The Chainlink

Last Thursday I rode my Xtracycle to pick up a bike from a fellow near Portage Park.

On the way there, I rode west on Lawrence to Central, pretty much all the way from the channel trail. It was fine, but busy (this was around 6pm). On the way back, I wound up taking Montrose instead, more by mistake than on purpose. While Montrose wasn't officially a bike route, it was more pleasant than Lawrence - more residental, less traffic, etc. In fact, I found it better than Lawrence in almost every respect except for the fact that it lacked a bike lane.

Asking Google Maps to give me the best route by bike from Irving Park and Central to Montrose and California didn't even mention Montrose as a choice:

Is this typical?

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Sorry for the anger, but that is my neighborhood, and Montrose is crazy dangerous for peds and cyclists. Skip, it may have been quiet at that time but the cars on Montrose are not to be messed with, a lot of construction vans and box trucks are in the area, for work and for getting to 90/94.  Lawrence jogs around Gunnison and is slow at Central so Montrose is more of a straight shot for the big trucks, or people in a rush that are familiar with the area so they take Montrose. Peds get killed in the crosswalks.  I got run off the road 3 times within the last 2 years.  Cars in that area expect bikes on Lawrence.  Be careful out there.

> Cars in that area expect bikes on Lawrence. 

As a cyclist I prefer Wilson or Lawrence. But also as a driver, I feel nervous driving my car alongside bicycles on Montrose or Foster. In my experience bikes on Montrose and Foster are either riding in the door zone or riding close to cars, which are going 20-35 mph. 

Thanks KL, I ride my bike %90 of the time, but I do drive and felt the same way.  It's just too dangerous for bikers from a biker/driver standpoint.   I'm not sure Skip drives a car, so the viewpoint from a driver who also bikes on those same streets daily is valuable info for all.  On my commute I cross Montrose at Laramie daily and it is a long light. I have NEVER seen a bike on Montrose rush hour weekdays.    

Let me chime in here. 

a) Yes, I do drive a car

b) While I posed my original question in the context of Montrose and Lawrence, that trip was a one-time deal. I was really more interested in a general discussion of why Google Maps prefers one route over another. (Montrose v. Lawrence was just a f'rinstance.) In particular, I was quite surprised that it offered Irving Park as a route option, given that it doesn't appear to be a bike route (according to Google Maps) and is a quite busy street.

Sorry I wasn't more explicit in my original post.

It provoked an interesting discussion about the major East West connections on the Mid North Side and how styles of riding impact viewpoints.

Let's see if I can summarize:

Lawrence is subject to the highest degree of love and hate.    Some riders (and I think I would be fair as characterizing them as the bold and confident riders with little fear) like Lawrence because it has no stop signs, few lights and a bike lane which, at least in theory, provides the ability to ride essentially non-stop except for lights at a good rate of speed.  Other riders (and I think we must be characterized as the old and scared and slow (15 mph or so...)) think that the large amount of traffic on Lawrence, the lack of actual enforcement of the bike lanes, the car doors that open without concern, the pedestrians that simply walk across the street in the middle of the block and the like make Lawrence one of the most dangerous places in the city to ride.   And we all agree that the wheel trapping grates on the bridge and the lousy pavement should be fixed.

Foster and Montrose.   Again the Old and Scared and Slow and the Brave and the Bold view this differently.   In both cases, the OSS (like me) view the degree of traffic and the number of doors as outweighing the "advantage" of no stop signs and few lights.    The BB, on the other hand, aren't as bothered by the traffic and like the smoother flow.

Wilson, Ainslie, Sunnyside, Bryn Mawr and the like.   The OSS tend to prefer these slightly less direct routes with stop signs and the like.  We feel that the significantly lower amount of traffic at the significantly slower speeds makes our cycling better.   As we are stopping and starting from a slower speed, we are less bothered by the stop signs and the loss of momentum.    The B&B, on the other hand, appear not to like the lack of a fast track.

