It’s Bike to Work Week in Chicago.
While I was an enthusiastic bike commuter in Champaign, I hung up my wheels for the first year I lived in Virginia. A bike commute wouldn’t have been impossible, but it would have been a miserably hilly 8.5 miles on busy city roads on a heavy steel bike from the 70s with approximately 2 available gears. A year later, I had a lighter single speed, a 7.5 mile commute along the Potomac, and a couple of coworkers living in the neighborhood, so biking to work was actually kind of a joy.
Bike to Work Day 2009
Then came just-as-hilly Michigan, where my commute was uphill both ways, with stoplights at nearly every block for half of my commute. I had good intentions of biking and a dramatically shorter commute, but barely rode at all for the two years I lived there.
By comparison, biking in Chicago has been a joy. Yeah, I broke my arm (again). Yeah, I face-planted on Cermak last year and narrowly avoided getting hit by a truck. Yeah, I had a wheel stolen, and replaced a wheelset because roads on the south side are just terrible. Yeah, I tense up every time I bike on the open grating on many of the city’s bridges or over tracks that even slightly protrude from the road. Yeah, I get pissed off at drivers, at buses riding in the bike lane, at pedestrians not paying attention, at cyclists breaking the law.
But that doesn’t make it any less of a joy. It’s such a different way of being in the city. I can’t explain it any other way. Even on the worst of days – like Tuesday, when I did my 8 mile bike commute straight into 23mph winds – it’s better than driving, and easier than taking mass transit, at least for my commute.
Before I got pregnant, when we were first talking about the prospect of having a baby together, we argued about biking. I love it. It makes me incredibly happy. I’m also injury-prone (see above), and that’s not good for a baby. A friend’s husband and midwife banned her from biking when she was pregnant. It’s too risky.
We struck a compromise: no road bike during my pregnancy, but Divvy was OK as long as I was riding conservatively. When the weather finally improved, we spent a couple of long weekend afternoons riding Divvy on the lakefront – not too fast, not aggressive at all, just enjoying the weather and the view and the exercise. It felt amazing. N – who hadn’t been on a bike in the city until last fall – ventured onto the city streets with me. I had a serious case of bikeyface.
And so I’ve resumed biking to work a couple of days per week – 7-8 miles on Divvy via the lake or MLK Drive. I arrive at work sweaty, hungry, happy, and energized. I don’t have to go to the gym on my lunch. In the afternoon, I take the Metra, picking up a Divvy bike for the two miles between the station and home. It’s great.
My goal for Bike to Work Week was to ride at least one way, every day. I’m not sure I’ll make it the final day – 5 days of consecutive commutes on heavy bikes while six months pregnant have left me jelly-legged and exhausted, and besides, the weather’s going to be terrible – but I’m awfully happy that I was able to ride this week, and hope I can keep it up awhile longer. Besides, judging by the kicking, the baby seems to like it.