2007/05/30

Biking again

In the last week I made two expeditions to the outskirts of the city. Tho they are administratively part of Chicago, they have more in common with Wilmette or Skokie than with the city proper, so I apologize for how boring my descriptions will be.

Southwest on Vincennes thru Hamilton Park, Gresham, Brainerd, and Beverly, west on 111th thru Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood. Last Friday I did the 25-mile round trip to Veggie Bite, the vegetarian so-called fast food place in Mount Greenwood in the city's far far southwest. I didn't get a very good feel for the neighborhoods biking on Vincennes, which is a diagonal multilane road. No bike lanes (it used to have them part of the way, but they've been removed), but pretty good for biking with the exception of a few dicey intersections. When I got to 111th and Hoyne in Morgan Park, I encountered something I've never seen before in Chicago: a legitimate hill. Beverly, Morgan Park, and Mount Greenwood are all very suburban and middle class. Mount Greenwood is lily white and feels a lot like northwest Chicago - not exactly a friendly place for an all-vegetarian restaurant. I liked Veggie Bite, but I'm not sure they should market themselves as a fast food place. I got the "cheese steak", which was good but bore no resemblance to the real thing and took awhile to make.

On the way home I took the marked "Vincennes alternative" route, which involved less traffic and gave me a much better look at residential parts of Beverly and Brainerd. Beverly has a lot of suprisingly large homes with big yards, something I've never seen in the city. Northern Beverly and Brainerd had more conventional bungalows, but the neighborhood was completely black. Just like middle class white folks, these homeowners seemed to be spending most of their time on lawn care.

Northwest to Chinatown, southwest on Archer thru McKinley Park, Brighton Park, and Garfield Ridge, south to Clearing, east and south to Ford City Mall, back to Hyde Park thru Englewood. Chris and I tried a new place in Chinatown, House of Fortune (2407 S Wentworth) - pretty good, but the menu wasn't too interesting and looked pretty bland past the Sichuan stuff we got. Archer is another multilane road that mostly cuts you off from the neighborhoods but is pretty good to bike on. McKinley Park is mostly Latino with some Poles, a mix which continues down Archer but whose balance switches by the time you're west of Midway. The surroundings are like going west on Touhy around Chris's parents' place - lots of bungalows and a feeling of being transported back to the '50s.

I went south on Narragansett (6400W) just to include another of Chicago's main roads on my checklist, then east on 65th thru Clearing, so called because the farms that once stood there were cleared for factories. Taking 65th was probably a mistake - the drivers on this 4-lane road seem to have never encountered a biker before and roared past me within a foot. The traffic was light tho - the real hell started when I turned south on Cicero. Cicero is more like the Dan Ryan here than a city road - 8-10 lanes filled with cars moving very fast. In humiliation, I took to the sidewalk. Starting around 71st the mall district starts. It's hard to convey thru mere words how alien a cyclist is in this environment. Parking lots, huge retailers, broken sidewalks, and people talking on their cellphones while driving right at you: along with some of my trips to the malls of the north suburbs, this ranked as one of my least pleasant bike adventures.

Ford City Mall, the site of a long-planned extension of the Orange Line, looks like crap on the outside. Inside it's actually quite nice, except it's a mall so you want to get out as soon as possible. I think is was the only white person in the entire place - lots of Latinos and blacks and a few Asians.

I took the Marquette bike lane thru Marquette Park, West Englewood, and Englewood back to Hyde Park, which would be a very nice ride if not for the psychological strain of being very white riding thru the most violent neighborhoods in the city. Good thing Daley fixed that whole race problem.

2 comments:

kyle said...

That editorial is pretty hilarious, especially that list of four accomplishments. Oh, Daley, how could we ever thank you enough for displacing public housing residents and privatizing and militarizing CPS? That's what people of all races want, right?

Patrick said...

Pay no attention to the racial tensions behind the curtain.