how about bike cars?

We would certainly love this but we've learned that a big challenge is the engines Metra currently use can only handle the number of train cars that are already there. In order to add a bike car, they would have to take away a passenger car and have costly retrofitting done to the cars to make them bike-friendly.

From our current understanding, Metra isn't in a place right now to do this financially or from a customer service perspective but that doesn't mean we won't stop asking and pushing for it and working with them to secure money (in the future) to potentially pilot this.

This is a long-term goal and something we will continue to work towards. For now, we want to continue reducing blackouts and increase service for bikes by working towards a pilot of first/second trains inbound allowing bikes.

And to be realistic, long-term in this case means 10-15 years. We want to keep expectations real as this would be a costly and very involved project.

OK, so let's quit whining about Metra not having bike cars, so we can whine instead about Metra not having locomotives that aren't 40-year-old soot-spewers with a tendency to break down under heavy passenger loads or in moderately hot or cold weather. Or, what the hey, let's whine about Metra not having enough money, or appropriate oversight of the money they already have, because this is why we can't have nice things.
In sad hometown Metra news, this. Yet another drawback of having commuter train stations located far from, well, anything.

11 February 2011

Day of passive-aggressive action

I propose Drive to Work Day. On this day, everyone who normally bikes, walks, and/or takes public transportation to work will instead drive (share, rent, or borrow a car as needed), and thus demonstrate once and for all how much worse the traffic would be if public transit funding was removed altogether and all of us bike commuters decided to grow up, save up, and buy cars for ourselves after all.

See, now you're still stuck behind me, and I'm stuck behind two dozen people who normally take the bus, and we're all stuck behind a guy who's been circling for a parking space all morning. Isn't it so much better this way?

"We didn't want to admit that we couldn't do it."

Trib: Metra: We mishandled blizzard

Yeah, tell me about it. And the situation was made even worse by the fact that conditions varied so drastically from line to line.* I think this is because "Metra" is something of an illusion. In some cases Metra does indeed run the trains, but in some cases it's the railroad company. In some cases Metra owns (or is at least responsible for?) the ROWs and rails; in others, again, it's the railroad company.

For example, I'm pretty sure the Metra BNSF is actually a train that BNSF runs on behalf of Metra, or something, whereas I have a feeling that the Metra Electric is almost entirely Metra's property and responsibility. Disclaimer: I don't know. I'm guessing.

A fun project for today might be to figure this all out and then, I don't know, feel smug about it and be even more annoying at parties. Did you know, a few weeks ago I actually had a drunken argument with a guy who insisted that the South Shore Line was part of Metra. As if!

*For example, last Thursday night the cabin fever finally got to me, so I went to Union Station to take the BNSF to Rt. 59. I'd missed the evening rush period by about 20-30 minutes. As I recall, a couple of extra outbound express trains had been added to the BNSF schedule during the peak of the rush period, but those had departed hours ago by the time I got there. I also recall checking Metra's Web site website [gah, that feels weird!] and noting a delay or two among inbound BNSF trains, but as yet there were no outbound delays listed for that line.

The next BNSF train out, some 20 minutes in the future, was already delayed another 20. After 40 minutes, at which point a crowd the size of the population of a small rural town had gathered downstairs (and on the stairs, and down the corridor) near the platform, the train was delayed yet again. Another 10 or so minutes later the Important Person on the PA finally admitted that they simply did not know when the train was going to arrive. Possibly they were waiting on the very same inbound train that had been listed as delayed when I'd checked earlier and was now even more delayed.

(Later, Metra was to blame the delays on "signal, mechanical and equipment problems." Are there any other kinds of problems on a train?)

Anyway, there was a collective groan and a collective whipping out of mobile devices (have you ever heard a collective groan that huge? it was kind of neat), so I went back upstairs and slogged across the Loop to La Salle St. Station, where I arrived about 10 minutes before the next outbound Rock Island District train, which was sitting next to the platform all set to go. The trip to Joliet was without incident. (Indeed, it was so normal, regular, and downright boring as to unnerve me a little. Come on, people, didn't we just have an exciting blizzard? Why am I the only one wearing snowpants?)

Now, I realize that I was very lucky in that not only did I have someone with a car of his own to pick me up when I arrived, but since he had to drive to another town in order to pick me up at the usual station anyway (why do I always date the most inconvenient people imaginable? here am I, General Carlessness, with the boyfriend who has to drive a 30-mile round trip in order to pick me up at the nearest Metra station, through the most dangerously unbicyclable suburbs in all of Chicagoland; I hate myself, I really do), he was no more inconvenienced by simply having to drive to a different town.

