Bikes

Biking With Google Maps

A couple of summers ago, my beau and I biked through Chicago from Logan Square to the Chicago Botanical Garden and back. It was a magical day: perfect weather, great company, and a lot of adventure. 

We didn’t have any maps to guide us other than Google Maps and a vague idea of where the bike trails go. It turned out Google Maps was an excellent guide for taking us through the city. Once we figured out how to find the trail heads, we were golden. 

The best part, at the end of a very long day, was coming back through Northwestern University’s gorgeous campus on the coast of Lake Michigan. We were a little lost, trying to find the trail head, when I looked up and saw the pristine Baha’i temple ahead, an imaginably ornate white dome bathed in pink against the bluest sky. 

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We pedaled in wonder, with the city and waterfront bathed in pink,  until the sun set. We were exhausted, euphoric, and grateful to be witness to such a golden moment.

But back to Google Maps. 

 

This trip was great fun, but in hindsight it felt reckless not to bring any other kinds of navigational equipment. We had our cell phones and our wits, and that’s all. 

Doubling down on our recklessness, we repeated this plan — nothing navigational but our phones — on a trip in Elkhart County, Indiana, that Fall, doing a sixty mile loop including the Pumpkinvine Trail, a rural rail-to-trail line through Amish country. On both trips, the Google Maps app gave us clear directions which included the best route for cyclists, using designated bike trails when possible.

Tip: get an inexpensive stem mount to hold your phone for easy use while in the saddle. Your friends will make fun of it until you lead them home.

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Biking and Feminism: “I belong on the road.”

I’ve been very fortunate that I haven’t had some of the aggressive interactions with drivers and pedestrians that others have had — mine have been limited to cat calling and the traffic incident that inspired my petulant “red dress” campaign

A guy I know wears an American flag jersey on his distance rides, and has anecdotally reported a sharp decrease in aggressive road incidents with angry drivers. Also, I once read that one of your best safety measures on the road is to ride without a helmet, with a mess of long blonde hair trailing behind you. If that isn’t loaded symbolism, I don’t know what is.

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One London lady’s commute to work got weird this week when a man got incensed at her request for him not to walk in front of her while she crossed the street — which seems wise — and he chose to chase after her and push her off of her bike into traffic. Lucky for her, it was caught on her GoPro. She submitted the video to police, and the man turned himself in after the video went viral. A friend sent along this essay about biking and feminism, written in response to this London woman’s story and the number of people cheering her attacker on social media:

The first time I cycled from my front door to the sea (a ride of about 65 miles thanks to a particularly poor map) I stood on the beach, looked out at a bending blue horizon and realised that I had reached the very edge of the country using nothing more than my thighs, sweat and gears. I felt like Tessie Reynolds, the 16-year-old girl who shocked 19th-century England by cycling from London to Brighton and back in eight hours, wearing knee-length breeches. I felt like Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst cycling around Manchester and London agitating their female comrades. I remembered the words of the American suffrage campaigner Susan B Anthony: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling: I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel.”

 

From suffragettes to midwives, Olympians to resistance fighters, commuters to campaigners, the history of the bicycle runs like a dual carriageway alongside the history of feminism. Cycling put us in trousers, let us pass messages behind the frontline, stood us on podiums, helped us mobilise in the streets, took us out of our conscribed domestic sphere and taught us the thrill of having the wind in our eyes. Despite the warnings from AD Shadwell published in 1897, our wombs did not fall out, we did not suffer dementia and we avoided the “bulging eyes” and “tightened mandible” that characterised the dreaded (and entirely fictional) “bike face”.

 

And we are good cyclists. Many of those victim-blaming on Twitter were keen to point out that cyclists jump red lights, cycle on pavements or hog the road. To which I say yes, sometimes, we do. The mayor of London does, the prime minister does and probably I have too. Primarily because I don’t want to be accidentally crushed by an HGV – one of the few road casualties that disproportionately affects women, too timid to overtake on the right or pull ahead, out of a driver’s blind spot. But the urge to push a woman off her bike while calling her a mug and shouting in her face has very little, if anything, to do with road hogs and red lights.

I’m still not certain why cycling is reserved an extra-special level of hatred that other modes of transportation are not. I think many people see cyclists as a sub-culture, and perceive people with gear (even so little as a helmet) to be road warriors, and believe road warriors don’t respect the rules of the road, so why, it follows, respect a person on a bike?

FRIDAY: BIKELANTIS Movie Fundraiser at Carnahan Hall

10649537_1549463955285008_8964004722866218852_nSince 2012, Director and Producer Manny Cervantes (who is also a founding member of Think Lafayette) was working hard on accomplishing one of his dreams, a full-length documentary on bicycling culture around the country.

Tomorrow night, a fundraiser downtown is scheduled to help complete his movie in his absence. Please share this event, come to the event, and celebrate our ability to inspire and be inspired. If you can’t come, please share with friends and family and consider giving a donation.

From the event page:

His film, BIKELANTIS, is an exploration of how cycling changes communities. The documentary explores more than 20 cities and looks at bike shops, bike sharing, city planning, competition, advocacy, bike touring and many other topics affecting cyclists nationwide. BIKELANTIS envisions a bike universe with a strong sense of community that is part of a healthier, creative lifestyle with global capacity for compassion between neighbors, and ultimately bike friendliness. Lafayette, Indiana, is featured as a vibrant cycling community where biking is evolving into a community force.

While Manny is no longer with us, his dream to uncover and redeem this Bikelantis-Utopia lives on. Manny was an artist, philosopher, visionary, and adventurer. Because he found beauty where it’s often overlooked, his film is uniquely precious and powerful.

Bikelantis Teaser Trailer from Manny Cervantes on Vimeo.

We are committed to completing this very important film, and seek your contribution to financially assist the post-production process. These finishing funds will provide every audience with a film that encourages each viewer to #livelikemanny, and strive for a better way of living together. BIKELANTIS reminds us of our own potential to inspire and be inspired, and to create positive change.

With your help, the film will be completed and available for screening by the end of 2014.

On a personal note, as mentioned above, Manny was a real cheerleader for the Greater Lafayette area, and helped us brainstorm what this site was going to be long before it ever started. He was one of our first writers and collaborators, and many of us had deep, personal relationships with him that are sorely missed. He passed away unexpectedly this Spring.

Because of this, this is a pointed request for you to come out and celebrate him and his vision with us, and help make this movie happen. There will be live music, a cash bar, and activities for children as well. Entry is free, but a donation is suggested.

If proceeds are raised in excess of the cost to complete his film, this money will be contributed to the #livelikeManny scholarship set up in his name.

For additional details about the event tomorrow, check out the Bikelantis Fundraiser event page on Facebook.