On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune ran an article about riding your bike in the city asking the question "Is Chicago Bike Friendly." While a worthwhile question, and one I wanted to see answered, I, and other readers, were disappointed in the story. They didn't really answer how bike friendly the city is overall, just how friendly it is to a person who admittedly hadn't been on a bike in years. So I've decided to step up to the challenge. To get an idea of how bike friendly part of the city is (the stretch of Milwaukee Ave. I take to work), I'm going to blog for the rest of the week about my ride.
My regular readers know that I recently started riding to work. And, if you pay attention to my little "how much money have I saved by riding to work" section, you'll notice that I don't ride to work every day. There are various reasons for this. Back in August, There were some sweltering days I just didn't want to ride (a bad reason, but a reason none the less). Other days I may have something to do after work that would be difficult with the bike (never drink and ride). Other days, like today, I wanted to ride my bike to work but just couldn't get the motivation up. And frankly, after reading the story in the paper and hearing about the girl killed by the garbage truck, there are days I'm just not into risking my life. Which is why I have a couple of rules for myself that make my riding experience safer.
I like to leave early in the morning to beat most of the traffic downtown. While there are more cyclists on Milwaukee Ave. in the 7 a.m. hour, I find it much less stressful to leave the house by 6:15 or 6:30 a.m. This way I don't have to deal with as many cars, and frankly, I don't have to deal with as many cyclists who don't seem to care about the other cyclists on the road any more than they care about the cars on the road. Leaving this early means I get to work early, but I go to the gym to shower there. However, this pretty much means getting everything ready the night before - what I want to wear, my toiletries and lunch. Someday I'll work at an office that doesn't require me to dress nicely. Maybe it'll be OK for me to be slightly sweaty in jeans or shorts. But for now, the office requires business casual (emphasis on the business) attire.
My other rule is I try to leave the downtown area later. This usually means gonig to the gym after work (how much exercise can one woman take?). I've ridden home during rush hour, and let me tell you, it's just not fun. Every one is eager to get home and in addition to the cars, there are a lot of other cyclists out there, who, as I said earlier, don't seem to give a hoot about the other riders.
Other than that, I just try to go at an easy pace, not get distracted and not worry about all the other riders who pass me by. I know I can go fast if I wanted to. I'd rather get home safe and sound.
Tomorrow, the first half of my ride to work!
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