Commuter Profile: Dottie White from “Let’s Go Ride A Bike”

Today we’re proud to present Dottie White, one of the dynamic duo responsible for the excellent blog “Let’s Go Ride a Bike“. Dottie really knows how to blend style and function — and she and her blogging partner really make the rest of us look like bums!

dottie

How long have you been a bike commuter?

A year this May. I’ve cycled nearly every day since I started.

Why did you start riding your bike to work and how long is your commute?

My commute is usually 14 miles roundtrip on the lakefront bike path, 11 miles if I take city streets the whole way. I started riding because it seemed like fun! I saw a lot of people riding in Chicago, plus Trisha (great friend and now co-blogger) had recently started commuting to work. At the same time, the el train stations were under a lot of construction, making my commute twice as long. And the weather was perfect! There’s no way I would have known where to start during Chicago’s arctic winter.

lakefront

How does Bike Commuting help you with your lifestyle (economics, health, relationships)?

Freedom -The bike does wonders for a woman’s freedom and safety in the city. Freedom from waiting around for or packing into crowded trains and buses. I have been groped while waiting at a bus stop and I was not happy. Freedom to venture out alone at night without being so vulnerable. I used to drive my car to my night yoga classes even though the studio’s only a mile away because I did not feel safe walking by myself. Now I feel perfectly safe being in the street (away from people, bushes, alleys, etc.) and going fast.

Economics – My husband and I recently sold our only car, a Prius (he’s also a bike commuter). We’re now saving money that would otherwise have gone toward monthly payments, insurance, and taxes, plus we can make a small profit renting out our garage. I also save $80 a month not buying a transit pass. Most of my colleagues pay nearly $300 a month to park their cars in our office building downtown!

Health – I feel much healthier and happier now that I ride everyday. A guaranteed 1.5 – 2 hours of exercise daily is a big deal. I also do yoga, but mostly gave up running and pilates when I started biking and I’m in even better shape now. I have a huge sweet tooth (and deep dish pizza tooth, and red wine tooth, and Thai tooth, and Guinness tooth…) so it’s great that I can partake in these pleasures early and often while staying healthy.

Relationships – Half the fun of going on dates to the theatre or dinner with my husband is getting there and back on our bikes. I only wish we had more time to ride together.

path

What do you do for a living and in what city do you bike commute?

I’m an attorney working at a law firm in downtown Chicago. I commute from the north side, near Wrigley Field. Chicago is a great city to cycle in (comparatively) and I make use of the lakefront bike trail and the many bike lanes all around town. While at work I park my bike in the city’s secure bike garage (complete with showers and lockers, though I don’t use them) across from my building. Being a lawyer means wearing a suit every day. I could wear suits on my bike but they’re not very comfortable and dry cleaning is expensive, so I took over an empty office across from the ladies’ room and keep all my suits and shoes in there – a nice walk-in closet. As a junior associate, my work days are always 10-12 hours. Sometimes colleagues ask if I ever get too tired to deal with bike commuting. Yeah, I get tired – of sitting around all day! I’m never too tired to ride my bike.

What kind(s) of bike do you have?

Currently I have two bikes: an Azor Oma purchased from Dutch Bike Chicago and a vintage 1970’s Bridgestone Kabuki that someone threw out as trash. I had a Jamis Commuter, tragically stolen. I’m on the hunt for a third bike to use when I want to go faster or take really long rides.

oma

kabuki

Any funny or interesting commuting story that you may want to share?

The best is the day I rode into a Johnny Depp movie set for Public Enemies on my way home! I was about one mile from my condo, on my street, when I came upon a road closure. The police officer looked at me and said, “Oh you’ll be fine, go on through.â€? I thought maybe there had been a car collision. As I cycled on I saw a bunch of old-timey cars and then I saw Johnny Depp about ten yards away. He looked right at me, probably because I had on a neon pink shirt and a bunch of blinky lights. I stood there for a minute with a few other onlookers, and then took a detour through an alley to get home. Those are the days I wish I always had my camera!

Another noteworthy commute, which is funny in hindsight, is the morning I fell on ice. Before I purchased studded tires (and the reason I purchased studded tires!) I was riding on the lakefront trail and hit black ice. My bike completely slipped out from under me with no warning, going sideways to the left. With my seat suddenly gone, I imagine I hung in mid-air for a millisecond before hitting the ground on my butt. I was not injured and my first instinct was to look around and see if anyone had witnessed my embarrassing moment (no one had). I’m grateful that my bike did not slide right into Lake Michigan.

What do people (coworkers, friends) say when you tell them that you are a bike commuter?

In the spring and summer people are surprised and somewhat impressed, commenting either on the health benefits or on staying safe. In the winter people act like I’m crazy. They simply cannot grasp why I would – or how I could – ride in the freezing cold, snow, and darkness. I’m a pretty mild-mannered and quiet person, so I think it confuses people and they’re not sure what to make of me.

