Chicago’s bike lane signals are bad and someone is going to get hurt

Here’s some extended kvetching about Chicago’s bike lanes.

A while ago, I posted a controversial review of the new separated bike lane in Evanston–controversial because everyone loves new bike lanes and I used up a lot of space complaining about its new traffic signal arrangement.

In retrospect, it was silly for me to complain about Evanston’s traffic signal arrangement, because the lights in the Loop are worse. Much worse!

Let’s get into some nitty-gritty detail.

Continue reading “Chicago’s bike lane signals are bad and someone is going to get hurt”

Tour de (à?) New York 2017: a pre-trip primer

I’m beginning a solo bike tour to New York on Thursday. Thus Chicago Bike Report goes on hiatus for a few weeks, as I trek through the wilds of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and New York.

But you don’t want to hear about that, right? This is a cycling news and analysis blog. Wait–what’s that? You do have questions about my bike tour? Oh, I’m flattered. Let’s talk about my bike tour!

What bike are you riding? Is it cool?

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Yes, it is cool. It’s the Prairie Chicken, my just-built, repainted, custom decaled 1987 Cannondale SR-400. An old racing frame that isn’t really suited to touring. Short chainstays, bad rack mounts, and barely enough clearance for 28c tires and a rear fender. But, like her namesake, she’s a scrappy grouse, and I think she’ll do just fine. The aluminum frame seems quite robust.

I built it up with mostly used parts, scrounged from various old bikes. (Thanks, Dad.)

Some highlights:

  • Surly Cross Check fork, with plentiful rack mounts
  • Heavy-duty Sun CR-18 36-spoke rims with some type of Shimano hub
  • Shimano RSX crankset, LX rear derailleur, Tiagra front derailleur (new), 9-speed cassette
  • Shimano Light Action barend shifters, 8 speed (set to friction mode because the drivetrain is 9 speed)
  • Handlebars angled too high (shush, I fixed it)

The racks: an old, heavy-duty aluminum Jandd in the front and an Axiom DLX Streamliner Disc in the rear. The latter mounts to the brake bridge, owing to the lack of braze-ons. Let’s hope it’s sturdy enough!

What’s your route?

Something like this, but not exactly:

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First, up to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There I catch the ferry to Ludington, Michigan, and continue east through Ontario. From there I follow the Erie Canal across New York, then down south to the suburbs of New York, to my parents’ house. I’ll be following the Adventure Cycling Association maps part of the way.

 

What are you bringing? Can you describe it in more detail than I care to hear?

Yes.

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I’m using some old Lone Peak Panniers, seen lined up along the top of the white Tyvek ground sheet above. Panniers contain the items arranged vertically below them. From left to right, these are:

Left rear: sleep supplies, a couple Ziploc bags, 50 feet of paracord to hang food away from raccoons

Right rear: clothes, including 2 cycling outfits (plus the outfit I’ll wear), a base layer, long pants, long-sleeve jerseys, jacket, a couple garbage bags for miscellaneous rain protection

Left front: rain gear, toiletries, electronics, and bike repair. This includes a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, a solar charger, a Topeak Road Morph G pump, chain lube, zip ties, chain tool, tubes, patches, tire levers, Kryptonite cable lock (not U-Lock! must save weight), and a couple plastic bags as makeshift shoe-covers

Right front: The kitchen. A cool Trangia camping stove, a 500ml Nalgene of denatured alcohol fuel, a plastic flask of rye whiskey, some water bags, a titanium spork, and food for the first couple days: oatmeal, couscous, tuna, 5 Clif bars, 2 gels (gross).

Handlebar bag (since converted to saddle bag): multitool, maps, sunglasses, notebook and pen, camera, nylon shorts for modesty around non-cyclists

And mounted on the front rack will be my tent, a Kelty Grand Mesa 2-person.

All in all, the gear weighs 38 pounds.

As far as weight distribution goes: the smaller front panniers hold denser items, so they’re about as heavy as the rear ones. Putting the tent on the front rack gives me slightly more weight in the front than the rear.

That’s how I want it, because I’m wary of putting too much on the Axiom rear rack. This in spite of its stated capacity of 110 lbs. It seems like it’ll hold 25lbs just fine. But 110 pounds is nutty, and it’s only a matter of time before someone sues Axiom for making false claims.

Why?

I had a few weeks with no obligations. Why not?


I don’t anticipate being able to update the blog on the road, but expect a couple comprehensive posts at the end. Check back in a few weeks, and enjoy your rides in the meantime!

August 25 bike forecast: a good one

The sunny and cooler trend continues Friday.

FRIDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 71, low 59, a cloud or two, and winds from the eastish


DIVVY REPORT: S. Exchange Ave. & S. Saginaw Ave. still down. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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3.5 out 4, again. That means ride your bike!


An addendum:

This is the last of Chicago Bike Report’s daily commute forecasts. Why? Because I’m sick of talking about the weather! Too much weather, not enough bike. So this blog embarks on a transition. In the future, expect to see more bike, less weather.

Thanks for your faithful readership and support. Bigger and better things are ahead!

