Category: biking

Blinking the Obvious

Question of the day:  why do bicycles not have turn signals like cars and motorcycles?  Lights are on everything and anything, and even make an appearance on bikes in the form of headlights and taillights, accents on wheels, but yet the mighty bike has not evolved to also feature turn signal lights.  You know, a blinking light that alerts traffic of your intended travel course, so that you don’t have to rely on archaic system of hand signals, leaving only one hand to manage the balancing of your body on two skinny tires.   You would think that if a rider can manage changing gears, they could manage flipping a switch that controls a much used, much needed, and very important road communication.

Changing Lanes

With the advent of Amazon Now and Google Express- hyper convenient delivery services that are not only speedy but also inexpensive, catering to the whimsical and short attention spam masses, is this new culture of instant reception going to lend to an increase in other sorts of delivery service options?  Is this going to spill back over into the arena of the bike messengers, the cowboys of the city roads battling the automotive clogged lanes?  Is this increase in the demand for instant delivery going to add more two-wheeled and petal powered machines to the mix?  Personalized delivery is absurd because of how much behind the scene costs are required in getting that precious package to you. Cars, gas, insurance, and parking are all expensive.  A dude on a bike, way less of a down payment.  I hope to see more crusaders of cycle on the scene, filling in the gap of convenience driven culture.

The bicycle’s plea

What if there were bike lanes along the train tracks?  How would that change the biking scene in Chicago?  Frankly biking in this city sucks.  Yes there are a few bike lanes, but hardly any are protected lanes- where the bike lane is separated from the direct traffic, tucked in between parked cars and the curb.  Within this great and grandiose city there are the very few that do exist, and those teases lasts for but a short spell, like a lack luster summer romance.

Riding next to full blown rush hour traffic, squeezed in between semi trucks, garbage trucks, and food service trucks, and stopping every 20 feet for a stop sign or traffic light, is not fun.  It used to be thrilling, but now it is just straight up annoying.  Do I want to ride my bike everyday?  No because it is not fun anymore.  Stopping that precious momentum just to rebuild it again to that coasting status takes a lot of energy.  Then stop again as soon as you get going.

Regaining this momentum is a lot different from the experience in the car.  Yes start and stop is annoying, but on the bike it is downright challenging.  This, my driving friends, is why we cyclists cannot stop at every stop sign.  Not only the force required for the sake of movement, it is also the time involved.  In the time it takes to complete the stop, then to go, and finally to pass through the intersection, we are looking at a solid minute.  If instead, I look at the intersection and make sure all parties are reaching their stop, I will continue on my journey.  This agreement saves everyone time.  We are all in a rush.  So please cars, understand that we bikers have already seen you, and are not being jerks if we glide by seemingly unknowingly.

I am not justifying this agreement as a viable solution, do not get me wrong. It is clearly not working.

One ideal solution to the bike conundrum would be to make use of the avenues that already exist in the city: train tracks.  There is one old track line that has been reinvented as a bike and walking path: the 606.  This is a great solution and I want to see more types of this sort of innovative city structure to help carry us into a modern and green city, the type of city that Chicago is promoting, the type of city that adapts to the modern man’s hustle.  I want cycling to be a viable solution, an easy and stress free form of transportation that is not a life and death scenario, as it is now.

The advancement of the traffic jam

Dear Chicago,

Why are we stuck in a Jeffersonian era of traffic control? This constant stopping is slowing down progress, making all commutes much more cumbersome than necessary, creating a road rage anger that is deep-rooted and raw, superbly aggressive and panic-stricken.

The first traffic light was invented in 1868, and after 1920, the design has largely not changed.  Since Woodrow Wilson was president, the traffic light has not been upgraded, the flow of traffic has not been improved upon.  The only update we have gotten in 150 years is that there is a countdown for signal change.  This is not revolutionary, but it is included on the Wikipedia page because there is nothing else to say about this highly important societal tool that impacts just about everyone.

It is beyond time for a change, a drastic change, one that incorporates all this technology to help ease the burden of stopping and starting at regularly controlled intervals. The flow of traffic is not natural like the rushing river, it is sporadic like the ever changing Midwestern weather.  We need a system where the signals monitor the accumulated cars and then makes an informed decision on when to change.  Yes, an informed decision that accounts for multiple aspects, a technological decision based on data and real life events, not arbitrary parameters such as every two minutes regardless of the situation.  A scenario where they don’t blink on set schedule just for the sake of changing.  This is not a difficult or expensive fix, I bet the city could do it on its smart phone.

Same for the stop sign.  Lets make then digital so that you only have to stop if there is another car registered. The sign always says slow, but can change to stop when it is needed.

