Saturday, November 26, 2011

Another Great Comment on Creating Better Streets and Cities from the NYT

We found another heartening piece- this time in the op-ed of the NYT about the "Death of the Fringe Suburb". It highlights the importance of walkability, cycling and good transit as it relates to real estate values. It's worth a read. Find it here.

Winter Gift Books for the Small Cyclists in Your Life

As we've mentioned often reading about or just meeting pictures of riders in children's books can be a fun way to share bikes with your smallest soon to be riders. We've talked about many of our favorites this year but want to mention them again since the season for sharing books as gifts for special friends and loved ones has begun. Here is a big mix of our reviews from the year.

Always at the top is the terrific Bear's Bicycle.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Christmas Market in Chicago! Kid's Lantern Festival on the 9th!

Hope you got those Pilgrims and turkeys out of your system because the German style christmas market / Weihnachtsmarkt / Christkindlmark(e)t just opened (actually Wednesday night) in Daley Plaza. So if you are riding your Fahrrad on Critical Mass this Friday (today? the 25th) be sure to bring cash and time for a sausage or some sugar glazed almonds and a mulled Glühwein / nonalcoholic Kinderpunsch or hot chocolate. They'll be open until 9 pm Fri and Sat, other days til 8. (For authenticity try to set up your bike to fulfill the German StVZO traffic regulations)

This year there are not only regular Bratwurst and the Nürnberger version that's thinner (and odd chewy rolls, but you can't have everything), but also a major North vs South German conflict with Weißwurst (south) for sale just next to Currywurst (north). Weißwurst is white sausage cooked in hot lemon water (that you don't drink), served with a pretzel and sweet Bavarian mustard and a wheat beer, best as breakfast. You suck the filling out (zuzeln) and throw away the skin, at least in Munich (video explanation in German here). Above the Weißwurst equator, the Prussians prefer Currywurst. Currywurst is a hot-dog-like Bockwurst cut up and drowned with ketchup and curry powder, with fries, eaten with a disposable fork while standing in front of a little shack. ("on my shirt, on my jacket, what kind of crud is this? All full of Currywurst." - Herbert Grönemeyer 1982). Both are perfect meals for your bike riding kid - bring some paper towels.

Beer and wine is for sale in several spots, good but unfortunately not cheap. There are a few vegetarian things to try like potato pancakes and possibly some of the soups and stews, but ask. I found ham in my supposedly vegetarian potato puff thing in Germany once and the lady looked at it and said "Meat? That's not meat! That's ham!"

There is also plenty of kitsch here, including wooden puppets and tree trimmings and, and, and...

One highlight for kids is the lantern festival (usually on Martinmas, Nov. 11, but in Chicago at 4 pm on Dec. 9), where kids WHO HAVE SIGNED UP AHEAD (this is the info link) (this is the email link) wander through the plaza with lanterns and sing songs. Make your own lantern -- a candle in a decorated jar hanging from a stick on a wire is basic, a papier mache animal is better -- or you can buy a premade beautiful reusable, battery powered German one when you sign up for the festival. They'll have it waiting for you the night of the walk at a booth near the north edge of the market. About half the kids know how to sing the usual songs. "Usual" for Germany - we make do with the little paper they hand out for people who don't know them. There are only a few religious references in the songs, like Xmas itself. It's fun and the participants each get a huge bag of great chocolate to take home. Last year our kids were still eating it a month later.

closing up

You can lock your bike across the street at a loop rack (look out for removable "sucker poles") easier than on the plaza itself. Daley Plaza is easy to find, just east of the City Hall on Washington between Clark and Dearborn, our routes to the Loop here. Bathrooms are portable ones on the west side of the plaza, and there is a great log cabin looking shed to warm up in on the north side if you can find a seat. We like going in the middle of the week when it's not so crazy. It goes from now until Xmas Eve (closes at 4 then). Look at the giant events website for lots more info.

