Seven years ago I was hit while riding my bike.
It wasn’t serious, but the driver did not stop and I basically gave up riding after that.
My partner recently put a kid’s bike seat on his and I’ve been wanting to ride with them. So I found a $14 1984 Huffy (the cost of two rides on a Divvy, seriously) at the thrift store and have not wanted to get off of it. I posted on Facebook that I was looking to buy a lock off someone and a rad lady offered me one for free, even dropping it off at my house.
A few weeks ago I decided to ride the six miles from my house to work, downtown. It was a fairly easy ride, only two streets.
I was passed. A lot. I don’t ride fast because I’m not in a hurry. 98% of the riders on the road were men. Men in a hurry. Men who rode through red lights. Men on Divvy’s who felt like they had to prove they know how to ride a bike. Men who pass on the right. Men who just had to keep moving their peddles no matter what, going through pedestrian crossings, crossing the street to ride in the wrong direction.
They own the road; on bikes, in cars, on foot. Taking up space. Expecting everyone to move out of the way. When you don’t move out of the way, you will still be passed or blazed over or pushed out of the way.
I could not just enjoy this ride. I could not casually coast along in the bike lane and take my time without some dude yelling “ON THE LEFT” every thirty seconds.
I rode my bike everywhere as a kid. I bought one with my babysitting money when I was fourteen from Walmart. It’s the only way to get around on your own when you’re fourteen. I didn’t have a helmet. I rode in the middle of the street most days. I didn’t have a lock.
When I attempted to ride in the city, I had a bike stolen, a seat stolen, I was hit and then that bike had both wheels stolen on separate occasions. So not exactly a positive experience.
But the kid seat has changed all of that. It reminded me that biking is a mode of transportation. A fairly cheap one if you do it right and a decent form of exercise, at the very least, getting outside.
The thing about biking in Chicago is that you don’t need a fancy bike, or clothes, or saddle bags or a way to listen to your music. It may seem like the opposite (and if that’s your thing or it’s necessary, COOL!) From the hipsters to the Lance Armstrong wannabes, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for casual riders.
You just have to make room.
Today I took Clybourn instead of Lincoln. It has a protected bike lane for much of the ride. There were not as many people. I rode at my pace and didn’t feel as rushed.
I hope I can make this a part of my commute when I want and not be bullied off the road.