There needs to be bus priority lanes and traffic signals so that riding the bus is not so slow. Taking the bus is hardly a viable option because of how terribly slow the travel is.  The forever bus, that is what it is commonly referred to. The bus needs to travel faster than the flow of traffic, not slower.

Ruby Darling

I name lots of things that are important to me.  It’s fun, it gives material things the importance they deserve with a name.  They are tools and machines that make life not just easier and simpler, but so much more.   More fun, they are a means for creativity, visual enhancement for the sake of beauty, a vehicle to aid in daily life, a lens of self-expression.  As I think about naming my new camera, I am reminded the names of things I have, how they came about, and why they are important.

I have already published a dissertation on Turnip, my white bike.  Turnips two-wheeled counterpart is Pauline.  She is a purple Schwinn cruiser with purple sparkly handle bars, the original S on the seat, and a large basket in the front.  She is named after a song, for the lyric “everything is so easy for Pauline.”  That’s the cruisers mantra, great for a lazy summer days, gliding around town.

But Ruby Darling.  Ruby Darling is one of my most prized possessions, an unpredictably perfect machine for me, a travel sized companion to whom I can tell all my secrets.  She keeps none of them.  Ruby Darling is my means to spill my guts to the world, to preserve my feelings, emotions, thoughts, ideas, and odd expressions to anybody out there.  Ruby Darling files and organizes, she processes and simplifies.  She checks my spelling and everything.  She not only communicates to the world at large, she keeps my friendships burning and my professional life spinning.  Ruby Darling pours out the song in my spirit, keeps the music playing all day long.

Ruby Darling, without your technological glow as a guiding light, I might feel lost.

Ruby Darling’s real life name is Surface Pro 2, a nice sorta fickle tablet that is perfect for this nice sorta fickle gal.

The Importance of Names

It took me a long time to decide what to rename my bike.  I finally got my dream bike, so it was a lot of pressure to find a name that I like and that is appropriate to the spirit of the bike.  I tend to keep things for a long time, so I know that this name will stay with me for years to come.  Not only is this the bike that I have always wanted and desired to be mine, I dreamt about the bike moments before it came into my life.  I dreamt that I found the bike in a thrift store for $35 dollars, and upon awakening I was very sad when I realized that the fortunate bike was just a mental muse. Not that I expected to get my dream machine for a price that was super fortunate, it was, after all, a dream.

The very next day, my coworker informs me that he has a bike, a split frame mixte Peugeot (no big deal, just the most coveted old school bike style in all of Chicagoaland), that he does not want (too small for him) and that I can have for my very own!  Imagine my excitement.  My dream came true, exactly true, beautifully true.  My dream bike is finally mine to have and to ride and to possess for decades to come.  A new and best companion to share my road time adventures, to be the reason for my trips, to fulfill the need of transportation and exercise.

The bike came with the name Reptar, which is a mighty fine name, but it is not the name that I would choose for my fabulous contraption of a bike.  I spend a lot of time on my bike, so the machine needs a name that embodies the spirit and energy we create together.  I spent a long time thinking about names.  Fillip, Sebastian, Cruella, Pierre, Cosmos, Galactica, Constellation, Alfredo (after my dad), Moonlight, Jupiter, Jack (after my grandpa), Parsnip, Fernet… the list was long.

I finally decided on a name the same day I decided that I was going to pursue a new career opportunity.  After having landed on a name for the bike, I felt confident that I could make a descision about my future.  I needed some sense of permanence, a constant theme, to help me commit to a new environment. I needed to feel secure in a choice, albeit not as important as a job, to feel a personal sense of security.  I felt more clear in the brain.  It gave me a sense of peace, closure, and serenity.

Turnip.  That’s the name.  Turnip Greenz.  The bike is old and the paint job does not have the clean sharp white that it must have worn 45 years ago when it was created.  It has a black seat post, black handle bar post, and black tape wrapped around the handle bars.  Together, this reminds me of a turnip pulled fresh from the ground, covered in thick, life giving dirt.

Turnip is also named after the constant companion in Howl’s Moving Castle.  Turnip is a scarecrow that skips on a stick, following the protagonist around, providing help, company, and joy.  Turnip does not speak, can only bounce to get around, but is my favorite character in the story.  He follows the character around wherever she may go, without asking, without hesitation or invitation, but is the hero of the story.  Turnip Greenz is my jolly, my bouncing and energetic companion, my constant for adventure, who does not speak but provides an irreplaceable role.  Turnip is the unspoken hero to the story. Turnip is the unspoken means to my end.