Bicycle Diaries: May 2009

Recent Posts


Pedaling Revolution

how cyclists
are changing
American cities

Over at the NYTimes, David Byrne reviews Jeff Mapes's new book, Pedaling Revolution. Byrne highlights two fascinating points. First, biking won't truly take off until more women join the Vélotariat. This is especially true with celebrity women such as actress Jennifer Aniston and model Agyness Deyn. Second, the challenge of getting women on bikes is the crazy, contradictory attitudes most Americans have about biking. On the one hand, bikes are viewed as bright, shiny toys. Angry cagers typically demostrate this when they yell at street bikers to get back on the sidewalks. On the other hand, bikes are aften associated with extreme sports. As Byrne writes,
For decades, Americans have too often seen cycling as a kind of macho extreme sport, which has actually done a lot to damage the cause of winning acceptance for biking as a legitimate form of transportation. If your association with bikes is guys in spandex narrowly missing you on the weekends or YouTube videos of kids flying over ramps on their clown-size bikes, you’re likely to think that bikes are for only the athletic and the risk-prone. Manufacturers in the United States have tended to make bikes that look like the two-wheeled equivalent of Hummers, with fat tires and stocky frames necessitating a hunched-over riding position that is downright unsafe for urban biking and commuting. But that’s been changing for at least a few years now. Whew.
Whew, indeed...

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Tonight's critical mass

we've been

Yesterday, Chicago's Finest uploaded a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy Bulletin to the Worlwide Critical Mass flier exchange:
In order to ensure the safety of residents and visitors to the City of Chicago, all ordinances will be strictly enforced, including the following: List includes rights and duties, headlamps and reflectors, riding on sidewalks, no corking, disorderly conduct, public drinking, and penalty amounts.
At least it seems
we don't have to
wear helmets.

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and the summer's
first mass

There's been quite a discussion on the CCM listserv in anticipation of tomorrow's Critical Mass. It was sparked by the following email from Rob Sadowsky, the Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance - formerly the Chicago Bicycle Federation.
A top Chicago Police deputy approached me Sunday and wants me to relay a message to Critical Mass participants. He shared that the department is not interested in stopping Critical Mass, but it is concerned with two behaviors:

1. Drinking and drugs while riding.
2. Aggressive and violent activities, specifically concerned with this
around corking. Chicago Police will issue warnings and possibly
tickets starting this Friday.

I also want to add that I think that the individual I talked with really did get what Critical Mass is about in principle and that was a bit enlightening and hopeful. I told him I’d pass the message along.
As a frequent masser, I actually think it's a good sign that the CPD got in touch with Rob before tomorrow's mass. First, they obviously realize the summer's 1st mass is going to be huge - if last month's numbers are any indication. They'd rather work with massers rather than trying to stop us. Second, they are quite clear about the two issues they'll actively confront. I've learned the hard way that drinking to excess not only endangers me and my bike but threatens other bikers and cagers. As for corking, I've always felt it was a means of cooperating with cagers instead of challenging them.

View Larger Map

On last month's mass, I corked a woman who was trying to cross N. Humboldt Blvd. on Cortland near Palmer Square. She had stopped to let the mass pass but her car was blocking car traffic coming down behind her because massers were zipping around her front bumper. She was more frustrated - understandably - than angry.

I stopped and told her I would get the massers to give her more room in front so she could pull farther up. As folks were going by I simply yelled, She's ok. She gets the mass. Give her a little room! And massers did. Everyone was great; they whooped and cheered. She pulled up. She even got into the mood, rolling down her windows and cranking up her stereo. I then told her it would be 10 minutes tops before we passed, then she could go. I stayed with her the whole time and explained what we were about.

Certainly this type of feel-good story doesn't happen all the time. But I believe that the privilege of massing obligates all of us to at least try to be helpful to drivers AND to avoid, as best we can, being provoked by frustrated or angry drivers.

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Philosophy of travel


Have tweed, may travel...

to Dekalb

Regular readers (and thanks for hanging in there!) have probably noticed that the frequency and quality of my posts has dropped a bit lately. There are several reasons why: first, I was laid-off back in March and I'm just coming out of my funk. Second, I've been doing a lot of part-time gigs - everything from hauling compost with a bike trailer for guerrilla gardeners on the northside to working for the UC Survey Lab. Then there was this year's Lake Pepin 3speed Tour which was FANTASTIC despite the chilly start!

