The annual Polar Plunge took place on Sunday, March 5, and my partner and I were there covering it all for you. That’s right, last weekend we were freezing our butts off to cover the Polar Plunge, a fundraising event where plunge participants jump into Lake Michigan in the midst of winter for a good cause.
Last week’s several day stretch of 60 degree plus temperatures was unusual for several reasons. It was the longest stretch of such high temperatures ever recorded for February in Chicago, and it got a lot more DePaul students outside.
Jessica Correa and Jose Pereyda were both outside DePaul’s Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center and noted what they were looking forward to this spring in workout trends and fashion. For Jessica, spring means shorts and running outside, instead of the treadmills at the Ray. Jose sought more group sports, like dancing and soccer, and donning shorts instead of joggers.
In December, researchers at DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development released good news for cyclists. Biking proves a faster commute than either public transit or Uber. Not only does traveling via bike result in a faster miles-per-hour speed in Chicago traffic, but many cyclists practice the Idaho stop, meaning they might slow and yield at an intersection but not stop altogether.
Steve Weber, a Chicago resident, shares his experience biking to work in Chicago, both as beginner and now as someone who bikes more frequently. Weber also noted this year’s mild winter has been good for bikers and his rule for following traffic stops.
The gender gap in biking goes like this. As children, both boys and girls are equally inclined to name biking as one of their top five physical activities, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. But once they hit teenage years, girls begin to drop out of biking. Boys don’t, making the industry and sport overwhelmingly male.
In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration noted that just one in four bikers in America is female. But it’s not for lack of interest and increasingly so, it’s not for a lack of advocacy.
“The gender gap exists if we let it exist. The key to empowering women is influencing the change you want to see,” Elizabeth Adamczyk, Women Bike Chicago Chair (WBC), said. “Back in the 1800s, biking was a game changer for women. You had to start wearing bloomers to be able to bike, and you had to have change. Women face the same hurdles now. They’ve just taken a different form. But it doesn’t have to stop them.”
Chicago aims to be one of the bike friendly countries in the U.S., and its extensive bike friendly street corners, whether they be bike racks or Divvy stations, certainly help the cause. Divvy is slightly more congregated in the Loop and northern neighborhoods, but bike racks are scattered all over.
“If I could describe biking in one word it would undoubtably be the word free,” Chicago local Anna Affias said. “That word says it all. There’s something so liberating and pure about riding a bike. There are no rules, there are no boundaries, only you, your thoughts and your bike.”
Some might think in regard to biking in Chicago winter, words like “cold” and “ow” and “my poor baby nose” are more apt. But truly, Affias is not alone for her love of cycling, even in the midst of winter.