Posts Tagged ‘North AVenue’

Praying for a red light

I’m not religious so the title of this post is a bit misleading. But last night, I rode home from work with a friend who also keeps his bike at the Millennium Park bike station, and who just happens to be an incredibly strong (read: fast) rider.

As I noted in a previous post, in the winter, I avoid the lakefront in favor of Clark Street. The city does a great job keeping Clark Street snow-and-ice-free all winter, so in spite of the bus and car traffic, the crazy cabbies, the texting-while-driving fools, the parked car doors which suddenly fling open in your path, and the hapless pedestrians who stop like deer in headlights when caught in the sharp beam of a powerful, helmet-mounted light (more about this phenomenon in a later post), Clark Street is a great winter alternative to the often unseen snow and ice along the lake.

My friend, Michael, and I set off from the bike station about 5:45, working our way to North Avenue where we jumped on Clark and headed north.

Astoundingly, we caught every green light from North Avenue (1600 north) to Chicago’s northern border at Howard Street (7600 north). That’s eight miles. We never stopped (not even at stop signs, where we did slow down and look both ways, as instructed by our mothers many years ago).

As I noted, above, Michael is an incredibly strong rider. We maintained a 19-20 m.p.h. pace against a 10 m.p.h. headwind from the northwest with me drafting off Mike for much of the ride. On the few occasions I took the lead (and I actually did take the lead for a couple of long stretches), I was absolutely praying for a red light. My quads were burning, my lungs were collecting insufficient oxygen to support my effort, and I was overdressed for the 18 degree (F) temperature, causing me to overheat to the point of steaming.

I looked like I was on fire. Literally.

When we reached Howard Street, we marveled at our good fortune. Neither of us had ever made the trek from downtown to the city’s northern border — on streets — without stopping. And all we could think was, “We must be living right.”

My legs told me to “shut the hell up.”

Author’s note: Interestingly, after I posted this, I looked at one of my favorite bike commuting blogs,, and found this short video on commuter cycling in Copenhagen where the narrator notes that on one of Copenhagen’s busiest streets, the traffic lights are timed for cyclists, not cars!