Ten Reasons To Bike Chicago More
There have been a couple of bicycling tragedies in the last few weeks here in Chicago, with two vibrant young people (one of them a fifth grade teacher) lost. Both stories are very sad, and very sobering reminders that real dangers exist for city folks who ride their bikes.
Where I’m from, suburban/rural Indiana, the worst hazards a cyclist faced were overzealous farm dogs and the occasional stray litter of pigs spilling out into the road. Here in the city, I’ve learned to watch out for cars, and, more specifically, it’s wise to assume that not only do cabbies not see you coming, they’re actually out to get you. I swear that every time I venture out on two wheels, even in broad daylight, there are at least two or three cabbies who pull sharp u-turns directly in my path, sometimes simply stopping right in front of me. Maybe they think my bike is a hovercraft and I can simply fly over the top of their cabs? I’m not sure. The point is: bike defensively, folks.
Now that the safety lecture is over, ten reasons to ride your bike more:
1. It’s free. It’s not $4.00 a gallon to fuel up, and it’s not $1.75 on your CTA card. Granted, at most gas stations it’s a quarter to pump up your tires, but mile for mile, biking is cheaper than any other form of transportation.
2. A wide range of health benefits: you will increase your stamina and boost your muscle power with all that cardio. You’ll also sleep better and enjoy elevated moods. Winter depression begone!
3. No pee smell, like on the CTA.
4. All that cardio will rev up your metabolism, and prompt your body to crave healthier food.
5. You get cool points every time you walk into a party or other social gathering with your helmet in hand. Double cool points if you rode through even the tiniest amount of precipitation. (“Dude, did you ride here in the rain?” Shrug this off casually with a “Yeah, whatever, it’s cool.”)
6. You’ll also score hot points. Exercise is good for your sexual health and with the inevitable few pounds dropped and an increase in your energy, you’ll be hotter and friskier before you know it. This is also an excellent reason to talk your significant other into joining you in biking adventures.
7. Extra snacking privileges – with all those extra calories burned, you’ll be able to get away with a lot more extracurricular eating, on top of all the veggies and fruits you’ll naturally be craving. Last summer I biked like mad and I was the fittest I’ve been in several years, despite treating myself at least once a week to a nutritionally terrible but utterly delicious McDonald’s cheeseburger and Lay’s potato chip snackstravaganza. (That treat is properly eaten with the chips crushed in the sandwich, by the way. Propriety and decorum be damned.)
8. Related note: food eaten while sitting on one’s bike seat are calorically void* — this includes any and all food purchased from mobile ice cream carts.
9. Enjoying the beauty of nature and the city and its inhabitants. The city observed at a biking pace is quite different from zooming along in a car or bus. You notice and appreciate things you hadn’t seen before. I also love biking up and down the Lakeshore Trail, taking in the fresh breeze, and overhearing tidbits of conversation from fellow park-goers. There’s a lot of marvelous diversity among our fellow citizens, and feeling connected to that is a pretty cool thing.
10. Opportunities to make more friends. Affect bullcrap political motivations for biking and pick up more greenies, hipsters, and vegan anarchists, if that’s your thing, pick up hippie chicks and dudes in bike shops and at red lights if you want to go that way, or join organized events like Critical Mass and make thousands of friends at a time.
On that note, please enjoy this video I made chronicling my first Critical Mass ride, in September of 2007. That was a night to remember — five blissful hours in the saddle and not one, but two amazing post-ride dinners. First, there was a fine beefy meal at Tank Noodle (supplemented by BYOB Guinness), and then, after a nearby birthday party, a 2:00 a.m. run to good old Standee’s on Granville, where I ordered grilled cheese with extra pickles and “whatever kind of pie you have.”
* wishful thinking
Edited to add: this enthusiastic pro-biking post was, indeed, followed up that same day in my offline life by my first real crash, which I wrote about on my personal blog. More of a thump than a crash, and certainly a lesson well-learned: don’t underestimate the might of the Windy City’s wind.