True confessions of a bike commuter: Francesca Bourgault

It’s time again for another bike commuter…. today features the lovely Francesca Bourgault, the cheeriest lighting designer I ever did meet:

Francesca Bourgault is a lighting designer, technical director, dance teacher and crafter that bops around town constantly. The only regular parts of her schedule are the 4 tot dance classes I teach each week at Chase Park for Design Dance. In the evenings she design for enough dance companies that she’s always somewhere different and always trying to remember how to get there. When gear needs to be shuttled or the commute is too far, she drives, but only then does she leave her funked up bike locked at home.

Where do you live? The southeast corner of Ravenswood [a North-side Chicago neighborhood]

How long is your commute? Depending on the gig, it can be anywhere from a mile to 8 each way. If I get called to Oak Park, however, I typically choose to drive since it’s super far and usually a late night rehearsal or tech crew call.

from Red Dress Run on the 4th of July 2009. Francesca uses her bike for exercise and dressing up in addition to commuting.

What kind of bike do you ride?  Ha! My poor bike was probably stolen before it got to me. On Craig’s List it was labeled Arctic in color, purple and white. It’s had a lot of adjustments including a trade from Ram’s horn to straight handlebars and from green brake and gear lines to silver. I think it can be considered a hybrid but who knows anymore.

Do you wear work clothes on your bike, or wear bike clothes and change at work? Almost always I will bike in work clothes. The only exception is if I want to wear cute shoes for a show; then it’s all about the sneakers or boots for the commute.

How do you carry your stuff? Paniers? Messenger bag? Milk Crate? My partner donated a sweet, white basket to my cause that goes on my handlebars. I also have a rack on the back with bungee netting that holds the leftovers. Sometimes I even add my backpack but mostly I find a way to leave something at home if it seems like that may be necessary.

Fair-weather rider? The only things I won’t ride through are the slushy stuff on the side of the road and ice. I hate ice and have fallen on it too many times. My tires are not good for that sort of thing and I don’t trust my unbalanced bike.

Scariest moment on the bike: I don’t usually run into any funny business but recently, in Wrigleyville, of course, I got slowly cut off by a cab. Slowly meaning that he almost wasn’t past me when he started veering into the bike lane then off the road. He got a swift smack to the window for that one. No turn signal or anything. Sheesh! I must say that I’m pretty lucky for not having been doored ever or gotten thrown off by any humungous pot holes.

Tips for new riders: Make yourself do it. It’s easy to get into the habit of taking the bus/train or driving “because it’s easier” but in the end, it’s really not. It takes so much less time both in transit and pre/post ride due to parking plus the boost from cardio is a benefit we all can use.

Why you ride: I hate driving and parking and definitely hate missing the bus. My bike is so convenient and reminds me to move when I would otherwise be sedentary most of the day.

If you are a bike commuter and would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to lauren@artintercepts.org for consideration.  Thanks!

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True confessions of a bike commuter: Tim Warnecke

Last Fall I kicked off this series with an expose of some of my own experiences as a bike commuter.  Now, it’s my Dad’s turn!

Tim recently hopped on the bike commuting bandwagon as a cathartic way to rebuild strength after a prolonged illness, save money, and to stick it to the government.

Where do you live? I live in Eugene, OR

How long is your commute? My normal commute is only about 20 minutes each way to my part time job (playing poker) which means I work at night and commute home in the dark.

What kind of bike do you ride?  Raleigh “hybrid”, kinda mountain bike, kinda road bike… the tires are too wide but it gives me a workout…

Do you wear work clothes on your bike, or wear bike clothes and change at work? Helmet (highly reflective), bike gloves and regular “work clothes” depending on what kinda work I did that day… generally work boots and construction-type clothes…. I then “change” into an appropriate poker hat (covers my eyes and most of my face… and I’m ready for “work”

How do you carry your stuff? Paniers? Messenger bag? Milk Crate? I carry my stuff in a highly reflective back pack with a blinking red light on the back…

Fair-weather rider? I would still call myself a fair weather rider… I’ll be glad to ride in light rain and cold, as long as there’s no ice…  I did get caught in one hail storm that I didn’t like at all..  The weather in Eugene doesn’t get too bad so I can see myself riding 90% of the time as I get stronger…

Scariest moment on the bike: I haven’t ridden long enough to have any scary moments… I’ve only been riding for about a month.. the big scare is finding my way around the bike trails and finding the the least populated streets that constitute the most direct route…

Tips for new riders: Although I’ve ridden for years, my bike commuting experience would put me in the “new” category… my advise for new riders is to get as much reflective clothing as possible and just get on the bike and ride… it’ll addict you as you do it more and more…

Why you ride: I ride because I want to gain some strength and fitness and screw the companies that sell gasoline and the government entities that tax gasoline… don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate businesses that sell gas, I’m a card carrying Libertarian and unabashed capitalist…. but there are alternatives to everything and riding a bike allows me to beat them out of a few dollars a week of my “hard earned” dollars… By the way, I feel the same way about providers of “public transportation”….

