Chicago Sun-Times

October 2009 Archives

All together now, CTA riders, Allow Extra Time!

Both the CTA Red Line and Blue Line will have service interruptions this weekend.

Northbound Red Line trains will be unable to stop at the Morse and Jarvis stations from 10 p.m. Friday until 6 p.m. Sunday due to track maintenance work. Southbound Red Line service is not affected.

The CTA press release includes these instructions: "During this time, northbound Red Line customers who want to exit at Morse or Jarvis should travel to Howard and board a southbound train to the appropriate station. Customers at Morse or Jarvis who want to travel north should board a southbound train to Loyola to access a northbound train."

Rail service between the Blue Line's Clark/Lake and UIC-Halsted stations will be suspended for track work from 10 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Monday.

Bus shuttles will operate as a substitute for rail service making stops adjacent to the Clark/Lake, Washington, Monroe, Jackson, LaSalle, Clinton and UIC-Halsted stations. Southbound buses will travel along Clark and Van Buren and northbound buses will operate via Harrison and Dearborn.

This article makes the fun argument that it's actually greener to have a cool car that you barely drive, than a frumpy one you drive all over the place. He advocates ditching the Toyota Camry, taking bikes or public transportation for your daily grind, and taking a Sunday drive in a really fun car, like a classic Porsche. The greener argument is actually for NO car, but if you have to get your driving kicks, you could argue it's better to do it just once a week in something groovy.

The state house executive committee today decided, unanimously and without debate, to roll back the controversial senior free ride program so it only applies to low-income seniors. according to Diane Palmer, spokeswoman for the Regional Transportation Authority. The bill still has to be voted on by both the full house and senate.

Speaking after a City Club luncheon today, RTA executive director Stephen Schlickman said that he was "pleased" to hear of the committee vote. The RTA board had announced earlier this month that it supported rolling back the free ride program, which would save the RTA about $37 million a year. All three transit area agencies are raising fares and/or cutting service for 2010 because of budget troubles.

Schlickman said the bill before the house would preserve free rides for 30 percent of seniors, who are low income. "I think that's appropriate public policy," Schlickman said. "All other seniors will still get half fare benefits."

This masked vigilante fought crime along with his faithful servant, Kato. He also inspired a nickname for a form of Chicago transportation.

The answer is the Green Hornet, comic book hero and the nickname for Chicago's old green streetcars. Many people had the right answer, but Margo Sliwa was first. If Margo can send me her address and t-shirt size by e-mail, I can send her the prize. My e-mail is

I haven't been on my bike during these two days of rain, and boy, do I miss it. Here, as promised, are the 12 BEST things about bike commuting.

12. Freedom from obnoxious train passengers. I hate being on the L and listening to someone's "Like, Oh, my God!" punctuated cell phone conversation, or someone's IPod turned up to the max. I really don't like having to hear the bass line of other people's bad music, and getting cold stares when I ask them to please turn it down. Maybe I'm getting grumpier as I get older, or maybe people are getting ruder, but my tolerance for this stuff has really dropped.

11. Freedom from a train schedule and stops. When I bike, if I need to stop at the drugstore or the grocery on the way home, it's easy to do. I don't have to get off the train and walk.

10. Enjoying the weather. As much as I complain about rain and cold, I really do enjoy living somewhere where there is actual weather. Most of the time, I love being outside and feeling the elements -- it's too easy to insulate yourself from reality with air conditioning and central heating. On a bike, you can detect subtle changes in the weather -- like the first shift in the wind that foreshadows an autumn storm. And yes, I do intend to do more winter biking this year.

9. Not dieting. I'm Polish, and surrounded by good cooks. The idea of dieting is gruesome. But I don't want to gain weight and have to buy new clothes. I think biking helps keeps me thin.

8. Good appetite. Biking may keep you trim, but you aren't going to waste away, because you get REALLY Hungry when you bike. My commute to work is eight miles each way, and I find I really enjoy my lunch and dinner if I've biked that day.

7. Seeing the city. When you're in a car, it's hard to see the faces of people, or the buildings as you pass. While biking is faster than walking, it still gives you a chance to check out neighborhoods, and see people. I like noticing a new store or house I wouldn't have seen if I was in a car or the train, and I like noticing little things like "Hey, isn't that a new crossing guard?" Or "I see the Milwaukee Avenue drunks are sleeping it off on the grass this morning -- good thing it's not raining."

