Chicago Tandem Ride

July 5, 2007
Eileen and I rented a nice Trek recumbent at Millennial Park, and headed north past Oak St. Beach. It was amazing that we could get through the traffic and pedestrians with no real problem, it took just a few minutes to realize that I had to let her know when we had to coast, once this was working we did fine. Starting was difficult, it definately worked better over 5 mph.

We rode along the lake for a couple of quick miles, then cut under the highway to the north side of Lincoln Park Zoo. We took a bunch of pictures at the lagoon, and then wended our way through the zoo.

Here are pics of Millennial Park:
Millennial Park Mirror SculptureRed SculptureMillennial Park Bandstand

As we rode along the lake we could just see Chicago’s water intake plant. At the lagoon on the north side of the zoo, Eileen took the picture of the guitar player. The flamingos were amazing, how do they do it?
Water intake on Lake MichiganThe LagoonFlamingos at Lincoln Park Zoo

We had some extra time after coming back from the zoo, and so we decided to cross the river to the south, the lighthouse is quite scenic. We had to cross like all the other bikers and peds, along a narrow, overused “sidewalk” on the bridge, it was nuts.
Chicago LighthouseOuter Beltway Bridge

We found this little sculpture park that had a bunch of globes.
Eileen introduces the worldMitch on side of the world

Hot July rides

The summer season is for riding for me, I find winter easier to cope with, I can always add layers, but at a certain point you can’t take any more off. There is relief with wind blowing on you, but that disappears on the hills. Ninety degrees in full suns heats my brain to its limit, so evening rides are the best option. I got a little behind on my blogs with the Chicago posts, so the pictures here are an amalgam of several short hot rides taken with Jojo and/or Holly. The lake often beckons on these rides, the loop down to Moore’s Creek, or the down and back ride to Pine Grove are both great.

The horses live along Knights Ridge Rd., I have been visiting them for years, they seem to relate to my bike.

Lake Monroe in the eveningDo you have an extra power bar?The wishing horse

When in Chicago at the beginning of July I found both raspberries and mulberries, in Indiana, they were hurt by a late frost, I found very few, and they were gone by the end June. So I was suprised to find these berries, a second crop, in early August.
Late July black rasberriesGreat Blue Heron at Pine GroveAre you looking for me? Where’s my lily pad

At Pine Grove the water was very low, the lotus plants were mostly out of the water, and the birds chasing each other (hawk vs sparrow, the sparrow was winning) and fish were jumping everywhere.

American LotusTake me to your leader! Alien invastion, or lotus pod, you decideLily Pads

Here are couple of flowers I could not identify exactly the one looks like phlox, the other like a yellow coneflower with daisy like petals.
Do you know this flower, it is too late for phloxHow about this, it looks like a cone flower, but has too many petals, more like a daisy.

Biking in Chicago

“As part of our effort to make Chicago the most environmentally friendly city in the nation, one of our main goals is to promote environmentally friendly lifestyles. Bicycling is a great way to get around Chicago. It’s fun, fast, healthy and good for our environment….We want to make Chicago the most bicylce-friendly city in the United States”
Mayor Richard M. Daley!

Amazingly enough the Windy City is not just blowing smoke, they are serious, as evidenced in part by the mayor’s quote above which appears on their bike map. What was truly amazing in Chicago is that everyone, motorists, pedestrians, bus drivers, and bikers all respect each other and their place in the ecosystem that is Chicago’s streets. Bikes and pedestrians have the right of way, no questions asked.

At one intersection in the city. I had just picked up my parked bike and I was riding on the sidewalk to the corner to enter the street. When I got there, I stopped and put my feet down. A car had just pulled up to the stop sign next to where I was, and other cars were coming to stops in the other directions. I just stood there waiting for the intersection to clear, but when I looked up, I realized no one was going to move until I did! It was my world they they were just living it! I was stunned as I pulled out into the street and went my merry way. It took a while to realize this behavior was (like gravity), not just a good idea, but the law. Below are some pictures that illustrate the techniques they have used to get everyone on the same page. The tipping point has already been reached, everyone (a vast majority) seems to know and accept the legalities.

But more than just laws and paint Chicago politicians and citizens have come a rational understanding of the situation, and that more bikes means less cars, and other than public transit, there is no other relief to traffic congestion. They can’t make their 4 and 6 lane streets any wider, there are Interstates everywhere, but Chicago just can’t take any more cars downtown.

Downtown had plenty of commuter bikers, and the Lakeshore path seemed have quite a few commuters as well as the majority of recreational users, here are some pictures from my ride to Evanston and back downtown. Watch the video, you will see just how many people use this 10 mile stretch of path, many to commute to their homes on the north side.

