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Why Do All Those Chicagoans Look So Delighted?

Whatever your age, hidden always in your face is a childhood expression of sheer and unmitigated delight. The original version was probably captured by your parents at a birthday party or on Christmas morning.

Depending on how old you are, your delighted smile might appear in a black-and-white photo taken with a long-lost Kodak camera. Or perhaps on a crisp, 35-mm color slide that your father projects onto a screen after the Thanksgiving meal is over and everyone struggles to stay awake. If you’re young enough, perhaps your personal delight has been captured in motion on HD video. There’s you, romping across your parents’ 55-inch flat-screen TV.

Decades later, when someone captures your expression of joy again—on a birthday, Christmas, wedding, birth of your baby–there it is. More mature now, of course, and you certainly didn’t have all those smile wrinkles when you were seven, but there you are, delighted.

Labor Day lakefront smiles
The purpose of all this is to describe what I saw along the lakefront this Labor Day weekend as I sat watching delighted grown-ups (imagining how they must have looked as children) nervously unlock dazzling turquoise-blue Divvy bicycles. Climbing aboard, pushing off, and after a couple of wobbles pedalling onward in an epiphany, realizing that yes, it’s true, you never forget how to ride a bike.

Last weekend the Divvy users were mainly couples and families, a complete sweep of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. My personal favorite was a Sikh family, father and young son in elegant turbans, mother expertly tucking her sari out of harm’s way. Usually, one of any random couple looked like a regular cyclist, reassuring his partner that yes, this would be fun, and yes, it was safe, and yes, the ride along the lake to Hyde Park was simply glorious.

Or that the easiest way to get to the Jazz Festival was to Divvy it.

During the week, Divvy users are short-run commuters heading for work, students, and errand-runners, everyone using a bike for a trip that takes less than 30 minutes. Speaking as someone who has travelled virtually everywhere by bike for decades, just about any two points in the central part of Chicago are accessible in less than 30 minutes.

That’s the Divvy system
You can buy an annual membership for $75 and they’ll mail you a key that unlocks any bike on any rack. For your membership you get as many 30-minute-or-less trips as you like for a full year

If you need 60 minutes, they’ll charge you $1.50, and beyond that $6.00 for every 30 minutes, but most riders seem to use Divvy for the short-term convenience of it.

If you don’t want an annual membership, buy a 24-hour pass for $7.00, but instead of a key you get a five-digit unlocking code. The same rule applies: unlimited rides of less than 30 minute. If you’re planning a longer ride–say South Shore to Rogers Park–to avoid overtime charges pretend you’re a Pony Express rider and just change to a new Divvy bike every 30 minutes.

Now think for a moment how your life can change for the better if you declare “I’m going Divvy.”

  • You’ll enjoy freedom of movement. This is a super-great feeling, cruising along, glancing over at unsmiling, pasty-faced motorists caught in endless traffic.
  • You burn no calories looking at the world through a windshield.
  • You’ll quickly discover that Divvy pays for itself. Suddenly, you’re not shelling out insane amounts of money to park–no swiping your credit card on those parking boxes, no parking lots, no valets. (And no more parking tickets.)
  • You’ll redevelop forgotten muscles. Your piston-strong thighs will keep you moving and you’ll get a cardio workout without the tedium of an elliptical.
  • You’ll certainly be doing your part to help the environment.
  • You’ll bring something new into your life. You’ll likely end up buying your own bike, start taking bike vacations, and when you travel you’ll rent bikes rather than boarding tour buses.

A couple of other points worth mentioning…

  • You certainly can bicycle year ‘round. The Divvy bikes are heavy street bikes, modelled on the ones in Europe, with thick tires that grip the road. In winter, the main arteries are cleared first, and that includes bike paths/lanes. As a Scandinavian once told me, “There’s no cold weather–there’s only inappropriate clothing.”
  • Speaking of bike paths, the city is creating them everywhere.
  • With bikers thick on many streets, motorists seem to be driving more cautiously than ever. As well they should.
  • But you be careful, too, especially on busy bike-car thoroughfares. Most bike-popular angle streets like Elston have reconfigured lanes, so please keep your eyes open and on the road—not looking down at your phone.

By the way, Divvy is actually owned by the City of Chicago, funded by federal grants for projects to improve the environment, help the economy, and reduce traffic congestion.

My health tips mainly harangue you on what to eat/what not to eat, what vitamins to take, and how to survive our dysfunctional health care system. This one is different. This one is pretty much a happy recommendation on being a green, lean, cruising machine.

Click here for the Divvy website, read about it yourself, and when you see one of their bike racks, mumble something like, “Aw jeez, Dr E thinks I should try, so why not.”

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

PS: Bike sharing is spreading rapidly around the world. Many major cities now have their own bike-sharing programs. If your city or town doesn’t have one, see what you personally can do to get one started.


Posted in Blog, Knowledge Base, W Tagged with: , , ,
4 comments on “Why Do All Those Chicagoans Look So Delighted?
  1. Ann Raven says:

    This is a great article! Good for us, for the city, for the world! Thanks.

  2. Roxann Paulson says:

    Loved this and so true. As you know I fell in love with biking as a lifestyle while living in Amsterdam. That’s why they don’t smoke pot there- they are high on bikes!

  3. Leeny (Eileen) Mackey says:

    Unfortunately, living in the suburbs I’m not afforded the ability to do many errands by bicycle. But I’ve always ridden for enjoyment. Now, as an adult I have a wonderful sturdy pink beach cruiser with white wall tires and a pink bell too! But it’s best feature is a special basket on front for my best dog, Barney. He loves our rides and has been missing them! And the neighborhood kids love to see him riding in his basket. I think we’re finally ready to go for some short rides on my good days now. Barney will be thrilled.

  4. Jim Fitzgerald says:

    So I finally tried one of these pieces of crap. (note the sarcasm here)…

    Well, relative to my Portland made 27 Speed all Carbon Frame $4000.00 26” Mountain Bike with California Full Suspension, the Finest German Brakes, Japanese Drivetrain, and Canadian Crankset these DIVVY Shanghai 3 speed bikes almost killed me. Terrain that is usually child’s play was like climbing up the Grand Canyon. I thought my tin frame and heart would burst. But… I DID MAKE IT HOME…WHOOO HOO!

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