Elevating Chicago

bicycling Archives

My Father, Walking the Walk (and Biking the Bike)

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

For as long as I've been alive (and I believe longer than that), my Father has practiced what Scott and I have been preaching here for only a few months.  Despite living in Chicago's suburbs, he has transit access comparable to anywhere in the city, and he takes full advantage.  He rides his bike a mile and a half each way to the Metra station.  (Try as he might, he can't convince me it's uphill both ways.)  His briefcase and (if he's working out that day) gym bag fit easily into his saddle bags.  He rides in his work clothes--which sometimes means a suit--and so he usually goes at a comfortable pace.  His reflective vest may look dorky, but the streets near our house aren't lit as well as Chicago's, so it's a necessity, especially in the winter when the sun is only in the sky for a few hours.  He'll ride in the rain and the cold, but tries to avoid the snow--not because he can't, but because he doesn't trust drivers.

He's always worked in the loop, so it's just a quick walk from the train station to his office--again, rain or shine.  Sure, this is all a lifestyle choice for him, though I've never heard him say it in those terms.  He doesn't proselytize about any of it--it's just what he does.  He has a car because not all of his weekend errands can be done on foot or bike--though some can.  It's a hybrid, but that was an economic decision as much as anything else--same goes for upgrading our house's A/C system.

When I was about 11, he patiently explained to me that State & Madison was the center of the universe, and told me the next time I came downtown to visit him at work I was on my own to get to him.  It helped that he drew me the most detailed map I'd ever seen--I think it included cardinal directions, wayfinding landmarks, addresses, and even how many paces it would take, as if I was seeking buried treasure.  I found my way, and realized as time went by that there were a number of different ways to get to him and got to explore a little slice of the city--hooray for a robust street grid!

Do I wish he'd wear a helmet? Yes, but old dog/new tricks and all that.  Does he roll stop signs? Yep.  But fortunately our home town's street design doesn't encourage reckless speeding and aren't so busy that it's dangerous.  Could he convince more people around us to do what he does if he'd stop being so unassuming about it? Probably, but they're all old dogs with their own old tricks, too.  Would it be a better place if more people realized how easy it is to make actions like this a lifetime habit?  Absolutely.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

You drink, you ride, you lose.

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

I've previously written about how we need more regulation along the lakefront bike path because of all the avoidable crashes; it seems as if someone listened.  Since Memorial Day, the Chicago PD has heavily increased their numbers along the path, especially in between Fullerton Ave. and Ohio St.  Even though I don't know if people necessarily feel safer when more cops are present, I like the fact that the police department is trying new things to crack down on the problems we have on the path.

When friends come visit me in Chicago, one of the first questions I tend to get is, "Where are all the Cops?"  I usually respond with, "Where they need to be," and until recently, they didn't need to be on the lakefront path; however, I'm glad they are now.  First, they're there because North Ave Beach has supposedly become the meeting place for a lot of suburban and north side gangs (see Daley's comments here).  Not sure why they picked that spot, but apparently they did.  Lately, if you go by the beach, there are cops in regular uniforms, obvious undercover uniforms, and even some in jeans.

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The Chicago Brand

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

To our readers' enjoyment, I'm going to argue with Ted some more about the new bike rack plan.  I agree with some of Ted's arguments (I'd have nothing wrong with an initial test run), on other points, however, we don't see eye to eye.

First, the little things.  I do enjoy the classic-ness of the street signs of San Francisco, but if you're going to make the argument that one similar style of street signs equates to a city brand, then you're going to be talking about most cities.  Chicago streets signs, though ugly, are all green and white (except for our honorary street signs, which too can be a brand of the city: honorary streets - go street names of people nobody has heard of).  When it comes down to it, when I think of SF, I think of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Trans Am building, and when tourists think of Chicago they think of the Bean or the Sears Tower.  So even though I think decorative bike racks will bring tourists to Chicago, it's not because of the uniqueness of the brand image it makes on Chicago.


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An Engineer's Aesthetic

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Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

Perhaps I'm in the minority on this issue.  (It wouldn't be the first time.)  Perhaps my stubborn preference for subtle consistency is preventing me from full-throated support of a worthy city program.  Whatever it is, I find myself disagreeing with Scott's post yesterday about the new artsy bike rack program.  I understand that it is a program which combines support for local arts with livable infrastructure at a minimal cost to the city.  I'm just not convinced it's the right thing to do.

I look at this program and don't see Cows on Parade or the city couches.  I see a piece of infrastructure which should be distributed equitably around the city that will instead go only where patrons will finance it.  A bike rack is no different than a car's parking space.  As the city's parking meters have gone the way of the dodo--drastically slashing the available bike parking throughout the city--we're losing a public good and hoping for private funds to pick up the slack.  I know that they will in certain parts of the city, but those aren't the only parts of the city where residents should be able to reach their destination without worrying about finding a secure place to lock their bike up.

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Also, as much as I hate the word, a bike rack is an easy opportunity for branding.  Many cities have a subtle piece of infrastructure which becomes iconic by its ubiquity.  Think of New York City's yellow taxicabs, or San Francisco's black and white street signs, or even suburban Evanston's slender black street lamps.  Each of these is particular to its place, and immediately gives residents and visitors a sense of place--no small feat in today's mass produced world.
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Bike Racks on Parade

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Why can't Chicago be more like Louisville?  I bet you think about that all the time, don't you? Well, good news, now we can be.  As of earlier this week, Chicago will soon unveil a project, partially adapted from our friends down in Louisville, KY, to install a series of around 10,000 artistically designed usable bike racks throughout the city.  Read about it here.  What an awesome idea.  This program was approved by the City Council Transportation Committee on Sunday, and will hopefully show results in only a few months time.

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Photo courtesy of the City of Louisville

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Give it up for the Little Guys

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shymen

I've lived all over the country and world, my background is in International Affairs, Political Science, and Economics, and I'm a Chicago boy born and bred.

Last Friday, several dozen cyclists rode to the US Department of Transportation's headquarters in Washington with a signed letter by hundreds of local bike-ped advocacy organizations, showing their love for Secretary of Transportation LaHood's commitment to their causes.  Read about it here.  Many organizations that Ted and I routinely promote, such as: Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Transportation for America, and the National Complete Streets Coalition, were among the advocates in attendance.  Whether they'd admit it or not, their trip to US DOT's headquarters was in essence sucking up to LaHood and lauding him for his commitment to what these organizations are fighting for.  I have nothing wrong with this, especially because no money was involved, and I support these advocacy organizations in their fight to get their voices heard - today I want to talk about these organizations and how we can all help in their fight.

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Lahood w/ Obama

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