My favorite reaction: After having dinner with a group of former classmates from law school recently, we were all standing by the door putting on our coats, gloves, hats and scarves. One saw me take my helmet out of my bag and she exclaimed loudly (in a swanky restaurant): “DOROTHY, YOU ARE AN ANIMAL! I can’t believe you rode your BIKE today! You are a BEAST!” Funny how she said it, in a shocked but positive way.

el overhead

How about bicycling advocacy? Are you active in any local or regional advocacy groups?

I am a member of the Active Transportation Alliance (formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation) and participate in their big events like Winter Bike to Work Day and the upcoming Bike the Drive. When I have the time and inclination, I participate in Chicago’s Critical Mass rides, which are great fun and raise awareness. I subscribe to
Momentum Magazine even though I could pick it up for free at the bike garage – that must count for something. And then there’s the blog Trisha and I write, hopefully being a positive voice for women commuting. The best advocacy any cyclist does, though, is simply getting out there and riding responsibly.

Anything else that you want to share with us?

Ride safe and have fun! And, if you’re feeling good, wear cute shoes while doing it.

We’d really like to thank Dottie for sharing her experiences with us…check out “Let’s Go Ride a Bike” for great articles and photos and exciting urban commuting tales. Also, please stay tuned when we present part two of our “Let’s Go Ride a Bike” profile…Dottie’s blogging partner and friend Trisha Ping (later this week).

Help me with the ultimate bike commute :)

Hey everyone. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I’ve just entered a “Dream Photo Assignment” contest and need a little help from you readers to make it the most epic bike commute ever! I’ve included a brief description of what I’m trying to do below.

Click on this link and VOTE! and tell a friend 🙂

I would like to ride a bicycle through North and South America on an ambitious portrait project, photographing the work of community leaders and activists who are striving for a more sustainable planet.

I am a freelance photojournalist in Long Beach, CA and I travel to all my assignments and shoots with a specially made cargo bicycle, able to carry up to 400lbs of equipment.

I have done this day in and day out for the last three years. In this time, I’ve come to realize that the environment will be the crises of our times. We’ve become trapped in a circle of consumption that fills our air with smoke and our lands with trash.

There is hope however. There are people around us that are working for a more sustainable way of life in large and small ways.

In the spirit of the work, I want to ride my bicycle across the country and document the work of these people in multi-media portraits combining stills and recorded audio.

I will bicycle every mile of the journey, making it the first zero emission multi-national photo assignment.

I will seek out local environmental advocates and celebrities, park rangers, bicycle commuters, leaders of co-operative markets, small organic farmers and tell their story.

This is important.

People need to know that there is hope, that around them are others who are working in ways no matter how small or large to make our lives better.

The work will culminate in a website with a series of downloads of the stills and multi-media stories.

It will be the most ambitious zero-emission paperless photography assignment to date.

Let’s make it happen.

Book Review: Cycling’s Greatest Misadventures

Several months ago, the publishers of Cycling’s Greatest Misadventures sent us review copies of the book. This book, edited by Erich Schweikher and Paul Diamond (Solana Beach, CA: Casagrande Press, 2007), is a compilation of short stories by different authors, and within these stories are tales of woe that almost any cyclist can relate to.

cover

From tours gone horribly awry to mountain bike adventures that include getting terribly lost in a foreign country, this book is packed with one cycling bummer after another. Cycling’s Greatest Misadventures contains 27 true stories in all, and even has a photo gallery of gnarly crashes and other mishaps!

Several of the stories contained within this book seem embryonic…half-formed, rushed or a little bit lacking in terms of cohesiveness. Others could easily stand on their own and I found myself wishing that the author would continue with the story beyond the confines of the book. No matter what, though, there will be something for every manner of cyclist to relate to…a plague of flat tires, getting lost in the woods, suffering gastric distress (or worse) on a long tour.

Perhaps my favorite story is “Cycling in a New World” by Stan Green, Jr. Green tells the story of his ride through Hurricane Katrina-devastated New Orleans shortly after the storm, visiting old haunts and trying to salvage belongings (and memories) from his childhood home and those of his family members. As a former “occasional” resident of the city of New Orleans, I was familiar with many of the sights Green talked about as he surveyed the destruction and rebirth of the city by bicycle. It moved me when he wrote, “A bike ride through New Orleans can never be what it was before August 29, 2005. Something else lies ahead, something undetectable, something unknowable — a new normal.” My feeling is that statement is a testament to the New Orleans residents’ ability to pick themselves up and adapt to changes no matter what they may be, and the story is a touching look at what was, what is, and what may be for the people of NOLA.

Overall, the book is a fast-paced and enjoyable read — something for everyone. If you get a chance, take a look for yourselves.