Going Dutch: a conversation with LGRAB’s Dottie Brackett


[This piece also runs in Newcity. All photos courtesy of LGRAB, except where noted.]

Dottie Brackett is the Martha Stewart of the Chicago bike scene. Often spotted cruising the streets on her stately black Dutch bike or sprightly robin’s egg blue Rivendell, elegantly dressed in a skirt and heels, she belies the notion that urban cycling is only for sweaty guys in Lycra or skinny jeans. Since early 2009 her blog Let’s Go Ride a Bike (LGRAB) has shown thousands of people in Chicago and beyond how easy it is to use a bicycle for transportation and look good doing it.

The blog, co-written with Brackett’s Nashville-based friend Trisha Ping, who handles web design and ad sales, follows the women’s everyday adventures on two wheels. LGRAB’s breezy prose, splashy photography, reviews of classy commuter bikes and handy how-to tips have attracted an international readership, drawing about 2,500 pageviews and dozens of comments per day.

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Will the new 50th Ward alderman build the bike bridge Berny blocked?


Proposed location for the North Shore Channel Trail bike bridge

[This piece also runs in Newcity.]

The other day I was pedaling with friends under azure skies to Evanston’s Blind Faith Cafe when I was reminded of an old political fight. We were riding on the North Shore Channel Trail, a scenic, nearly car-free route from Albany Park to Evanston, when we came to the notorious gap in the path just north of Lincoln. The trail ended abruptly, so we spun north on Kedzie a few blocks, turned west and rode on hectic Devon Street across the channel, then turned north to continue on the bike path into Lincolnwood.

Continue reading Will the new 50th Ward alderman build the bike bridge Berny blocked?

“Momentum Wild” honors local cycling

[flickr]photo:6010825826[/flickr]Artist Brian Morgan with “Major Taylor”

Three friends cruise around the Humboldt Park lagoon on Schwinns, hauling freshly caught trout and a sixer of beer. Muscular messengers on fixies sprint down the street with jaws set in fierce resolve. Members of the Windy City Scorchers, an old-time racing team, zoom around a wooden track. An elderly tamale vendor pedals a box bike with ape hanger bars under a blazing sun.


These are some of the icons of Chicago bicycling that artist Brian Morgan celebrates in his show Momentum Wild: The Art of Urban Cycling currently at Jackson Junge Gallery, 1389 N. Milwaukee. Many of the painting in the show were inspired by real people Morgan witnessed on the streets of our city. The artist says he wanted to capture a sense of desperation, but also determination, on the cyclists’ faces as they cope with the challenges of riding in the sometimes-hostile urban environment.

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The Chicago Cruisers, a Puerto Rican bike club, celebrates the Schwinn


[This article also ran in Kickstand magazine.]

Salsa music blasts from a sound system trailer with a big Puerto Rican flag attached, pulled by a guy in a traditional straw hat on a classic yellow Schwinn cruiser. Behind him ride a hundred men, women and kids wearing matching red t-shirts, blue shorts and white sneakers, the colors of the flag.

Most of them are rocking vintage Schwinns with gleaming chrome fenders, white-wall balloon tires, gas tanks, and springer forks. Many are decked out with rear-view mirrors, air horns, fox tails and small U.S., Puerto Rican and Chicago flags. It’s the Chicago Cruisers bicycle club, pedaling downtown to the Puerto Rican Day Parade on a hot summer morning.

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Impressions of Chicago from the head of the Boston Cyclists Union

[flickr]photo:5983814572[/flickr]Pete Stidman with a rental from Bike and Roll Chicago

Pete Stidman, Executive Director of the Boston Cyclists Union, came to Chicago last week for a meet-up of the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and crashed on my futon while he was in town. The cyclists union is a young organization with only a few hundred members, but it’s already having an impact on getting more bicycle lanes, bike parking and a cycle track built in Boston, a city which has been notoriously bike-unfriendly in the past. One of the union’s most exciting programs is Bike to Market, with volunteers repairing over 600 bikes for free at farmers markets in underserved neighborhoods. Stidman told me more about his organization and gave me his impressions of bicycling in Chicago.

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It’s official: Kinzie is ready to ride


Silversmith and fur trader John Kinzie was one of Chicago’s first settlers, so it’s appropriate that a pioneering bicycle facility was built on his namesake street. Yesterday was the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Kinzie Street protected bike lane, the city’s first, which runs a half mile between Milwaukee Avenue and Wells Street.

Staffers from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), downtown alderman Brendan Reilly’s office, the Active Transportation Alliance and SRAM, a local bike parts company, were there to celebrate. There were only a handful of civilian cyclists present, partly due to the 11 am start time. The city’s Bicycling Ambassadors and Junior Ambassadors were out in force and the freaky marching band Environmental Encroachment provided a spirited soundtrack.

With the fragrant Blommer Chocolate factory as a backdrop, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, nattily dressed in a white suit, gave opening remarks. He stressed the importance of the new bike lane, which protects cyclists from moving traffic via flexible bollards and a line of parked cars, in encouraging more people to try urban cycling. “If you want to change people’s behavior and make if feel like it’s safe to walk and bike, you’ve got to make it safer,” he said.

Continue reading It’s official: Kinzie is ready to ride