6. Being independent. Biking appeals to me in the same way gardening does -- it makes me feel a little off the grid. I'm providing my own power -- not power brought to me by oil produced by dubious governments in faraway places.

5. Being green. We've all got to find ways to create less pollution, and when you bike instead of drive, you not only cut your own carbon emissions, but you encourage other people to do it by showing them how much fun you're having.

4. Fun. What was your favorite Christmas present as a kid? A bike, right? It's fun to ride a bike. When I first started bike commuting in 2000, I felt like I was 11 years old again, pigtails flying. Wheee! I think I've actually gotten younger I started bicycling again, or at least feel more myself.

3. Better sleep. The more I ride my bike, the less trouble I have sleeping.

2. Saving money. I can't always bike commute -- because sometimes I need the car for work assignments. But I try to do it at least 10 times a month, and I figure that saves me about $5 a day in transit costs. That's $50 a month, and it goes into a savings account I use for vacations. Sometimes, if the wind is high and I have a tough time peddling, I remember the $5 and the chance of a train trip to New Orleans, and it helps.

1. Being here now. Number one on my list of "worst things about bike commuting" was "trying not to die." After I wrote it, I realized that was one of the best things, too. When I'm bicycling, I can't worry about work. I can't worry about what's going at home. I don't have to worry about what's on the news. I can't multi-task. My number one concern is staying upright and not getting hit by a car. And that's a kind of meditation. When I'm bicycling, I'm focused on the present. And in these weird, unreal times, that's a kind of gift.

A bicyling death

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I was going to write a list of best things about bike commuting today, but will wait because I wanted to note the passing of a 23-year-old woman who was killed while riding her bike on the North Side. Here's what The Active Transportation Alliance has to say about this death, and the death of a pregnant woman and her child who were killed after a driver allegedly ran a red light, crashing into another car, which plowed into four pedestrians:

"It is getting dark earlier and that means that everyone needs to be more vigilant when it comes to traffic safety. Watch for people crossing the street. Look in your rearview mirror before opening your car door. Wear your front headlight when biking at night or when it is cloudy," said Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. "Stop for the red lights. Stop for pedestrians. Drive with care; our lives are at stake."

Here's the story the Sun-times news wire did on the bicycle accident.

Cyclist killed after being pinned beneath truck
Last updated at: 12:45 PM, Oct 22, 2009

A 23-year-old woman was killed Wednesday when she fell underneath a truck
while riding her bicycle in the Roscoe Village neighborhood.

Liza Whitacre of 4936 N. Winthrop Ave. was taken to Advocate Illinois
Masonic Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 12:54 p.m.,
according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.

A Thursday autopsy revealed Whitacre died of multiple injuries from a truck
striking a bicyclist and her death was ruled an accident, the medical
examiner's office said.

About 12:30 p.m., she was riding south on Damen Avenue with her roommate, a
24-year-old woman who was riding in front of her, police News Affairs
Officer John Mirabelli said.

Both women were riding between two vehicles -- a truck and a CTA bus -- and
came up to a red light in the 2000 block of West Wellington Avenue,
Mirabelli said.

As traffic began moving, the 24-year-old was able to ride between the
vehicles but Whitacre slipped and fell beneath the truck as it accelerated,
Mirabelli said. She was run over by the truck.

Her roommate was not injured in the incident.

No citations or charges were expected to be issued, News Affairs Officer
Laura Kubiak said. The police Major Accident Investigation Unit is

The weather's getting cold and soon all but the most die-hard bike commuters will put the 10-speed into storage and get back on the L. I'm one of the wimps -- I'll bike when it's cold, but not when there's snow on the ground, so I'm relishing my last weeks of bike commuting. Sometimes it's the best part of the day. It provides free exercise (I'm too cheap and busy for the gym) and saves money on transit.

That doesn't mean it's all good. Here are a dozen things I hate about bike commuting. Tomorrow I'll get cheerful and write about the best things.

12. Grit in my eyes. I wear contacts, and need to wear sunglasses or goggles to keep flying dirt from getting into my eyes and making me miserable for the trip. Sometimes, grit gets in despite all precautions. I keep eye drops handy, just in case. I've tried wearing glasses, but they fog up or get rained on.