And on that note:

August 24 bike forecast: the decline of summer

Thursday, a time of cool weather and earlier sunsets.

THURSDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 71, low 58, partly cloudy, winds from the north-ish

Note that low temperature. Plus the sun now sets at 7:35, apparently. The seasons, they turn, turn, turn.


How chilly is it?

Find a space heater!

No, not really. It’s just pleasantly cool. Cool enough to mitigate at least part of your sweatiness.


DIVVY REPORT: Attention South Shorers, the station at S. Exchange Ave. and S. Saginaw Ave. is down. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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3.5 out of 4. Again! A great day.

August 23 bike forecast: a gorgeous day.

Is Wednesday a good day to ride a bike?

?

?

Yes.

WEDNESDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 75, low 60, sunny as heck, moderate winds from all over the place, but generally north-ish.

This is all very good, although the PM winds might bother northbound commuters.


CAT GIF WEATHER PREDICTION:

Tomorrow provides the sunny sky, but you’ll have to find the cat yourself.


DIVVY REPORT: A new station opens at Perry Ave. and 69th in Englewood. All stations operational. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


Tip of the day…

On the Lake Front Trail, sneak behind the fence near North Avenue Beach to take the new separated bike path, which hasn’t yet opened. It’s velvety smooth and mostly vacant, and you’ll get a thrill from breaking the rules. [Note: don’t blame us if you get in trouble. But no one cares and you won’t get in trouble.]

When the paved segment ends, carry your bike over a bit of gravel and you’ll rejoin the main path looking cooler than the LFT normies.


Spotted on the road…

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Shiny buildings at the Active Trans Leadership Network mixer. Fun!


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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3.5 stars, which is outstanding. Ride your bike!

August 21 bike forecast: good weather “eclipsed”

Monday: new week, new weather. Bad weather, actually. And a solar eclipse.

That means we’re packing more info into the weather infographic than ever before.

MONDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 85, low 72, with PM thunderstorms likely and winds from the southish.

Special Eclipse Alert: Sunglasses indicate “solar eclipse,” as does the text, “Eclipse Alert! Maximum Eclipse: ~1:18pm.”

Eclipse begins at 11:54am, but we won’t see “MAX ECLIPSE” until 1:18. Then it all ends at 2:42pm. Cloudy skies will obscure our view, probably. 😦


Recommended Eclipse Gear of the Day:

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Lights. Because it’ll be dark! Duh!


DIVVY REPORT: All stations operational. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


A note:

Chicago Bike Report will be changing its format in the coming days and weeks. Will we see more feature stories? Probably. Regular bike commute forecasts? I dunno.

In early September I’m riding my bike from Chicago to New York, which means that either way, post volume will decline. But think of all the cool pix of life on the road you’ll get to see.


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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2 out of 4 stars. Even if you don’t ride, go outside!

August 18 bike forecast: gorgeous, but windy

Friday: as pleasant as this post is brief. (Sorry.)

FRIDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 82, low 66, sunny, windy from the west.


DIVVY REPORT: State and 29th, long thought vanquished, returns. A symbol of our noble city itself, rising from the ashes of 1871 to ever-greater greatness, etc.

Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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3.5 out of 4. GREAT!

August 17 bike forecast: finally, not good

Thursday: good commuting weather marathon comes to an end.

THURSDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 83, low 66, 50% chance of rain, high winds from the southwest


Representation of tomorrow’s predicted weather:

Rough stuff!


DIVVY REPORT: All stations operational. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:Flag_of_Chicago__Illinois_svg.png

2 out of 4 stars. In the realm of mediocre.

August 16 bike forecast: good weather marathon continues

Wednesday: should be nice.

WEDNESDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 81, low 73, partly cloudy all day with a 20% chance of rain and winds from the east


DIVVY REPORT: A new station opens at Chicago Ave. and Dempster St. in Evanston. Hooray. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


Spotted on the road…

cedar apple rust mini-gallery:

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Poor hawthorns :(.

Next time it rains (20% chance tomorrow), I suggest you seek out some diseased hawthorn fruit, because the white bristly bits will transform into this:

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Ahh!!!! But also, “cool.”


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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Isn’t this nice weather getting boring? 3 stars. Marked down for possibility of rain.

August 15 bike forecast: lovely, yet again

Did you know we’re in the midst of a good-weather marathon?

TUESDAY WEATHER INFOGRAPHIC:

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Overall: high 79, low 66, a few clouds, moderate winds from the north, and a 15% chance of rain.

Note: if you’re commuting northward in the afternoon, watch out for stiff headwinds. Nothing too crazy, but perhaps enough to skip the LFT.


DIVVY REPORT: All stations operational. Up-to-the-minute updates here.


STREET CLOSURES

and

PARTIAL STREET CLOSURES


Spotted on the road…

This imposing facade, Edgewater:

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This rodent cutie on the lake front:P1340290.jpg

And assorted dead rats (not pictured).


OVERALL COMMUTE RATING:

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3.25 out of 4, on account of rain chance and moderate PM winds.