If you are a bike commuter and would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to lauren@artintercepts.org for consideration.  Thanks!

True confessions of a bike commuter: Ann Hinterman

Ann Hinterman is a rock star. 

I first met Ann when I was living in Ravenswood and we connected over our mutual love for worms.  Ann is the Market Manager for the stellar Glenwood Sunday Market, and all-around advocate for all things organic, local, and sustainable.  As such, she’s also an avid bike commuter.

There's nothing Ann can't carry on her bike, even canning supplies for her annual tomato processing fest!

Where do you live? Rogers Park (a neighborhood on the North side of Chicago, IL)

How long is your commute? When I began commuting by bike, I was working at a bakery in Lincoln Park, biking 13 miles round-trip daily.  My commute now that I work in the 49th Ward Alderman’s office is a wimpy 1 mile round-trip!

What kind of bike do you ride?  A powder blue Raleigh hybrid affectionately called Baby Blue, or the Blue Bombshell

Do you wear work clothes on your bike, or wear bike clothes and change at work? When my commute was longer, I’d peel off my sweaty riding clothes and change into something more customer-appropriate after a quick stop in the walk-in freezer to cool down.  On the road, the hard core cyclists were always swishing past me in aerodynamic outfits, so I thought that’s what bike commuting should look like.  Visiting Amsterdam with it’s incredible bike-centric cultural opened my eyes to a world of commuting sans Spandex.  One woman even said that a bike commute is the perfect venue for those gorgeous killer heels, because you don’t have to walk in them!  Now I hop on my bike in work clothes and a bandanna to wipe my brow.

How do you carry your stuff? Paniers? Messenger bag? Milk Crate? I installed a rear rack with two collapsible metal baskets.  It’s heavy, but I haven’t come across a load I couldn’t carry on my bike.  This includes the delivery of two giant canning pots to a friend across the ‘hood, and (gentle) transport of my office compost worms- bin bungeed on the back, hand-carrying the container of worms while biking one handed.

Fair-weather rider? No way!  I don’t really have an excuse, now that my commute is so short.  I say that I bike in all weather because I’m lazy- it would take way longer to walk than to ride!  Plus, now I’ve outfitted myself in a stylin’ Dutch cycling poncho, so I’m ready for anything!

Scariest moment on the bike: Off-leash, bike aggressive dogs.  Yikes!

Tips for new riders: Get a bike you love or get a good tune-up of your current bike, find a carrying system that works for you so you’re not limited by what fits in your backpack, and start riding!  Don’t give up, it gets easier.

Why you ride: It’s faster than walking, cheaper than CTA, good for me and the planet.  And I can rock my Glenwood Sunday Market bumper sticker 🙂

If you are a bike commuter and would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to lauren@artintercepts.org for consideration.  Thanks!

True confessions of a bike commuter

As many of you may know, I ride my bike to work (almost) every day.  Lately I’ve become interested in hearing stories and comparing notes with other bike commuters.  Therefore, I’m kicking off a new series today called True Confessions of a Bike Commuter.  It’s an opportunity for us to meet and greet with my fellow commuters, and find out what makes us get in the saddle every morning.

Me first?  Well, if you insist.

Spring-ish, 2011 and adjusting to the new commute from our fixer-upper in Portage Park (yes, we had mirrors in our living room).

Where do you live? Chicago

How long is your commute? I work two part time jobs during the day and travel to both by bike.  The daily commute from home to work to work to home is about 15-20 miles.

What kind of bike do you ride?  A Trek hybrid

Do you wear work clothes on your bike, or wear bike clothes and change at work? I’m lucky that both of my jobs have locker rooms, so I wear bike clothes and can change and shower if necessary.  Padded shorts are non-negotiable.