11. Left turns. I know bikes are supposed to be "part of traffic," but I hate boldly crossing lanes of car traffic to get into the left turn lane. Usually, I just act like a pedestrian and cross first one street at the crosswalk, then the other, to turn left. It's slow, but safe.

10. Early darkness. It's getting dark fast, which means the ride home gets scarier. I have a good light, front and back, and wear a white jacket so I'm visible, but I see a lot of goofy bikers out there without lights, dressed in black. Maybe they're immortal. Or they think they are. When I'm driving, barely visible bikers really make me nervous.

9. Wind gusts. If you're on the thin side, you start feeling like Dorothy Gale about to take off for Oz, especially at six-corner intersections.

8. Heavy rain. Light rain's OK, but heavy rain makes visibility difficult and the roads slick. I also look like a flying grape in my big plastic rain cape.

7. Wandering pedestrians. We're not supposed to ride on the sidewalk, so why are you wandering between parked cars into the bike lane without looking where you're going? This happens a lot on Friday nights around the chic areas -- like at Halsted and Armitage, or Milwaukee and Damen. A pack of Brads and Trixies will walk between parked cars into traffic so they can jaywalk to the next club, bikes and cars will swerve to avoid hitting them, and the Trixies will swear at them. "Those bikers are CRAZY -- they never look where they're going," I've heard them say. If we didn't look where we were going, you'd have a tire track over your mini-dress, honey.

6. Getting yelled at by people in cars when I'm following the rules. I've been yelled by a driver for going the wrong way, when I was going the right way, i.e., with traffic.

5. Daredevil bicyclists who don't know the rules of the road. This morning, on Milwaukee, I was the only bicyclist out of eight who stopped at the light at Division.

4. Bus bunching. Getting stuck behind a CTA bus is annoying, but usually temporary. Since a bike will almost always go faster than a bus, you need to get around the front of a bus at a light and ride like fury when the light turns green, hoping that the bus will get stuck picking up passengers and you can leave it a few blocks behind.

It's necessary to do this, because it's tough to ride a bike BEHIND a bus -- you keep getting stuck as the bike makes stops. I also like to get way ahead of a bus because it helps the bus driver -- he or she has enough going on without having to pay attention to bikes. But the bus problem is made much worse when there are two or three buses in a pack -- and you never know which one is going to the one picking up passengers.

3. Not being able to read. One of the best parts about riding public transit is being able to read -- newspapers in the morning and books at night. I usually have a hard-cover book to read in bed, and a paperback to read on the train. When I ride my bike, I often can't find any other time during the day to read books.

2. Cars and trucks parked in the bike lane. This is a big hazard in the morning, when beer trucks are being unloaded into bars and restaurants. Open car doors are also a problem, so you have to pay attention to whether a car is occupied, to avoid getting "doored."

1. In general, trying not to die. Riding a bike is a pleasant activity. If you follow the rules and pay attention, you should be OK. But there's always the element of randomness -- what if somebody in a car isn't paying attention? Or is drunk? You're pretty vulnerable out there. I think on balance, considering the history of heart disease in my family, I'm better off cautiously riding a bike then getting no exercise. But there are risks, and some days I'm gloomier about them than others. My mom will never get used to this.

This isn't a complete list, of course. If you have something to add, please share.

I'll be on Channel 11's "Week in Review" tonight at 7 p.m., and on WLS-AM 890's "Connected to Chicago with Bill Cameron" at 2 p.m. Sunday talking about transit fare hikes. You can also read about them here.

Track work resumes on the Blue Line subway this weekend, which means rail service will be suspended between the Clark/Lake and the UIC-Halsted stations between 10 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Monday.
Bus shuttles will substitute for rail service between those stops. Riders should allow extra time.
Also this weekend, northbound Red Line trains will not stop at the Bryn Mawr, Thorndale and Granville stations between 10 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Sunday due to track maintenance work.

Today's question was: What popular entertainer was the first person to fly a plane solo down under?

The correct answer is Harry Houdini, who actually learned to drive in order to get to the airfield, and then never drove again. Julie Miklos got the right answer, and if Julie can send me her address and T-shirt size, I can send out her prize.

Tangled up on Blue

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It's the same news as last week for CTA Blue Line riders -- rail service between the Clark/Lake and UIC-Halsted stations will be suspended between 10 p.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Monday for track work.
Shuttle buses will substitute for rail service between the stations. Riders should allow extra travel time.
The repairs are expected to be complete by year's end.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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