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Dutch Bike Chicago customer Andrew Coffey and his son JP share their fall day with us.
Our favorite man in the field, Gregg Bleakney is currently embedded with the Colombian national cycling team training in the high altitude of Medellin. We had a chance to Skype this morning and he sent me some pic's from his recent days in Bogota. Here you can see the everyday cycling culture in some of the poorest parts of the city. In the last few years, the city of Bogota has built hundreds of kilometers of cycling lanes equally through both the poorest and wealthiest sections of of the city. This has seemingly made life more egalitarian and reportedly greatly reduced crime. Check out the burly and practical cargo bikes on which many family members are taken to work and school.
The road below is a dedicated bikeway, along which a cottage bike repair industry grows. Note man in background wearing backpack with passenger on front of his double top-tube, yellow cargo bike.
The two pic's below illustrate the great contrast between the wealthy, freeway serviced areas of Bogota and the barrio, yet note the attention to bikeway detail in both areas. There is pride amongst the residents in knowing that the government will spend money to improve even the poorest areas of town.
Seems over the last few weeks here in Chicago we've had a snow storm every few days. Eddie, our property manager, begins his snow shoveling rounds many times before 4:00 AM. Shoveling sidewalks is The Law here in the windy city and property owners are fast (and smart) to mitigate their liabilities. Buried under the covers, as I drift in in and out of dreaming my next tropical vacation, I can hear the shovel scraping.
Now for many cities, this sort of weekly winter onslaught results in municipal paralysis (to the delight of all school-free children). In Chicago, four or five inches of snow quickly succumbs to battalions of snow plows, running day and night on all the major boulevards, strewing salt behind them as if the roads are salmon fillet and we are curing gravlax for the holiday. Due to this saline seasoning, the roads remain wet to well below twenty degrees. Cars shoosh by as if it just rained. Truly icy main roads are a rarity, and on the occasion the roads do dry, they just imitate ice like the flats of Bonneville
I do not ever remember applying the adjective awesome to the cold, but today it applies. On my morning Bakfiets ride to the gym, ice formed on my nostril hairs. My breath escaped into giant steam clouds only to freeze as layers of ice on my sunglasses. I suppose there is a point where a gob of spit would freeze before it hits the ground, but it's not quite that cold yet, but seemingly close. NOAA says it's -3 degrees Fahrenheit, that's -19 degrees C for you Swedish astronomy fans. Did I mention it's sunny and the wind is blowing 30-40 mph? That makes the wind chill -30 degrees F. Santa says wear a hat, eye protection and some good gloves. The ride to the gym is less than two miles, so I savored less than ten minutes each way of the invigorating awesomeness that is today's blowing cold.
When it's this cold the accumulated snow, well, it does just that: accumulates. It has no place to go other than under and around parked cars. It doesn't melt, no matter how much salt the DOT Head Chef throws on the pig. Even the randomly strewn blue salt crystals on my Bakfiets cargo cover were encased in ice. I passed several motorists digging out their cars, one, stuck in a rocking back and forward, howling tire dance (with a tip of the cap to Sammy Hagar) called "I can't drive 55" (like it's 55 degrees, that is). No problem for a post-apocalyptic, wool overcoat-clad, studded tire riding Bakfiets pilot. I just plow my bike into the snow bank, hop off and push the guy out of his predicament. Subsequently, we both drive off much happier about the state of motorist-cyclist relations.
Because Chicago is really, truly, unbelievably, billiard table flat, it is universally "Bakfiets-able". The only hills are bridges and valleys, freeway underpasses. This makes it easy to carry whatever I like, wherever I like. About 40 lbs of "stuff" (anything will do, even snow) in the front of the Bakfiets will help the front wheel cut through even the most peanut-buttery snow. Because Bakfiets and rider are together as aerodynamic as a cathederal, wind can just as easily be an enemy as a friend. I ride the narrower tree-lined side streets, where the wind is less ferocious and pedal like a liquor store bandit whenever the wind is to my back, because it is just as likely to be blasting me in the face by the next intersection.