Archive for the 'Chicago' Category

Three Feet Minimum to Pass (in some places)

The Illinois legislature recently passed a law requiring motorists to pass bicyclists with at least three feet to spare. (I think we might have to wait till the next century for something like this to be passed in Singapore.) Willow Naeco, a.k.a. Chicago Cycling Chick, has come up with a 3-foot-long “foam claw buffer” to put on her bike, so that any motorists that hit it will have broken the law:

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Bob Fuller’s Roadside Memorials

For the not-so-safe driver.

If you drive carelessly in the City, eventually you’ll kill somebody. When you do, turn to us. Just call from the scene. We’ll deliver a fitting handmde Roadside Memorial in 30 minutes or less. Choose from our handcrafted collection, or personalize your own.

A Bob Fuller Roadside Memorial is a tribute to the person that you killed. A way to say, “I’m sorry”. And a reminder to passersby to drive safely.

From their FAQ:

Q. If I hit someone and left the scene, can I still go back and leave a memorial?
A. You should immediately report yourself to the police. But you should call and have one delivered to the scene in your absence.

From their ‘safe driving tips’:

Killing someone with your car is very traumatic. Make sure you’ll never need our services. Please.

I Miss CCM

Chicago Critical Mass September 2007

Racine/Diversey/Lincoln
I only found out today that this gesture, the “Chicago Hold-Up”, originated in CCM. Reading the ‘founder’ of CCM’s account of how CCM began, I found this particularly instructive:

The day of the ride I was apprehensive. All along, skeptics had been saying “This is the midwest, not California. People just don’t DO this sort of thing here.”

I was told the same thing when trying to gauge interest in a Singapore Critical Mass. This kind of response enrages me due to its self-fulfilling nature, but since I didn’t want to keep at it like an internet troll I decided to let it go and try again in several months’ time.

Michigan Ave

Photos from tfish and 704race. Video taken by tfish.

Trouble at CCM

Ride reports.

A video of one arrest.

Photos.

More photos.

Why the change in attitude in the normally cooperative police? Afraid CCM would disrupt Jazz Fest? Didn’t want the cyclists to pass Mayor Daley’s house as planned? Some political reason?

Driver Aggression and Humidity vs Cold Weather

There was a curious phenomenon in Chicago, where driver aggression was particularly serious at certain junctions, but not at others in the same neighbourhood. This intrigued me, for while it was plausible that drivers in a certain neighbourhood all tended to be aggressive, such a segregation within the neighbourhood must somehow mean that drivers who were not aggressive at other junctions were aggressive at certain junctions. And, one suspects, they are aggressive at just those junctions where there is a general understanding that it is the norm to be aggressive there. An unwritten agreement that there, aggression just is the case, and niceness should take a back seat. I wondered if this was a universal psychological phenomenon — group conformity to certain norms despite no good reason for their application (as evidenced by their not being applied at other similar places by the same participants). I haven’t had the chance to witness this in Singapore, since drivers are bloody aggressive everywhere.

People often raise the humidity in Sg as a reason not to cycle here. I always tell them that they should try riding in Chicago winters before they do so. And as I commute more here, I become more convinced that humidity isn’t that bad. This was certainly not the case with respect to Chicago winters — I did not get more tolerant of winter cycling the more I did it. The thing about humidity is that although one gets drenched in sweat within 5 minutes of starting out, one hardly notices the sweat after that — it fades into the background as a minor discomfort. Cold and wind, however, don’t fade. If anything, one notices them more as one’s ride progresses. One starts out warm, then parts of one’s body start getting numb, then aching from the cold, perhaps even progressing to that stabbing cold that conquered me in that -29oC day last winter. The cold wears you down; becomes more noticeable and more painful the longer you are in it. Same for the wind. You begin all gung-ho pedalling furiously against it, but by the end of the ride you’re happy pedalling through molasses at jogging pace, your throat is dried out from breathing into it, you’re tired of having that sound in your right ear for most of the ride, etc. Humidity is easy in comparison, people. So you get wet. But you can’t possibly catch hypothermia, and a refreshing shower is waiting for you at your destination.

Dumpster Diving

No, I’m not becoming a tree-hugging hippie. But I need boxes to ship my books back to Singapore in (having already filled two suitcases with mostly outdoor gear, and going to fill two backpacks with clothes), and the only really big one I have seems too flimsy to withstand the trans-Pacific journey. So I went cruising around Hyde Park, partly to relieve depression, with the side excuse of looking for abandoned boxes. After a few seemingly good prospects came to nought, I took a turn around the quads, knowing that dumpsters weren’t usually to be found there, but figuring that it was probably the place on my way back home that had the least negligible chance of having boxes lying around. It turned out that my having to stay for convocation wasn’t that bad after all — they were throwing away loads of unopened boxes containing convocation booklets. An utter waste. Luckily an empty one was near the top of the dumpster, so I took it home first — couldn’t hold more than one while riding. Didn’t have my cargo net with me, but I could rest the box on the front rack while grasping one corner of it with my left hand to keep it in place. Then I went back for another, but all the others near the top of the dumpster were full and unopened. I dragged one out with some difficulty and removed about 20 booklets to make it easier to handle. Then I took the box with the rest of the booklets to the recycling bins at the other end of the quad, and fed the booklets three at a time through the slit of the paper bin. Voila, a fraction (?) of a tree saved, and an almost-new box to ship my books back in. They’re a bit smaller than I would like, but with the limited success I’ve had, I’m not inclined to cruise around Hyde Park looking for boxes again.

In other news, my Knog Frog lights arrived. One white, one red, $20 for the pair. The first thing I did was to destroy the white one. I was trying to remove the inner body from the silicone body, and ended up breaking the bulb away from the inner body while trying to put it back. Argh. I really like those lights. Simple and extremely functional. Rather like my CETMA rack.

A friend remarked that I’d become more mellow after coming to the US. All too true, I suspect because I loosen up when I do not have to actively fight oppression. It would never have crossed my mind to actively offer help to strangers in Sg; in fact I used to find the idea nauseating. But yesterday, walking back from the Point, I passed someone trying to push a shopping cart full of boxes but having to stop every five steps to right the topmost box which kept threatening to fall off the cart. His progress was painful. I offered to help him carry that topmost box to wherever he was going. Luckily for me it was only two more blocks, for it turned out to be quite heavy. Suffice to say I’ve never offered help of my own accord to this extent before. That’s how impoverished a human being I was. But so many strangers have helped me, or offered help to me, in Chicago that I find it quite natural now, and nothing to be uptight about.

The idea of being uptight about such things is ludicrous. But I did grow up in a ludicrous country. To which I now have to return to spend a few more insufferable years. Will I tighten up again, now that I’ve been loosened?

Inappropriate Footwear, the Comic Value in

One of the perks of bad weather is seeing people in inappropriate dress and footwear suffer in it. I was much amused watching opera patrons in inappropriate footwear squeal through icy puddles. Yesterday, while walking to TJ’s from my bike, I was similarly amused watching two girls in high heels and their male patron titter in dismay at the edge of a 1.5m wide puddle at a road crossing. I merely ran a few steps and leapt over easily. When I reached the end of the block and turned back to look, they were still tittering in dismay at the edge of the puddle, stuck by their own vanity in the middle of honking traffic.