The Chainlink

  Hello Chainlinkers, I recently moved here to Chicago from a large east coast city between Philly and Boston with ample bike lanes and pedestrian plazas galore. This unnamed metropolis is known for it's aggressive driving, however most streets can accommodate bicycle traffic. Its seems here in Chicago traffic moves faster down narrower roadways and cars normally drive very close to the curb, leaving no room for a bike.

  My question for the fellow forum members is what streets should be avoided? It seems like the diagonals are pretty good for biking, Clybourne Milwaukee, Elston ect. But most of the main North-South or East to West streets are just too fast and don't have enough of a shoulder. Drivers squeeze past you way too close. Not sure if they are actively trying to kill me or just unable to move over a bit and pass at a safe distance. I try not to ride in the door zone. On a separate note cabbies generally do give me enough room when they pass. Any comments or insight?

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Western Avenue and North Avenue. 

Jimmy, Chicago is a big city with lots of bad streets. Any specific neighborhoods you're thinking about?

For example, Ashland is a quiet peaceful road in Rogers Park but a complete shitshow in Bucktown. Division is scary between Rush and Halstead, but has buffered bike lanes in Humboldt Park. 

1.Ashland 2.Western 3.Some stretches of Damen and everything else without a bike lane, and even then still be cautious in bike lanes.

good thread. as with any complex issue; certain streets are on the "okay" list certain days of the week and on the 'watch list' (or "do not ride") list other dates/times. Are you interested in commuting days / times (what schedule do you work), etc.

for example : Milwaukee is generally pretty good : it's crazy but there is strength in numbers. Would I ride on Milwaukee Saturday night at 9pm ? heck no.

Western Avenue ?  NEVER; EXCEPT - let's say sunday at 6am a.m. you get up and are running late. Is Western Ave. 'safe' sunday a.m. at 6am ? it's not bad. Same with saturday (people going to work, church, breakfast, dog park, etc etc.)

I NEVER ride Ashland, came to hate Grand; now my route involves Lincoln Ave (all the way to Bryn Mawr; and I am STILL figuring out Lincoln). Halstead seems to get mixed reviews. My advice : get a bike map from Active Trans; try out streets on your route; and then modify your route, etc. based on your experiences. When it is all said and done; only YOU decides which streets you choose. I love Wilson. Some folks LOVE the tranquility of side streets. YMMV. welcome to chicago !!!  and the chainlink !!!

(how did you find us btw ???)


John Durham said:

Avoid Western Ave. and Ashland for N/S routes for the most part. 

Chicago's cabbies are, as a general rule, horrible. Take care around them.

Don't be afraid to "take the lane" on the narrower side streets. 

130th St., 127th St., 95th St., 87th St., most of Stony Island - heavy fast traffic, some of it truck/industrial.

Yes, I ride a lot on the far south side, and lots of other streets there are nice to ride on.

There is a Chicago Bike Map that you should be able to get from the City.  Or maybe a local bike shop would have some.  It has "recommended" bike routes.  You would have to decide for yourself whether you agree with the recommendations.

Jimmy>  It seems like the diagonals are pretty good for biking, Clybourne Milwaukee, Elston ect.

Note that those intersections are more complex, often involving three streets converging at the same light.

John> Chicago's cabbies are, as a general rule, horrible. Take care around them.

"Watch out for the yellow ones. They don't stop." -- Buddy the Elf

Lisa> There is a Chicago Bike Map ...

Also, Google Maps will highlight streets with bike lanes (solid green) and the best alternate bike routes (dotted green) if you click the little bicycle icon.

This time of year, if you can manage it, the Lakefront Trail and the North Channel Trail (both N/S routes) should be pretty free of foot traffic. I don't know how well the NCT is cleared, but Chicago Park District seems to do an aggressive snow removal job on LFT. They even do a smiling, five-finger wave when you pass them.

Honestly my experience with cabbies is not too bad, they usually pass you with 3 + feet. You have to anticipate what they might do, based on if they are empty or have a fare, ect, but usually they are pretty cool.

John Durham said:

Avoid Western Ave. and Ashland for N/S routes for the most part. 

Chicago's cabbies are, as a general rule, horrible. Take care around them.

Don't be afraid to "take the lane" on the narrower side streets. 

I also haven't found cabbies to be that bad. They sometimes move quickly and will do things like maintain speed right up until they get to a red light rather than slowing down mid-block, but they seem more likely to yield to me when I have the right of way (at four-way stops, when turning left across my lane) than other drivers, I feel like they are more aware of my presence on the street, and seem to drive very decisively, no waffling mid-intersection or mid-lane-change.

But I only rarely go downtown, where it seems most of the cabbie horror stories I hear about take place, so maybe things are different there.

I agree with the comments about Western, North and Ashland. I have ridden Western early in the morning when nobody else is out like when its 530am on a Saturday going to the Winter Solstice Concert. Why are these streets bad? it has nothing to do with cabs etc. Its because they were not designed for  a bike on them. There are two lanes each way for  cars and its fast. The streets with one lane each way and parking on the sides provide room for cycling. Damen, Lincoln, Clark, Addison, Irving Park, Montrose etc. We can argue over whether we like them and desire them but at least it makes sense to have a bike on them. Streets like Western, Ashland, North and out in the burbs- Dempster, Golf, Oakton are bad for bikes. There is a better way to get there. I once saw Randy Neufeld riding on Dempster and asked him what he was doing. He had a good answer, he was going to a particular store on Dempster and I saw him a couple blocks away. Otherwise, he would know better than to ride on that street.

I avoid Western and Ashland as North South routes.   Luckily, much of Damen is okay as are other streets that cover at least a part of the distance (Greenwood and Southport and then Berteau to Ravenswood cover alot of the distance.)  Harlem Cumberland Cicero and Pulaski are also pretty bad up North.  But all of them have alternatives a block or two in each direction.  

As for East West, Irving Park is a killer and Lawrence because of the Bike Lanes is almost as bad.   Portions of Foster are also real nasty.  That being said, Wilson's a great east west street as is Bryn Mawr -- particularly through Sagunash and via Forrest Glen.    


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