The biggest reason, though, is that I spent 3 weeks writing a US State Department grant proposal for the International Training Office at Northern Illinois University. These are the same folks I've been working with on a Philippines youth project for the last 6 years. If we get the grant it would expand this project to include youth from many of the ASEAN member states in Southeast Asia. It would also include funds to hire me full-time to help administer the grant through October 2010!

That could mean I'd be moving out to the Dekalb area sometime in late August or September! On the one hand, this is exactly the kind of job I've been looking for even before my lay-off. I'll be getting full benis. Rental properties are substantially cheaper and larger out there. And if all goes well with the grant and the Illinois university system lifts it's hiring freeze, there is a good possibility of the position becoming permanent.

On the other hand, I've grown to love The Windy City in the decade I've lived here. In fact, it's the place where I've lived the longest ... in my entire life! All my friends are here. I'm active in the bike community and if the NIU job did go south I'd be unemployed in Dekalb with few resources to return to Chicago. And yet, Dekalb or perhaps Sycamore, 10 miles to the northeast, are only a hour and a half away by METRA from The Windy City. Besides, I could bring tweedyness to the cornfields!

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Memorial Day

ghosts at the barbecue

It's Memorial Day here in Lincoln Square. Folks are getting together to enjoy the first really good weekend in Chicago. It's 66 degrees and cloudy. Anywhere you go, a wonderful barbecue smell wafts up from backyards, porches, and decks. And anyone doing a little shopping near the corner of Western and Leland won't miss the neighborhood's ongoing memorial to our soldiers killed in Iraq.

The Chicago Printmakers Collaborative has been putting these pictures in the upper windows of their building since August 2004. The memorial is very powerful because you can't possibly avoid the pictures. You can see them if you bike north on the east side of Western Ave. You can see them if you're waiting for a city bound train on the platform of the Brownline station. When the pictures started going up there there was only enough space for 648 pictures. Now the windows on each of the three floors are completely covered. And as of Sunday, the total number of our soldiers killed in Iraq has reached 4300 and the wounded now total 31,285.

Each time I pass it I'm reminded of two relatives who died in WWII. Robert Klippel, my mother's brother, flew P-51s out of Iwo Jima in 1945. This photo was taken a few days before he shipped out to the Pacific. On 1 June 1945, a little over two months before Japan surrendered, he flew escort for the B-29s called up on a last minute bombing mission. Before they reached their targets over Osaka, a tsunami engulfed the planes. Only a few ever returned. My uncle was one of the unlucky ones. He and his plane were never found. In 1946 his Missing in Action status was changed to Killed in Action.

Some of his friends who survived visited my mother's family soon after the war. They said that the last time they saw his plane it was trying to climb out over the storm. Years later I got my hands on the afteraction report from a veterans' organization. It states that this mission was the largest loss of life and equipment in the Pacific Theater.

The other relative on my mother's side of the family, Frederick Klippel, was killed in the European Theater. As you can probably tell from the photo here (he's the one with the canteen), Frederick served in the German Wehrmacht. In 1942, his infantry reserve battalion arrived in western Ukraine to consolidate the huge gains made by the German invasion of the Soviet Union the previous year. He was killed by Russian artillery fire on 12 February 1943 when the Wehrmacht retook Kharkov.

As as a young boy, every time we visited my grandmother she would show us Robert's Army Air Corps insignia and medals. The stuff was always cool to look at; in fact, I've had a bit of an obsession with this uncle who had died 17 years before I was born. Thanks to the web, I've done a lot of research on his squadron and fighter group. A couple of years ago, I even made contact with the veterans from the figher group. But they were in different squadrons and didn't remember my uncle. It wasn't until I was an adult, many years later, that I realized that Robert's death had torn the heart out of my mother's family. My grandmother firmly believed that he was still alive somewhere on Pacific island or in Japan. Her eldest daughter, my aunt, started to suffer from bipolar disorder at the end of the war. And my mother still can't talk about my uncle with getting extremely emotional.

As for Frederick's family, I don't really know how much his death has affected them. I've never met them myself. I didn't even know they or Frederick existed until I googled Klippel. One of the results was a Klippel genealogy posted by a distant cousin who lives on Stanton Island. Since then I've visited him several times. Just like with my grandmother, we look at the pictures and documents he got in Germany when he visited Frederick's family.

But I do know that once a soldier's ghost sits down at the dinner table it doesn't ever really go away. The one that started sitting with my mother's family in 1945 now sits with me as well as with my cousins and their children. This is why those 648 faces staring out of the windows of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative have become an important part of my bike travels along Western Ave.