Every little neighborhood in Germany has a little local version of this, with the neighborhood potters and glassblowers and knitters selling their entire year's production in a month and everyone meeting after work for a mug of hot mulled wine. We think they should have a month long one in a neighborhood like Logan Square, with local crafts for sale - they'd make a bundle, and we'd come! (especially to the Kozie Prery booth).

Edit: there will be something kind of similar Dec 3 and 4 at Pulaski Fieldhouse: the renegade craft fair holiday edition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Guardian Bike Blog On Biking To School Again/CDOT's Streets For Cycling 2020 Planning Begins

Today the Guardian Bike blog covers riding to school  again. In a short piece they talk about a rise in cycling to school published by the charity Sustrans, a sustainable transportation charity in the UK that works with school children and basically supports a UK version of  Safe Routes to Schools. The piece discusses a rise in school ridership at schools in which Sustrans provides educational programming.
This is interesting in Chicago as the Active Transportation Alliance begins to develop in-school programs to grow the number of school riders here in our city.

The author does mention the need for infrastructure in the UK, which is a huge topic in our city as well now that the push is on to create new lanes, which leads me to...

...The Streets for Cycling 2020 Plan being developed this winter and spring by CDOT and you.  Family riders in Chicago have a great chance to share their input and grow lane networks designed for all riders by contributing plenty of input into the new Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan. The link has a detailed fact sheet to read. Please check out the great post by  Walk/ Bike Lincoln Park about how to be a part of the city plan. It's very useful even if you live in a different corner of the city. The Open House for Streets For Cycling will be December 10th from 10 a.m.- 4p.m. at 23 E. Madison. This is a great opportunity to come out and share your amazing ideas with the city for getting your family out to all of your favorite places on better streets. But this is just the beginning.

Each community in the city will have an advisory committee which is made up of basically anyone who has anything to share about how to get places on a bike here. Email to find out about how to find your advisory group and be a part of creating the neighborhood networks that the plan will hopefully be putting into place. The best way to get better streets for children and families in the city is to be a big part of the plan as it is being created.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bikes for lots of riders

Conference bike (red, looks like an octopus) in the back holds 7, two person 
romance trike (LoveBike) in front, a Gazelle Cabby cargobike and a regular bike. 

People often ask us about multiperson bikes. (I consider that to mean more than just a grownup and a few kids on the same bike, which you can do with many bikes in our About Cargobikes page.) I've seen a few, and brought together a few pictures here. I don't think they've really built the Cargobike Extra Extra Long. Know of any others?

The guy told me that the purple LoveBike in the picture is so hard to control with that long steering rudder that it is a real test of the strength of your romance. Apparently it keeps hitting the riders. I've heard better about the conference bike, though it doesn't look too practical for commuting either. (it's used for team building exercises and tours I think). They make them with variable numbers of riders. (The former importer, DBC City Bikes in Boston, is now concentrating on US made utility bikes instead.)

A kindergarten 8 kid transporter again from our Rolling Orange post:

Here's a link to the pedal pub in Chicago, yet another Dutch idea, but of course in Chicago you can't have an open alcohol container on it in public, like you can in Holland. I can't find my own picture of one but it looks like a San Francisco trolley and a bar at the same time, and everyone pedals from his or her barstool. The bartender steers while the trolley moves around, then serves when it's parked.

I think we're doing well with a maximum of 6 people on our big Bakfiets (only happened twice - you could do 7 in a pinch though, I'm sure of it!) How many can you fit in your car? 

