Tagshopping by bike

What downtown means

Not the guy from the story. 

I was “downtown” photographing situations that make it hard to walk (hard to be a pedestrian) on Sunday, November 13, 2011. While waiting for the light at LaSalle and Adams, a man wearing a Bears jersey in the front passenger seat of a taxicab asked me if I had pizza in my Yuba Mundo’s Go-Getter bag.

“No”, I said, adding, “It has my backpack in there”.

“It’s a very large bag”, he replied.

Realizing that he was sober and that we could hold a conversation, I explained, “It holds a lot of groceries”.

“Oh, you live downtown”, he ascertained.

Not quite. “I live a few miles outside of downtown”.

The light turned green and the driver moved on, but the guy left me with, “Have a nice day”. I said, “You, too”.

After I got home and was looking through my photos and recounted this story, I  realized that to him, “downtown” meant the entire City of Chicago. To me, downtown meant the Loop community area and some surrounding blocks. I might define “downtown” as a place bounded by Kennedy, Division, Lake Michigan, and Roosevelt. But to this suburban football fan, downtown is that big place that one has to travel a ways to get to. I remembered that I had the same understanding of downtown when I lived in Batavia, Illinois, a suburb 40 miles west of Chicago. You can access it by driving on I-290 and I-88, or by taking the Metra UP-West line to Geneva.

There’s at least one other assumption I can make from this conversation: If I shop for and carry groceries on a bicycle, I must live in Chicago; people in the suburbs are never seen shopping for and carrying groceries on a bicycle.

Another photo from my photo mission on Sunday. It’s Roosevelt University’s vertical campus building on Wabash and Van Buren. 

Introducing Grocery Store Bike Parking Ratings

This article is part of a series (it seems) of grocery stores with poor bike parking – it first started with my local Dominick’s. I started an inventory and rating system for Chicago. I welcome your contribution. If you want to start a page for your town, I can help you with that.

After seeing the photos of the wacky bike parking situation at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods on Ding Ding Let’s Ride, I had to take a trip there myself!

By my count, I find that with 3 wave racks (of 2 sizes) and 3 grill racks, there are 27 bike parking spaces. You can debate me and possibly find 4 more.

Surely you can fit more, just like you can fit 4 bikes on a 2-space Chicago u-rack.However, the racks are installed so closer together to make this area quite a pain to find a space. And if you have a long wheelbase cargo bike (bakfiets, Madsen, or Yuba Mundo), GOOD LUCK!

The only space available for a longtail cargo bike like my Yuba Mundo is in a car parking space next to a hybrid Chevy Tahoe illegally parked in a handicapped parking space.

Photo showing too-close placement of the two kinds of racks. Notice that some bikes hang into the curb – it was the only way to use that bike rack. Other spaces might not have been opened when these people arrived.

But officially, for planning purposes, the Chicago Department of Transportation considers that rack as only fitting 2. This area could easily be sheltered. I think it’s something the store should look into. It provides sheltered car parking, which costs proportionally more than sheltered bike racks!

In the future, I expect better from Whole Foods.

For now, Target takes home the cake for providing consistently “good” bike parking. (Great’s the best a store can achieve.) So far, the rating system isn’t fully formed or automated. It’s a work in progress!

Sidenote: Access to Whole Foods via bicycle really sucks. There’s a 5-way intersection controlled by stop signs; then there’s the old railroad track and potholes. It might be better if you come in from the south, but then you have more RR track to deal with.

Photo montage showing how to access Whole Foods from Sheffield by bicycle.

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