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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I tried to be succinct but maybe you inadvertently skipped reading a page or two of responses.

The focus has been for some time here on making secondary streets bike friendlier and leaving the quasi-hopeless streets basically alone. This requires just a hair of experience and planning on the part of the cyclist to know how to stay off the 'hopeless' streets. What that means for the future? That it will continue to mean that cyclists will need to learn alternate routes to the big busy streets.

What part of town do you ride in? Chicago is spread out over a very large area.... I can't see how soliciting responses about streets in a part of town you don't ride in could possibly be useful to you.


Jimmy Baham said:

   Thanks for the responses! I do realize my question was kind of vague but I appreciate all the various comments. My past experience has been biking in NYC and in Boston, so you'd think Chicago wouldn't be much different, but it has been a real adjustment to ride here. It's good to hear where the particularly dangerous stretches are.

    There is not a single street in Manhattan that I would be afraid to ride, frustrating yes but not out right scary. Here cycling is less frustrating; ie fewer cars in the bike lanes, no salmoning cyclist and no pedestrians getting in your way. But it's tricky for the newcomer to realize that, hey half of the streets here are too fast and too narrow to bike on.

    Another vague question, if most of these main roads can't and won't accommodate bikes, what does the bike friendly future look like for this city? Isn't it inherently limited? Should it be more about strengthening the existing bike routes and directing the flow of bike traffic to them or redesigning these fast busy streets and creating space for bikes?  

I have all sorts of favored routes depending on what I'm doing. I ride with kids sometimes and ride much tamer streets then. But some of the alternatives for some stretches: Paulina (that's a long "i" BTW) is a block west of Ashland and has long good stretches, Damen is frequently fine where Ashland isn't. Leavitt is between Western and Damen and is quite wide and residential for long stretches. I avoid Irving Park if I can for the same reasons as Western and Ashland, but Berteau to the north and Montrose a little further north can be fine. Grand west of the river is bad, but Hubbard, just to the south can be a very peaceful street.

I avoid Elston at all costs unless I have to go to Elston. I find that cars just drive in the bike lanes there and at a high rate of speed. I'd rather go south to Milwaukee or east to Lincoln.

Grace from the river to at least Ashland is fine, Ravenswood is a nice route as long as it's not during rush hour when drivers use it as an alternative to other main streets and race along it.

Ravenswood at the moment is very rough with lots of potholes at the northern end.  I'm still trying to find the best way to get from the Trader Joes on Lincoln back to my place near Loyola on nights when I want to do some shopping on my way home.  There's really no good path to the lake when Damen ends.

My route is Damen to the end where it turns into Bryn Mawr, then Bryn Mawr east to Glenwood, then north on Glenwood. Not sure where you are exactly but you can take Glenwood all the way to Pratt. (When I need to go further north than that I usually cut over on Pratt to Ashland.)

My guess is that someone is going to write an article soon on this. Blog, print, or whatever.

Howard - any part west of Ridge. 

One of my, attempting to stay safe, methods is using Google maps to find routes with as many one way streets as possible; unfortunately, there's no guarantees but I feel that I have a little more of a fighting chance on one-way streets. 

Welcome to Chi-Town & best of luck. 

Check out the Chicago Bike Map

Remember, if you ever take a wrong turn or end up on a street you're not comfortable with, you can always pull off, walk for a bit, look at a map and figure out a better route!

Also good to know - if you ever get stranded or have some major mechanical breakdown, all CTA buses have bike racks you can throw your bike on and get home.

See CTA policy regarding bikes on buses & "L" trains

Bikes are also allowed on the suburban Metra trains, with some rush hour restrictions.

Beware of lawyers from Michigan in big black SUVs.  Also blond young ladies in white SUVs in warm weather.  Beware of Michigan and Indiana plates, though Wisconsin has been ok to me.  If you can hear music and not see a vehicle, put your head on a pivot and scan 360°.  Keep an eye out for Divy riders in the summer; they are often tourists and will ride against traffic or 3 or 4 abreast.

I personally try to stay West of Ashland and if I can't, Elston or Milwaukee have kept me safe so far.

Remember the two kinds of bike riders...those who have and those who will.

 

BikeBoy5

Anyone notice that Halsted has NO lights for a good 1/2 mile north of North Avenue? I hit a gnarly pothole in the pitch black tonight and seriously thought I was going to spill.

Feels seriously dangerous right now in combination with the crater-like potholes that have cropped up due to either archaeological digs, or too many cars.

It's been this dark for a week, but all the houses have lights on that stretch. Weird, dangerous, and scary - par for the course for winter commuting I guess.

tim

they sell these things called LIGHTS, if you put on on your bike you can see the potholes. a Blinkie is to be seen by, a light is to see with

If you haven't already reported the "lights out" situation via 311, there's no time like the present to do it.  Here's the link.  You can report potholes there, too.  At this time of year, making note of problems & locations and taking a minute to report them online can save you headaches later. 

tim de la motte said:

Anyone notice that Halsted has NO lights for a good 1/2 mile north of North Avenue? I hit a gnarly pothole in the pitch black tonight and seriously thought I was going to spill.

Feels seriously dangerous right now in combination with the crater-like potholes that have cropped up due to either archaeological digs, or too many cars.

It's been this dark for a week, but all the houses have lights on that stretch. Weird, dangerous, and scary - par for the course for winter commuting I guess.

tim

I don't think you are accurately representing the collective opinion of any bike advocacy group in the region.

Proposed BRT street Ashland isn't a major one?  Milwaukee?  Roosevelt?  Elston?  Should I go on?

As long as people are going to use cycling as a commuting option, the time it takes to get from point A to point B will be an important factor.  Expanding the vision of urban cycling to include some dedicated smaller streets is supplementing the larger street network, not replacing it.

As several people have noted, when it comes to river and expressway crossings you have no choice but to utilize major arteries.  Ignoring these streets in the bigger picture is an exercise in futility.


h' 1.0 said:

I tried to be succinct but maybe you inadvertently skipped reading a page or two of responses.

The focus has been for some time here on making secondary streets bike friendlier and leaving the quasi-hopeless streets basically alone. This requires just a hair of experience and planning on the part of the cyclist to know how to stay off the 'hopeless' streets. What that means for the future? That it will continue to mean that cyclists will need to learn alternate routes to the big busy streets.

What part of town do you ride in? Chicago is spread out over a very large area.... I can't see how soliciting responses about streets in a part of town you don't ride in could possibly be useful to you.

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