Chicago has used combination of paint, signs, and speed bumps to make residential street safe. These pictures were taken on the north side where nearly all the residential streets had speed bumps, children at play warnings, and at every intersection the “No right turn when pedetians present” sign appears, it seems to work, motorists always gave me the right of way when I was walking around.
Speed bumpChildren at PlayThese signs are everywhere, allowing for safety and traffic flow

Several main arteries are designated as bike routes, and even without a separate lane, I felt safe riding up Clark St. (Chicago Bike Map) Running northwest, Lincoln has lanes just part of the way, and both streets are filled with bikes, people going from here to there, not commuting, but traveling to and through to various destinations on the commercial strips. The lesson I took was that you have to make your main commercial streets safe for bikes, or you will never reduce auto traffic.

I also spent some time biking in the Chicago suburb of Schaumberg, and I have several pictures here to show what they have done in suburban environment. The first thing I noticed was the residential streets were amazingly wide, allowing for four wide lanes. The right side of the road is shared by a bike lane and the occasional parked car. When I was passing around a parked car, I noticed the car coming up behind did not pass me even though there was room. He did after that, but slowly, and it wasn’t till I noticed the signs at the next stop that I notice that the street, and all the residential streets were 25mph, even though the road design could handle much higher speeds.

Another cool feature was where bike lanes came to major intersection with car lanes for left, right, and straight through, and the bike lane goes between the right and straight lanes (I know that’s hard to understand, look at the picture below. I also liked this treatment of a path on the way to a local lake, it makes a connection between two streets that would other wise not connect, everything there was curved around the lakes.

25mph in SchaumbergBike lane with cars turning 2 waysPaths on the property line, Schaumberg

Schaumber had paths on most of the major streets, and they make it very clear that the path crossing has priority when cars are entering from the side streets. There is a great prairie park with a nine mile path all around the exterior, it is cut by a couple of highways, the paths appear out of the grassland, and there are sturdy ped crossing buttons which work well. A last thing I will mention, the law in Chicago is that bikes are not allowed on sidewalks, unless it is too dangerous to ride on the street. In Schaumberg I found a spot where the sidewalk is shared by bikes, the signs tells bikes to stay left, while peds are to stay right.
Path crossing side streetPath crossing highwayShared sidewalk

Chicago Lakefront ride

July 3, 2004

I rented a “comfort” bike at Millennial Park Station, it has both covered and uncovered bike storage as well as rentals. A “comfort” bike is what I know as a hybrid, an upright riding position like mountain bike, but a longer frame and street tires. Although it was not as painful as some bikes I’ve ridden, calling it a comfort bike is a bit of a stretch, at least compared to any recumbent.
Millennial Park Bike StationMy bike in Chicago

I headed north to cross the river at the Columbus Street Bridge, then east a couple of blocks towards Navy Pier. The path north begins in the Milton Lee Olive Park east of the entrance to the water treatment plant (which is just north of Navy Pier). The little park paths lead to the Ontario Street Beach, and if you like distance swimming, this is the spot as there is a wide, deep lane that goes for at least half a mile, with lifeguards on duty. I passed this by, but I noted that a number of swimmers in the lane had wet suits on, wonder how cold it really is? It was 85 at the lakefront, but with the wind I was not sweating.

Columbus St. Bridge, Chicago RiverLakefront ridingTiered concrete waterfront
The picture above gives you an idea of how the path is set up, two lanes lanes for the wheeled traffic, the rest is for the walkers. The path goes along the waterfront nearly to Evanston, about 10 miles to the end near Loyola. I made the video below somewhere north of Ontario beach, you can get an idea of how busy it really is.

As I rode north, the path became less crowded, and the lake views were fantastic, I kept taking pictures of the water, and on the way back took a short dip in its cooling waters.
Northside PierRocks in the lakeLakeshore view

Once I got to the end of the line on the lakefront, I cut over on one of Chicago’s many bike/car streets, and caught the Sanitary Canal Path north. This was as empty and sad looking a path as I have ever seen, it is a strip of green park following the canal on one side and a 4 lane boulevard on the other side. The only sign of life were a few geese and old rotting sleeping bags where folks obviously sleep in the woods along the banks. I cut back west to Evanston, found the lakeshore path again, and headed back to the bike rental place in the Milennial Park, but not before stopping to take a short dip Lake Michigan and ride the waves into shore.