Anyway, if your car is parked at Rt. 59, or your bike is parked in Naperville, or your carpool buddies are all waiting for you in Downers Grove, or the only Pace bus serving your neighborhood departs from Aurora Transportation Center (and in any case, the last one left hours ago), or the person waiting for you on the other end is not able and willing to drive all the way to another station for a different Metra line, then an indefinitely long delay on the BNSF is going to cause significant problems for you. In which case, an apology from Metra is most certainly well deserved. (Even if it was actually BNSF's fault. Was it?)

I know, this was a very long footnote. I'll write a separate post later to describe the bus ride through those eerie, fantastical, bus-high mounds of snow on Lake Shore Drive. Oh crap, I just did. Nevermind.

10 February 2011

In other news, I have weird priorities

I'm still trying to decide whether I want to risk fantastic amounts of debt just so I can see the launch of the last Space Shuttle mission. Thoughts?

09 February 2011

Shopping for insurance: I know why people are afraid to ride with motor traffic

Much ado has been made about this article in Grist, and any number of previous articles in other places, on how bicycling is actually, factually, considerably less dangerous than sitting around doing nothing. And believe me, as someone who now makes a living sitting around doing nothing [what else do you call freelance editing?], I tremble in fear of a long, slow, expensive death by getting fat.

But do you know what scares me even more? Perusing my medical bills for my bike accident last June. Well, okay, it was more like "being a dumbass and trying to beat the storm" than "an accident," but for our purposes here, they amount to the same thing. And that amount was, let's see, $564.23 in out-of-pocket expenses, which is rather a lot of money to be irradiated a couple of times and then told there's nothing wrong with you after all, dumbass.

However, had I not been insured (ie, if this had happened during the storm just last week, and assuming costs haven't substantially increased since last summer), I'd have been on the hook for $5055.25---roughly ten times more and probably enough to cause considerable financial distress for the rest of my foreseeable future.

So, you're on your bike, you get caught in some unfortunate mishap (perhaps because of inclement weather---I'm pretty tired of people scolding me, by the way, that I, of all people, should not be so irrationally afraid of being hit by a car), you fall and hit your head or possibly break something, you go to the ER, and WHAM you're hit with a one-time expense of hundreds or thousands of dollars, and I guarantee you that the satisfaction of benefiting the overall public health in the long term does not make you feel any better about it when it comes time to pay those huge bills.

Whereas the long-term effects of a nonactive lifestyle tend to manifest more gradually, with regular expenses spread out over months or even years---unless you have a heart attack myocardial infarction or something, but these days you're probably put on prescribed all sorts of drugs as a preventative measure before that even happens. So the total cost of being unhealthy and fat, even if it is indeed only a small fraction of the total cost of an accident or two, is spread out over, say, half of your lifetime.

Hence, the risks associated with sitting around doing nothing are more acceptable than the risk of some bike-related medical emergency, especially if you're uninsured. And this, I think, is why people are afraid to ride in traffic.

As for the risk of driving on Lake Shore Drive in the middle of a blizzard out of the northeast, well, that one is still beyond me.

So, don't fear bikes, cars, or even chairs. Fear wind gusts in excess of 50 mph.

Shopping for insurance: Optional maternity coverage is HOW MUCH?!?!

Yikes!!!!!!!! I'm not having kids anytime soon. Or ever.

