Friday, September 30, 2011

Bundle Up for Open Streets this Saturday- A Weekend Family Ride

The Open Streets website has a lot more information.
The Active Transportation Alliance and the Loop Alliance are aligning this weekend and opening State Street for five whole blocks of car free fun. This is very exciting and worth bundling up to come and enjoy. Open Streets. Check out the link. My favorite things on the map are the construction playground and scavenger hunt. The map is here.

A friend and I were talking this week about why they might have chosen an early cold October weekend for this instead of, say, any warmer time. She posited that it is to nip any other movement to open streets in the bud. Do it in the cold and no one will come. Call it failure and don't bother trying again.

I had to say I think it's because they just want to try it out now instead of waiting longer to begin closing streets for the fun of it-- like the great summer month Saturday closings of Park Avenue in New York. While I can't say I'm a fan of the Mayor's CPS handling, his bike program really impresses me. This is an unexpected partnership between Active Trans and the Loop businesses together and we didn't have to talk it to death for months before it happened. Way to go. I'm going and taking hot chocolate and everyone I can talk into being there with me.

The second topic that my friend and I chewed was how to get there with a small person or people and bikes in tow if you can't easily port the child's bike or let them ride. Though Open Streets should be fun either with a bike or on foot, we do love bikes.

Public Transit: My friend will carry her little person's bike on the train and leave the grown-up bikes at home. We will ride in from the Near West Side and let the guys ride their own bikes. The Jackson and Lake stations have elevators but the other stations all seem to involve stairs.

Buses get to State Street from everywhere but are tricky for families because only two bikes fit on the bus rack and the drivers can't let anything larger than a like-a-bike on board. If I had another grown-up with me and two children maximum I'd take the two bus solution: split the grown-ups and bring all the bikes on two different buses.

On bikes with kids from the west I would take Hubbard (or Fulton going east including 3 wrong way blocks east of Morgan), to Green, to Kinzie, until I got to State and rode down. From the North, Wabash is my favorite route to the area of the Open Street as it has four way stops and less traffic then everything else there. From the South... I guess you could take the LFP into Grant Park and ride in from there.

If anyone out there has a great suggestion for getting to State Street we would love to share them in the comments section!

Food, Coffee, Bathrooms -- the keys to happiness
Food and coffee options are always mixed in the Loop. Our usual suggestion downtown for coffee is the Intelligentsia on Randolph just past the El on Wabash. (The shop on Jackson in the Monadnock building is closed on the weekends). Not really kid friendly but delicious all the same. Word has it a Magnolia Cupcake bakery just opened at the Block 37 shopping plaza on State and Randolph as well if you like cupcakes.

The food court at the seventh floor of Macy's -- Seven on State-- has a fun view and a mix of food from Japanese noodles to a Frontera Grill outpost. It isn't cheap but there are lots of options and it's right on State. Caffe Baci shops abound in the Loop and all have pasta, hot soup and pizzas.

Another option is the three Hannahs Bretzel shops a few blocks from State around the Loop. Very expensive but they have decent coffee and a devilish selection of chocolate. We get the yummy traditional Schwabian pretzels baked as dark as they will serve, pack butter and a knife from home, split the pretzel in half flatwise and fill them with butter. Bring your own butter and knife since the store will only sell you an expensive foil wrapped organic butter pat on the side. (Incidentally, the weird whole wheat pretzels they have are an insult to the pretzel gods.) These Butterbrez'n are our usual Critical Mass evening bike snack.

All these spots (except for one Hannahs Bretzel on Washington) have bathrooms and there are oodles of Chipotles, Starbucks and other fast food spots to run into for a bathroom.

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