Teenagers working to beautify an underpassDeserted Canal Path >Waves at the beach

Western Ground Hog Sunset Ride

I got to Jojo’s about 6pm, we headed north and west to cross SR 37 at Vernal Pike, then we turned right on Woodyard and pedaled west, crossing Hartstrait and taking the dogleg to Ratliff Rd. We rode to Louden Rd. and headed south over the ridge. It is quiet and beautifull out this way, and one house with a great garden had iris starts in boxs out front. I grabbed some dark blue and violets, hopefully I can find some sun for them.

Climbing Louden from Ratliff is tough, about 150 feet vertical climb, the ridge is one of the highest in the county at over 950 feet amsl (the square downtown is about 750 feet amsl). I had been telling Jojo how easy the ride would be, west riding is generally flat, compared to south, north and east. Anyhow, we made it over the ridge into the Richland Creek valley, and turned back east on Vernal Pike. Vernal is closed for the last mile to Curry Pike, there is a large sign saying warning drag racers, as the road is straight, flat, and trafficless, though just flattened gravel. We rode on through and home.

Nature Journal: I don’t know if it was the time of day, direction, or what, but for some reason we scared up two groundhogs during the ride, their quick waddling run is fun to watch. This is the week that Ironweed has started blooming, and surprisingly I saw some sweetpea still blooming along the roadside. There was not much chicory, but plenty of daisies and wild sunflowers, and the milkweed is blooming now as well. No pictures, the camera battery was dead!

Sharrows in Bloomington

On my recent trip to Chicago, I was impressed by the large number of residential streets that had both speed bumps and sharrows, while the main streets had sharrows, which being from Bloomington, I had never seen. Drivers of both cars and bikes respect each others right to be on these streets, it is truly amazing. My theory is that the city realized that its gridlock could not be solved by more and wider streets, it was not just possible. So there are more bikes on the street, less cars, and this eases traffic and parking hassles. Hopefully the same can happen here, it is about change our minds, not our environment.

Here is a city press release about the new sharrows:
The City of Bloomington recently installed “sharrows” (“share-the-road arrows”) on College Ave from 11th St. to 4th St., and on Walnut St. from 4th St. to 7th St. The markings consist of a bicycle symbol with two chevrons pointing in the direction of travel.

Sharrows are typically used where a bike lane would be desirable, but cannot be installed due to road width limitations. The new road markings provide guidance to cyclists and motorists alike that bicyclists should occupy the central portion of the right travel lane. This positioning is intended to promote safe riding practices and it also reduces the likelihood of the cyclist colliding with a door from a parked car (getting “doored,” in cycling parlance) or riding off the pavement. By emphasizing the bicyclist’s right to travel in the middle of the lane, sharrows also help to dispel the misconception that cyclists should always travel at the extreme right edge of the road.

If used properly, sharrows should make cyclist and motorist behaviors more predictable, which improves safety for both groups. Cyclists should be more secure in their position in the roadway and less likely to make sudden lateral movements (such as to avoid a car door opening), while motorists will be less likely to pass cyclists too closely, or to otherwise push them toward the edge of the road.

Legally, sharrows do not change the rights or responsibilities of either motorists or cyclists. They do not restrict motorists from using the sharrow lane, nor do they prevent cyclists from using other lanes.

The road marking, which was recently adopted by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, is one example of how the City is implementing proven, innovative ways to increase bicycle awareness and safety on its streets. Mitch Rice, President of the Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission noted that “Sharrows are a step forward in helping our community reduce motor vehicle traffic and alleviate parking problems downtown by making our streets safer for cyclists. Shared bike/auto lanes are a cheap and effective method for helping motorists and cyclists to co-create a sustainable, safe community.”. For more information on sharrows, please contact the Planning Department at 349-3423, or the Public Works Department at 349-3411.

Bloomington Sharrow

Swimming with the Herons

June 28

Another hot summer day required us to ride to Lake Monroe, just short of the causeway we found our way to a high ridge overlooking the lake. We followed on to the end and a bit beyond into the woods. We were overlooking a quiet shallow bay, and as we took a break we first heard, and then saw a small group of great blue herons arriving and take off from the muddy flats. I assume they may be nesting nearby, there were just so many. But maybe they were just having lunch at a favorite spot.

 We decided this was not the spot to swim so we came back up the ridge road, as we were riding we saw a logging road heading down to the lake. We took our bikes about half way down, then walked the rest of the way. The water was still warm and we had a good swim, though this time without our floatation cushions. As this was an evening ride, we had to head back. We rode back up 446 and got home about dark.

Foggy Lake
Miles: 25
Weather: 75 and overcast
Nature Journal: Flock of Herons