"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Talking heads, bikes and the city

Talk about your fortuitous Fridays.

If my early morning train to Northbrook hadn't been canceled, and I didn't need to be on an 8am conference call, I definitely would've been stuck waiting out the afternoon's epic storms on a late train or worse. And probably would've missed seeing David Byrne of the Talking Heads speak about the future of cities and bicycles, alongside Luann Hamilton (CDOT), Jacky Grimshaw (Center for Neighborhood Technology), and Randy Neufeld (SRAM, formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation).

So when faced with the choice to wait an hour for the next train and miss my call, or head home to take it, then"work" from home the rest of the day, instead of biking in later (actually I did put in two or three solid hours after), you would've done the same. Even on Bike to Work Day. And since I rode to the train and back, I could count my miles for the Commuter Challenge.

As I rode home and then sat inside, dying to get out and play in the nice weather, I couldn't imagine the forecast for storms later that afternoon would be accurate. After I was off the phone I took Jack for a nice walk to grab a coffee (and a McMuffin...I wasn't lovin' it, but I sure was cravin' it for some reason).

The nonsequitur of the day came shortly after placing my order, just behind two frumpy, middle-aged, female cops. They kept coming back up and asking for extra cups and spoons and shit. A few seconds later I felt a pleasant sensation that I only associate with Patty, namely her wrapping her arms around my waist. The freakout came when I realized it was one of the cops, fully enveloping me in a creepy hug while asking for another cup.

"Excuse me!" I spewed as I recoiled from her grasp.

The arms came off and she continued with the counter help, not even acknowledging me in the least, just a free grope at the MacDonald's.

Well, the sky started to darken a bit, and soon it appeared that fat bastard Skilling had nailed it. I decided to race the rapidly approaching storms to Daley Plaza and the Bike to Work Day rally, to pick up my tickets for the David Byrne event. I thought I had more than enough time from the looks of the radar, but riding down Elston not even at Fullerton I started to get rained on. Little pockets of teasing moisture passed with intermittent sunshine, but looking west at the turmoil churning towards me, I started to wonder when I'd need to find shelter.

This was the sight before all hell broke loose (my shutter just missed a lightening flash by a second or two):

That's Milwaukee overlooking the I-90/94 Ohio St. entrance ramp. Just past Halsted and Grand, the wind really picked and started driving all the dust from filthy Kinzie Ave and the overpassing Metra tracks, nearly blinding me. I barely had time to get under the awing at the new Jewel on Des Plaines before it opened up.

And there I sat waiting it out, watching much braver souls than I trying to get where they needed to be, in much difficulty. It seemed like the end of the world, as trees bent sideways, the skyline disappeared in the gray doom, and thunder ripped apart the air almost on top of the seizure-inducing lighting flashes.

When I finally reached the site of the rally in a remarkably pleasant and soothing drizzle, the plaza looked as though a giant hand had come down and swept all the tents, umbrellas, and picnic tables into a huge twisted pile of metal stacked up against the windows of the courthouse:

I was told I could simply pick up my tickets at the event venue by a friendly leftover volunteer from the rally, so next I pedaled over to the Cultural Center. There I found the XRT kids (it was the station's event, big thanks to Richard Milne!) and then ran into Ethan, of Active Trans. We sat chatting for a bit and I actually saw the head Head himself enter. Then I split to go meet Patty at The Gage pub, a fantastic Michigan Avenue small plates bar, a bit pricey, but unique dishes, such as the house poutine, with elk ragout and Wisconsin cheese curds.

The forum was a couple hours later, as I mentioned an XRT event, featuring David Byrne as the celebrity guest, basically on a book tour for his "Bicycle Diaries," of a round table discussion entitled, "Cities, Bicycles, and the Future of Getting Around. " It was certainly a who's-who of Chicago cycling and alternative transportation advocates, for I recognized many, many faces from past similar events.

David Byrne took the stage to a huge round of applause, and started the presentation with his slide show. I've heard both good things and bad things about his book - haven't read it - and his presentation. I found that I enjoyed it. It would've been no different had I been in his living room seeing pictures from his most recent music tour. He was stream of thought, one leading to the next, basically taking the audience through modern city-planning's watershed wasted opportunites, the current sad state of affairs, and hopefully where we can go. Lots of slides of 1920's sketches and city plans, blighted parking lots and overgrown shopping malls, and beautiful trails and thoughtful examples of complete-streets planning.

Luann Hamilton of CDOT showed us a good amount more specifics, including some teasers on the Bloomingdale Trail, the Navy Pier Flyover, and a planned traffic diet of Lawrence Avenue between Ashland and Western. She gave us one amazing and joyous traffic figure: during rush hour, the current traffic make-up of Milwaukee Avenue can be as much as 20% bicycles.

Suck it, George F. Will.

Jacky Grimshaw of CNT gave a rundown on the engineering thought and theory that goes into planning liveable cities, such as how to build a 1 mile walk instead of a 3 mile drive from point A to point B.

Finally, the accomplished Randy Nuefeld, the former CBF director and now director of the SRAM Fund, gave the most direct-action presentation we'd seen yet. As he began, I realized there was no way David Byrne could've gone last. He could not have have followed this. I knew when finished, Randy would get the biggest applause by far, and we'd all leave, pulling at the harness to get to work and make things happen.

I'll let Steven Vance take you through Randy's presentation.

BTW, you know you've been commuting a long time when you recognize Andy Daley, in full Clif Bar kit, in one of Randy's presentation photos of the Milwaukee/Ogden/Chicago intersection.


Steven Vance said...

I thought you had told me on Friday night that Andy Daley was in one of *my* Milwaukee Avenue photos, but I misunderstood you (or you misunderstood me and thought I took the Chicago/Ogden photos that Randy showed).


Great account of your experience with the storm. I have a hard time expanding my "waiting it out" beyond 3-4 sentences.

brianfmorrissey said...

Correction: one of Steven's photos IN Randy's presentation. Ahem.