Another episode of Hybrid and Folder: Closeted

Folder: Why, hello, Roadie. Fancy meeting you here, in the living room closet.
Roadie: Oh god, my life is over! I'll never go outside again!
Folder: Oh, that's not true.
Roadie: Yes it is! When's the last time you got out of here?
Folder: Well, I was destickered a few months ago. That was sort of fun, I guess.
Roadie: I thought you looked different.
Folder: Yes, I look much more respectable now.
Roadie: With all that adhesive residue? You look stolen.
Folder: *sigh* I wish I was stolen. Then maybe I'd get to go outside.
Roadie: I knew it! I'm never going outside again!
Folder: Well, don't slash your tires over it. There are worse things in the world.
Roadie: Like what?
Folder: Um, widespread ecological destruction? Global economic collapse? Jersey Shore?
Roadie: What about for me personally?
Folder: Well, then how about being an enormous douche? Speaking of being an enormous douche, where's Hybrid gone to? Has he finally been donated?
Roadie: No, he's in the bike room.
Folder: What? No way!
Roadie: Yep, he's been down there ever since... a few days before New Year's, I think. Took a quick ride through a snizzle storm on some crazy errand or other, and he's been down there ever since.
Folder: Wow. Hybrid in the bike room all winter. I never thought that would happen.
Roadie: You see now why I'm so worried?
Folder: Well, it will be spring soon.
Roadie: Supposedly.
Folder: And you're in here with me. That's got to be some kind of good news.
Roadie: I must say, the kitchen does look much nicer now. You can eat in there and everything.
Folder: Eat-in kitchen, huh? What a luxury!
Roadie: No, not really. From what I've seen, they've gone out of style.

My very own backwards time machine

During the course of the Epic Closet Cleaning of the Epic Blizzard of 2011, I found some University of Chicago promotional material from about 1998 that includes glossy photos of happy students with their shiny mountain bikes. (I wanted one so badly. All I had at the time was that Murray, a silly child's toy. Only 12 speeds! And the tires weren't knobby enough!)

Let's face it, practical utility for the urban environment is never, ever going to be in style among the young and hipper than thou. Practical utility is the kiss of death in that world, or else young people would be content to drive their parents' minivans.

What will be the Next Big Thing after fixies, I wonder?

I'll scan those brochures later if I feel like it.

07 February 2011

Bulldoze from the past

Look what I found!

04 February 2011

Blizzard time-lapse video by Chicago Tribune photographer!


03 February 2011

Now I'm bored

I wish I had a job that I could try to go to today.

02 February 2011

Blizzardaftermath: City of Chicago rears its car-head

Trib again (it loads faster than the Sun-Times, okay?): City will 'work into the night' to clear Drive

Oh come on, leave it closed. The lakefront is so much nicer that way.

Real Media blizzard-related headline award

Trib: Bad LSD trip: Who's to blame?

Part of me wants to trudge over to the overpass with my camera before they open it again. It would be an eerie winter counterpart to Bike the Drive.


I think most of the storm has mostly blown over by now, but be advised that the high winds and sporadic lake effect snow will continue through this afternoon. The lakeshore flood warning is also still in effect.

Also note that after the snow comes the frigid cold, with wind chills so far below zero you'll need a flashlight to find them, continuing through Friday.

01 February 2011


Hey, I know it's only 2:10 and the warning doesn't take effect for another 50 minutes, but I think it's nearly blizzarding already in Hyde Park. Visibility has dropped to, like, across the street.


[Insert edgy graphic and dramatic sound clip here.]

T minus 2 hours.

Village Foods is MOBBED! Everyone who hasn't gone pre-blizzard shopping already is doing so right now, and they're all desperate and cranky. I just watched a slow-motion fender bender in the parking lot, which I don't recall being plowed last night, either. Lots of horn honking. It's like the evening before Thanksgiving, except there's no undercurrent of holiday cheer.

I'm going to guess from the volume of general traffic that employers are starting to let people leave early. That's good, except that some people are driving like zombies on meth. If this keeps up, then there will probably be several wrecks before the weather even starts blizzarding.

Traffic on the Drive is heavy but moving smoothly in both directions, at least from the snippet I can see clearly (near 47th St).

The ice on the lake extends almost all the way to the horizon now.

Cripes, why don't people have their headlights on?! It's snowing! Isn't that a law or something?

Fire truck. I was wondering when that part would begin.

Don't take my word for it, but the Metra Electric seems to be running perfectly normal for now.

I'm actually really, really bored, which is why I'm sitting here writing this. Everyone else, outside and down below, is so on edge, but here I am already snug in my aerie with everything I need and nothing that needs to be done, except a sink full of dishes, but there's always a sink full of dishes. Well, I do have two closets to clean, but that hardly seems like a good blizzard activity. "So how did you spend the blizzard of '11?" "At home, cleaning out my closets. It was so damn boring." I don't even have any pending freelance assignments. I'm tempted to get all bundled up and venture outside into the melee for a slice of pizza, just to have an adventure. I'll even wait until after 3pm, which is when the warning takes effect.

And if the power does not go out tonight, I'm going to feel very stupid for having bought all that water, especially because I hate buying water. Well, better safe than sorry.