Its all a matter of preference and a change is as likely as convincing a hard core Cub fan to become a White Sox fan (even though leaving a culture of losing is good for body and soul...  good people don't let their friends be Cub fans...)

I see a surprising amount of people riding Irving Park west of the Kennedy, btw.  Google is clearly on drugs about it being a recommended cycling route.  Now that Divvy has been announced for 6 Corners and the Irving Blue Line, I am VERY curious about how people will bike between those two stations.

I live up this way too, (Hi, Apie!).

Now Lawrence vs. Montrose, neither are good for crossing the Expressway(s) and the Weber Spur/other tracks. I was recently doing some work and had to commute from Irving & Central(ish) up to Elston just south of Lawrence.

In the morning, Montrose was cake for 2 reasons: 1) traffic is much lighter after about 8:30, and 2) you only have one expressway to cross.  That being said, Montrose & Knox is where I got right hooked by a cop and was told to "fuck off."

The intersection(s) near Lawrence & Milwaukee are pretty much no fun anytime.  Ainslie was great for crossing the Kennedy, but once you got near the Jeff Park transit area, those 16 zillion lights at Milwaukee/Gale/Higgins/Ainsley make for some serious work in watching for traffic.  And if you're just staying on Lawrence, you've got 3 or 4 viaducts in a row from crossing the Edens, 2 sets of tracks, then the Kennedy.

Montrose in the afternoon/rush hour is hell, though, because it's got the rush hour parking lanes.  Traffic backs up from Milwaukee east almost to Cicero, and people constantly whip around the right to cut in front of traffic.  The bonus is, though, if you get past, there's a left turn arrow at Laramie, and you can make the turn into the back areas easier.  I've seen cyclists turning left on to Cicero to assumedly turn right in to the neighborhoods to avoid that crazy stretch.

The problem with any other streets is that you have a) a long detour up to Foster or further, and b) many of them don't cross all the barriers in the area.  Wilson I know dies at the Kennedy, and you have to hook up to a few uncontrolled lights at Lawrence.  Sunnyside also doesn't cross the Kennedy.  Ainslie does, but it dies at Cicero near the Edens.

Not sure what the solution is around there, but it's rough and definitely needs some help.

Apie (10.6) said:

Sorry for the anger, but that is my neighborhood, and Montrose is crazy dangerous for peds and cyclists. Skip, it may have been quiet at that time but the cars on Montrose are not to be messed with, a lot of construction vans and box trucks are in the area, for work and for getting to 90/94.  Lawrence jogs around Gunnison and is slow at Central so Montrose is more of a straight shot for the big trucks, or people in a rush that are familiar with the area so they take Montrose. Peds get killed in the crosswalks.  I got run off the road 3 times within the last 2 years.  Cars in that area expect bikes on Lawrence.  Be careful out there.

FYI, Sunnyside is my fav E/W street, except like you said, it doesn't cross the highway :(

Ainslie dies at Cicero but is brought back to life just past Elston.   Ainslie takes you off for Lawrence for an extended period of time on both sides of the Kennedy.  And Bryn Mawr et al hooks into Forrest Glen which is great for getting around the Edens.  

Really great discussion. I travel the West Side every day but much farther south and what all this tells me is that safe bike infrastructure going west out to the 'burbs is poor if it exists at all.  That much was evident when CDOT reviewed it's "100 Miles of Protected Bike Lanes by 2015" plan at last week's MBAC. I would recommend that anyone interested in this as an advocacy issue should attend the next meeting in September. They're usually announced on TCL.

Yep, I'm a Jefferson park guy, just west of Lawrence/central....I was the guy that had the proposal for buffered bike lanes at the participatory budgeting held in the 45th ward (we only lost by 12 votes!!!) Ah well, but it would have been on Lawrence between Long and Cicero so would have alleviated many of the expressway and bridge traps that we all encounter on the NW side. But yeah I can understand the appeal of Montrose SOMETIMES...but only late night. Rush hour is crazy there. Irving park even more so, yiiikes.

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