Next step - clown car bike!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Revised balance bike post

We added crank removal pictures to the old post we have about making a balance bike out of a standard toddler bike. Have a look!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Buying a bike for your child

This question seems to keep coming up, so here is our take on it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Books and Bikes: To Book- A -Mania at the Harold Washington Library

This Saturday, November 19th, will be the annual Book-A-Mania Festival at the Harold Washington Library from 11a.m. to 3 p.m.. Book-A-Mania is a free spectacle of authors, performance and crafts held each year throughout the Harold Washington Library downtown. Take your bikes and go. It's just incredibly fun.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Winterish Ride and Birthday Greeting

We are still trailing behind other riders these days barely out on our usual routes. This morning was a spot of light as my middle guy and I spent the morning out for a ride on our own trawling Greek bakeries and chattering together as we spun along with the box.
Talking and riding with my kids are a secret dividend of traveling on a bike.
 Come home to find that Grid profiled the lovely Martha Williams and her special blog Bike Fancy! which turns one this weekend. Bike Fancy always has a surprise.  Old, young, every shape of woman and age, all riders out in Chicago on every kind of ride.
 Martha took our picture last year midway through the winter after we met at Dottie's (of Let's Go Ride a Bike) Women Who Bike Brunch. Dottie has been dubbed by one writer in Chicago as the Martha Stewart of the Chicago biking but I like to think of her more as the Patti Smith super punk rock godmother of the women's riding scene here and her brunch as a winter morning midwest CBGB's. She always tells it like it is her way when she writes and makes a place at the table for every kind of rider to find.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

( Overdue) Love Letter to Bike Lanes in the New York TImes Today!

What a surprise when I found this long piece "Pleasures of Life in the Slow Lane" stashed away in the Arts section of the New York Times. A two years long overdue love letter to bikes in New York. It holds true for Chicago as we begin to actually turn the clock forward to having real cycling infrastructure. Just read it. The prose will make you swoon. Everything they say about New York is true of the potential for bikes to transform Chicago- for family cyclists too! Link is here.
Micheal Kimmelman rides along with Janette Sadik-Khan (my hero) through the city. Just imagine how amazing it will be in Chicago when we have as much bike infrastructure here and the Sun Times can take a beautiful ride after ignoring all the benefits for years? Maybe we can just skip the ignoring/ heckling part and  create cycling infrastructure in Chicago soon!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Raleigh Twenty Folding Bike

The Raleigh Twenty was a little sometimes folding, sometimes not three speed bike with 20 inch (406 or 451) wheels that Raleigh started building after they missed out on selling the suddenly very popular small wheel Moulton in the late 1960s. At one point in the mid-to-late 1970s it was the most popular bike in the Raleigh stable, which earned it loads of similar competitors during the era of Disco and Punk. It has that chromed steel look typical of 1970s metal products and came with a wide variety of load carrying options (which is how I can justify putting it on a blog about cargo bikes, I guess...)
1969-1970 North American Raleigh 20 folding  bike with a few new parts.
(seat, handgrips, bell, mirror, reflectors and lights - original seat was a black plastic
Brooks mattress seat; handgrips were gray white rubber Raleigh with fins but were unsalvageable.
Otherwise all is stock including the Vinylon red stripe Raleigh tires)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


OK, so it doesn't have much to do with bikes or Chicago or cargo but it was made by our kids...

We spent some time briefly on the East Coast again and got hit by snow a couple of times in OCTOBER. Also found a neat-o 1969 Raleigh Twenty which is in the process of getting cleaned and de-rusted now.

Time to pull out and brush off the ski/bike helmets, the goggles, the gloves, the wooly underlayers and fleecy top layers...

We have had a rather dismal fall, not on our bikes as much as we usually are.  Family loss, overscheduling and the addition of a second school have us disorganized and fumbling in the mornings through this beautiful fall season.

We got back up last week to the Film Festival at Facets and ended up riding two friends along with our usual three on the box to the movies. Four in the box and one on the rack plus me. I thought we were finally back on the road, but even on today's beautiful morning we were still trying to get organized.

For the next week we will try to get back out on our usual morning ride. We need to reorganize our fall/winter clothes, change our dressing organization and routine and get ready to ride even as the fall gives way to winter. Can we do it? Stay tuned. We'll see.