Today there are too many ghosts sitting at dinner tables or in backyards or on porches and decks around Chicago and the country.

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Off-duty police officer kills 13 year old

Today, the Chicago Tribune is reporting:
Terrence Booker had planned to pick up his 13-year-old son, Trenton, from school Friday afternoon for a holiday weekend of family barbecues just weeks shy of the boy's 8th-grade graduation.

But he instead received a heartbreaking phone call in the middle of the night that his son had been killed in a hit-and-run collision while riding his bike with friends about 1:30 a.m. Friday after sneaking out of the house.

Later Friday, Chicago police acknowledged that an off-duty officer had struck Trenton on South Ashland Avenue with his car and then drove off.

"That car tore him to pieces," Booker, 40, said outside the home of Trenton's mother, Barbara Norman. "He was dead when he hit the ground."

Police said an internal investigation would take place into the conduct of the off-duty officer, age 39 with 17 years on the force. He was stripped of police powers. A police spokeswoman confirmed that it was a hit-and-run collision.

No criminal charges had been filed against the officer by Friday evening, but the investigation continues.

It was the second fatal crash involving an off-duty Chicago police officer in recent weeks. Officer Joseph Frugoli, 41, was charged last month with reckless homicide and DUI after a fiery April 10 crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway that killed Andrew Cazares and Fausto Manzera, both in their 20s.

Witnesses said Trenton and at least one other boy were riding their bikes in the left southbound lane of Ashland Avenue near 81st Street when a black Dodge Charger approached from behind, swerving and speeding.

Though witnesses said the light at the intersection had turned red, the car did not slow as it approached the boys, striking Booker's bike and flipping him in the air, said Brian Jackson, a witness.

The car continued southbound on Ashland and later was found by police in the 1900 block of West 82nd Street, four blocks from the collision, said Sgt. Antoinette Ursitti, a police spokeswoman.

A steady stream of relatives and friends visited Trenton's home. He was in 8th grade at nearby Cuffe Math, Science and Technology Academy. Trenton's father said his son was loyal and friendly -- the only boy among five sisters -- still figuring out who he wanted to be.

"He wanted to be everything in the world," Booker said. "Nothing but dreams."

Booker said he was furious that it was a police officer behind the wheel of the car that hit his son.

"It's outrageous. It's a shame that a police officer [who] is supposed to uphold the law, that he would do something like that," Booker said later Friday. "You hold your badge and honor as an authority and you leave someone down in the road you know you just hit? It's terrible."

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Keep to the left...

and ring your bell

Miles Kington, who died in 2008, wrote humorous columns for London's The Independent. A fine example is his Old country wisdom can put a spoke in your wheel which appeared in 1997. In it he reported what you could learn about bikes at your local pub:

Keep to the left and ring your bell;
If you see a bull, then ride like hell.

Don't lock your bike where it will flood,
Or you'll find your saddle full of mud.

A spoke will carry a bicycle wheel,
But it ain't no match for an old cow heel

Hear the empty pint pot sound,
Means it's somebody else's round.

One Mars bar
Won't get you far
You'll get more cheer
From a pint of beer.

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Fun with photoshop!

and some really
cool fonts

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Full Moon Fiasco Ride!

every full moon,
never cancels

The FBC-Chicago now has a monthly (or nearly monthly) ride--the Full Moon Fiasco. It is exactly what it sounds like, no hidden gimmicks. Come join 'em, drink some beer, ride a little, drink more beer, take some pictures to put on their blogspot, etc, etc, etc ...

2009 Full Moon Calendar

7 Jun
7 Jul
6 Aug
4 Sept
4 Oct
2 Nov2
2 Dec
31 Dec

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Cup of Brown Joy

possibly a new theme song
the tweed rides?

Love a cup…. I would… ah, God yes!
Ooh that is gorgeous. Yeah!

I need a cup of the brown stuff, the shade of an acorn.
Made warm by the same source that I take my cakes from.
Using a tea pot, a mug, or fine china…
Being hooked up to IVs, and constant supplies.

…and the ___ of my urges might verge on the verge of an earthy brown tea.
I’m certain it’s worth it.

We ___ to workers and use a fresh fountain,
I deserve brews from Peruvian mountains.
I’ve slurped up a cup from an elephant’s trunk
with a couple of monks who utterly stunk.

I’ve had bourbons with sultans and creams with queens,
and I’ve bathed in Earl Grey. I’m really that keen!
And missionaries dismiss me for my singular epiphany.
The difference between him and me is a simple sip of British tea!

