The Chainlink

In Chicago, what's your best practice for using side streets?

Defining side street as a residential street, one way, single lane.  Would have cars parked parallel to the curb on either or both sides.  Your moving in the direction of  posted traffic.  No salamongering.

So how do you play it?  What are you comfortable doing?

Take the lane, ride dead center down the middle.  Yielding to motor vehicle traffic behind at intersections, allowing them to safely pass by?

Take the lane, ride dead center down the middle.  Hold onto the lead position through intersections.  

Is it different for you when passing through different neighborhoods?

I'm interested in your experiences, not hypotheticals.  How do you actually maneuver under these circumstances on Chicago streets?      

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Take center lane to avoid dooring on either side.  Move right toward curb if there's a stretch of open curb without parked cars (if being trailed by a car or cars), move right at intersections if cars are right behind.  Once in a while, if several cars are behind me, I'll even just wait a moment between parked cars, to let the moving vehicles pass me, as it's much safer for me to do, than risk having an impatient motorist try to share my lane when I'm not expecting it.

I've found that cars can still squeeze by me on 1 way streets with cars parked on either side. I don't ride super close in the door zone, but enough for me to easily escape. I've never felt that the cars were getting too close, imho.

I'm often riding south on Spaulding (from Foster to Elston). It's a great 2 mile stretch, but it's a very narrow street. When there's not traffic it feels like you're riding on a bike path, but when there is a car behind me I generally follow Thunder Snow's protocol.


Jim S said:

I've found that cars can still squeeze by me on 1 way streets with cars parked on either side. I don't ride super close in the door zone, but enough for me to easily escape. I've never felt that the cars were getting too close, imho.

Thank you each for your perspectives and mature responses!

A perfectly good good opportunity to develop went down in flames the other day.

I'll happily regale you with the details, if you ask, when we ride together next.

Safe to say I didn't put on the best face for Chicago cyclist.  Mea culpa to all.....

If it's a particularly narrow street (too narrow for cars to safely pass me, I determine what 'safe' is), then I take the lane and ride the middle. If someone has been waiting behind me for a while I'll move over at first good oppo to let them by. 

If it's a bit wider I'll ride 3-4 feet away from the parked cars on the right so that cars can get by. Sometimes on these wider streets I'll take the lane if not doing so is likely to get me buzzed, or there are a lot of intersections. On Cortland west of Damen, for example, I do a slow-look-and-roll through the stop signs if there's no crossing or turning traffic, and with a stop sign every block and a ~15mph pace I can keep ahead of cars easily on that stretch, so I tend to take the lane more.


I'm always going down the middle but I ride fast to keep up with traffic from behind if any. I've been doored one too many times.

BTW, side streets aren't limited to 1-ways.  There are plenty of narrow 2-way residential streets all over the city.  I live on one of them.  I agree with Thunder Snow's tips, and use the same approach whether it's a 1-way or 2-way street. 

Where there's an opening between parked cars or an intersection, sometimes I pull over to let others pass, sometimes a driver coming from the opposite direction pulls over to let me pass (especially if I'm pulling a trailer).  On narrower streets, I do take the lane and drivers rarely try to squeeze by.  If someone is that insistent, I think it's safer to let them pass.  I find that letting cars pass periodically causes the least amount of tension and conflict for me and them.

Agree with Anne that the narrow 2-way streets are a special challenge, and are even more difficult to control than the narrow 1-way streets.  It's not hard to take-the-lane/block-cars-behind-you on a 1-way, until you see it's safe for them to pass you.  A narrow 2-way is a whole 'nother thing.  Wilson Avenue through Ravenswood Manor or Ravenswood Gardens is one that comes to mind: parked cars on either side and just enough room for two cars to pass each other coming and going.  Little to no place to bike out of the crosshairs.

on a narrow 1 way street with parked cars on both sides, I sometimes feel more comfortable riding on the left side.  Not optimal as it puts me in the passenger-door zone.  But when you want to let impatient cars pass, it is less risky than riding on the right, in the driver-door zone.

Yep - it depends on the width of the street and to some extent the volume of traffic - but mostly I'm with Jim and Fran - I don't take the lane unless it seems necessary, and at least on the side streets I ride on that is rarely the case. 

My six mile commute is now about 85% side streets. There are more direct options that would save me mebbe five minutes, but it is not worth the extra risk and the extra stress that comes with it. 

Thunder Snow has the technique.

I have no issue with salmoning on residential streets as long as there is light/little traffic.  If one tries to rigidly adhere to the posted direction of travel you just are not going to be able to navigate residential streets without constantly detouring and nearly doubling the distance you are going (even IF you know the area and which way actually will work for you to find the road going the right posted direction.)

Screw it.  I drive the wrong way down one-ways in residential streets all the time.  The one-way markings are purposely meant to be a barrier to traveling through these residential streets so that cars don't use them as short cuts.  This doesn't apply to bicycles.  We are not the problem these one-way streets are meant to solve and therefore do not apply to us.


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