How do you carry your stuff? Paniers? Messenger bag? Milk Crate? I’ve tried all three, but these days I’ve got a trunk bag that has attached paniers.  It has a huge capacity (key since I commute between jobs, bring a change of clothes, and pack my lunch), and I like not having to carry anything on my back.  Downside: it’s heavy.  I’ll add, too, that the homeless people who like to steal bikes noticed me a LOT less when I was rocking the orange milk crate.

laying laundry out to dry in the office

Fair-weather rider? For the most part, I ride every day.  I’ll ride in the rain, snow, hot, cold, or wind.  The only thing I refuse toride in is sleet and ice.  The only downside to this is that my co-workers often have to pass by my underwear drying in the office…

Scariest moment on the bike: I’ve been “doored” about 5 times but the scariest by far was when I went over the top of a car door and landed in the middle of a busy road.  I was fine, except for some nasty road rash and a cut on my eye.  The driver said he was sorry, and then when I asked if my face was bleeding (it was) he said “No, No… you look great!”

Tips for new riders: Spend the money to invest in good shorts, a helmet, lights, and a reflective jersey.  You’ll look goofy, but it makes for a more comfortable and safe ride.  Learn hand signals and use them, especially when you’re among a big bunch of riders (other riders can be just as dangerous as cars).  I also think it’s important to be a defensive rider, especially in a big city.  That doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk – just be sure to appear confident on the bike.

Why you ride: We have one car in our household, but I only use it on the weekends.  I get really frustrated with the cost of public transit and the time it takes to get where I need to go.  This month, I’ve spent four dollars and fifty cents total on transportation costs.  I commute by bike in 45 minutes a distance takes me 70 minutes on bus.  Plus, I like the fresh air and built-in exercise.  I’ve had some of my best creative moments on my bike… for me it’s a way to escape from my hectic schedule.  After you commute by bike for awhile, you can’t really imagine doing it any other way.

If you are a bike commuter and would like to be featured in this series, please send an email to lauren@artintercepts.org for consideration.  Thanks!

Two doors in two days

This is not my bike.

I received such generous support on my Facebook post yesterday regarding one idiot driver who perceived the bike lane on Halstead St. as a free ticket to exit his vehicle without looking in the side mirror.  I mean, it’s not like bikes ride in the bike lane anyway.

Let me recreate the scenario:

I’m riding through Greektown during the lunch hour (against better judgement).

Car driver X opens his door at the precise moment I’m passing his car.

I swerve.

He continues to get out of his car.

I yell. “Jesus!”

He mutters “…sorry…”

“…sorry…”

I’d like to emphasize that the ellipses and all lowercase letters are meant to indicate the relaxed, nonchalant tone with with the driver responded.  Awesome.  However, I lived to ride again – and today I was decked head to toe in electric green.  This afternoon, as I was riding home on Diversey a lady opened her door on me.

Let me recreate the scenario:

I’m riding West on Diversey wearing an electric green jersey, neon blue and green flowered helmet, matching sunglasses, and bright red shoes, with my super bright “Mr Blinky” light turned on.

Car driver Y opens her door at the precise moment I’m passing her car.

I swerve.

She continues to get out of her car.

I yell. “Jesus!!!!      Lady!!!”

She mutters, “I saw you….”

Okay.  Look: 

*steps on soap box*

Bike lanes occasionally have bikes riding down them.  Look in your mirror.  Roads without bike lanes also occasionally have bikes riding down them.  If you look in your mirror and see a bike coming, don’t get out of the car.  Count to two, and let the bleeping bike pass.

I’m not a bike messenger.  I’m not even a hipster.  I’m just a girl who doesn’t have her own car, doesn’t want to pay for the bus, and likes to get a little exercise from time to time.

My very life is in your hands, drivers.

Share the road.

*steps down from soap box*

Jesus.

Bike Commuter

I admit it. Operation Bike Ride 2011 has, for the most part, been an abysmal failure.

Until now, that is.

I ran out of money on my transit card, and decided to pay for a tune-up on my bike instead of reloading my card.

It just so happened that I got my bike back from the shop on Chicago’s “Bike to Work Week”, and it also just so happened that it rained 3 out of 5 days during that week. I rode all that week, and every day since. And it’s pretty much rained every day.

The pros:

  • zero dollars spent on transportation in two weeks
  • getting my bikini body back
  • shaving 30 minutes off my commute time

The cons:

  • having to use my bike as a clothes line and publicly display my sports bra on a daily basis