So when times are hard and life is rough,
You can stick the kettle on and find me a cup!

Now when I say Earl Grey, you say yes please!
Earl Grey — yes please!
Earl Grey — yes please!

When I say Assam, you say lovely!
Assam — lovely!
Assam — lovely!

When I say ooh, you say ahh!
Ooh — ahh!
Ooh — ahh!
Ooh — ahhhhhh!

I’ve been around the world in 80 brews
to see the place you take me to
to make the brew that tastes like the cream cakes made by angels do.

I’m not the same as you; get shaky with ___.
To swig amazing fluids, but don’t make it the same.
Now, using fine leaves, picked by pretty maidens,
in a bag knitted by a seamstress who lives in Copenhagen.

Brewed up in a pot made of semi-precious metal
And then let the bless-ed contents settle in my very special kettle.

Now, when I say Oo, you say long.

When I say herbal, you say no thanks.
Herbal — no thanks!
Herbal — no thanks!

Mmm….no! No, I want.. I want milk in it.
Strong though! I want to see that spoon stand up!

If you’re tired of tea, then you’re tired of life!
Ah-ha! I’m madder than a hatter. It defies my might!
Liken me to Earl Grey, Assam, or Ginger
Lapsang Soushong raise my pinky finger.

Keep your sodding coffee in a proper copper coffee pot.

…. and spot me loving teapot
coffee clocks, nodding off
lost a plot, sodding off
Need some caffeine added and a Batternburg to top it off.

Cut them off a different block. A different lot can take their pay on
80 cups a day, I haven’t slept for 80 years!
You can say I’m mad with tea, or, or just say I’m mad.
Oh, you can’t stay any longer? Oh..
Actually, I’m I’m quite glad.
All the more Battenburg for me!
I can barely pour, my hands have got a bit shaky from caffeine.
Oh, I love it though.
I’d sell my own grandma for a cup.
Well, I’d sell your grandma for a cup…

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Ode a 3speed

an Englishman
in NY

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Star Trek


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Don't mention the war...

on Winston's next
tweed ride!

Based on the enthusiasm for Winston's Tweed Ride on 2 May, we hereby announce Winston's DMZV Tweed Ride.

Leaving from Bialystok Pub @1pm, we'll make our way at a genteel, civilizing pace to the 89th Annual German-American Festival in Lincoln Square. And of course we'll be stopping in some damn fine bars representing British allies during that unpleasantness in the 30s & 40s!

Just DMZV!!!

As with our 1st Annual Winston's "Speakeasy" Tweed Ride, we hope to offer small, but significant, prizes for

Most Dapper Chap

Most Snappy Lass

Most Stylish Noble Steed

Most Inspired Interpretation of Tweediness

Best Mustache
(open to both lads and inventive lasses)

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We few, we happy few...

we band of bikers!

The 1st Annual Winston's Tweed Ride was a rousing success! Nearly 40 ladies and gents, fabulously kitted out, enjoyed our civil meander past and into some of Chicago's (in)famous speakeasies. More pix here, here, here, here and here! And in honour of such an auspicious occasion, I have cribbed a bit from Mr. Shakespeare's St. Crispen's Day speech...

If we are mark'd to ride, we are enow
To do our city good; and if to live,
The more nutters, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish for one bike more.
By Jove, I am not covetous or bold,
Nor care I who doth join despite the cost;
It yearns me that nutters my tweeds wear;
Such outward things dwell much in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet nickers,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, I wish I was a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one bike more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one less!
Rather proclaim it, Tweedyness, through my host,
That they which hath no stomach for this ride,
Let them depart; their Brit bikes shall be praised,
And tyres for convoy put around their necks;
We would sure ride in that one's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is call'd the feast of Winston’s Ride.
They that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will do a bike-lift when this day is nam'd,
And rouse them at the name of Winston.
They that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast their neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Winston’s Ride.'
Then will they strip their socks and show their scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Winston's day.'

Old farts forget; yet all shan’t be forgot,
But they’'ll remember, with advantages,
What drinks we did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in their mouth as household words-
Lee the Diamond, Pirogi John, Garth,
Aaron and Willow, Tank Ridin’, Dottie-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the old ones teach for fun;
And Winston’s Tweedy Feast shall ne'er go by.

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of bikers;
For they to-day that sheds their oil with me
Shall be my nutter; be they ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle their condition;
And gentlefolk in Chitown now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they rode not here,
And hold their bike frames cheap whiles any speaks
That rode with us upon Winston’s Tweed Ride.

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