The Chainlink

I posted this on Craigslist as well, and was directed here.

I've recently started cycling to work, I live in the loop and work in Melrose Park. Yesterday was the first day attempting the ride. I took the Green line to Harlem and then biked the rest of the way to work from there.

On the way home, I was feeling more ballsy so I decided to bike the entire way. I wound up riding on Chicago Ave until it hit Grand and taking that home. Passing through the west side of the city was pretty intimidating though. The combination of haggard roads, riddled with pot holes that could consume my whole bike, run down houses, and people staring at me like they hadn't seen a white guy in years, all made for a pretty traumatic experience.

Can anyone suggest a path through the west side that isn't quite as run down and intimidating? I'm not trying to come off as racist, I'm just curious as to what other options are out there without having to experiment and put myself in danger.

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I don't ride on the west side very often, but I work there often repairing sidewalks and streets. In almost 20 years of working in nasty neighborhoods, I've had very few problems. Trachea's comment was spot on--tough neighborhoods are still neighborhoods. I've found that good manners and friendly respect go a long way to helping folks feel comfortable about having a stranger like me on their block. Smile; say hello or good morning or afternoon; stop for moms with kids in crosswalks. After once or twice, most folks will wave rather than look at you like you're from outer space. This isn't to say that you shouldn't be careful, but there is no upside to being jumpy.
This Sunday (8/30) I rode my bike from West Chicago (60185) in DuPage County all the way to Grant Park. I rode on the Illinois Pairie Path until it ended at Maywood (1st Ave). I rode North a block to Madison and took Madison Ave. east to Chicago. I rode through River Forest and Oak Park which was pleasant. One I got around Central and Madison, the landscape began to change. I took the ride with my girlfriend and was worried for her and mine safety. She was on an oversized bike that looked like it was about to fall apart and was praying to god that it didn't in that area.

I got the occasional stares with cars driving by honking and pointing at me smiling. It was almost like they were giving me props for rolling through. Did see people standing at the corners and bloods patrolling their area. At this point I'm just in survival mode and use common sense. Tried to catch green lights and no long eye contact. I didn't have a bag on me to make it look like I had nothing on me.

Like others have said, if you ride north of North Ave. you should be fine!

Happy Rolling!
Crime statistics from
Population statistics from wikipedia.

Robberies (the crime of most concern when wandering through unknown parts) per neighbourhood from 6/2007 to now:

Lincoln Park (pop. 64,320): 97 (1.5 per 1000 residents)
North Center (pop. 31,895): 47 (1.5 per 1000 residents)
Portage Park (pop. 65,340): 203 (3.1 per 1000 residents)
Chatham (pop. 37,275): 773 (20.7 per 1000 residents)
South Shore (pop. 61,556): 1396 (22.7 per 1000 residents)
Austin (pop. 117,527): 2071 (17.6 per 1000 residents)

If anyone wants to calculate the robbery rates for the rest of 77 community areas and prove me wrong, go nuts. Until I see a good neighbourhood by neighbourhood crime statistic map I'll continue to use race as a proxy for crime, which, judging by these preliminary statistics, seems to work out well.

T.C. O'Rourke said:
I'd like to point out that some sections of your "black Chicago" map are relatively safe and middle class neighborhoods.,_Chicago,,_Chicago

There is a strong correlation between race, poverty and crime. But your equating black with dangerous is invalid. And offensive
More robberies:

Uptown (pop. 63,551): 258 (4.1 per 1000 residents)
Edgewater (pop. 62,198): 286 (4.6 per 1000 residents)
Avalon Park (pop. 11,147): 104 (9.3 per 1000 residents)
So, to answer the original question, lets say you're on your hypothetical ride from the west side.

If you take the "northern route" Montclare=>Belmont Cragin=>Hermosa=Logan Square

Montclare (pop. 12,646): 95 (7.5 per 1000 residents)
Belmont Cragin (pop. 78,144): 263+274+33 (7.3 per 1000 residents)
Hermosa (pop. 26,908): 228 (8.4 per 1000 residents)
Logan Square (pop. 82,715): 886 (10.7 per 1000 residents) <= LOL, hipsters getting massacred

If you take the "middle route" Austin=>Humbolt Park=>West Town

Humbolt Park (pop. 100,236): 743 (7.4 per 1000 residents) <= Safer than Logan!
West Town (pop. 87,435): 270 (3.1 per 1000 residents)

If you take the "southern route" Austin=>West Garfield Park=>East Garfield Park => Near West Side

West Garfield Park (pop. 23,019): 632 (27.5 per 1000 residents)
East Garfield Park (pop. 20,881): 792 (37.9 per 1000 residents) <= Good luck
Near West Side (pop. 46,419): 210 (4.5 per 1000 residents)
Ahhhhhh Yes it is if you want to live through it. You can provide that and I will will in the White and Latino sections and Don't forget the Greeks.

heather stratton said:
Was it really necessary to include a map of "black Chicago?"

envane x said:
How out of the way are you willing to travel to avoid ghetto? North of North ave in generally OK.
If you say quote "people staring at me like they hadn't seen a white guy in years" does not mean anything other than that. It is not racist. Maybe one white guy has not seen another white guy in a while or if your latin or just happen to be going by the American Indian Center, or hey, wait, what if I am Russian and a Chinese (we can't forget about them driving on the south side) and is someone like that actually white anyway ? Is Asian on the Job applications ? Or how about if you Mix a Brazilian and African, really ..... all your gonna get is a really nice looking child who can dance and speak Portuguese and is smarter than most of us. Personally I don't care what someones race is as long as they are cute or have the personality to make them look that way after a few drinks. I did take a date for a ride through the projects last month, really. You can tell quick who is worth your time and who is not. Am I totally inane ?

Kristian M Zoerhoff said:
envane x said:
If anyone wants to calculate the robbery rates for the rest of 77 community areas and prove me wrong, go nuts. Until I see a good neighbourhood by neighbourhood crime statistic map I'll continue to use race as a proxy for crime, which, judging by these preliminary statistics, seems to work out well.

Why not just look at the city's own data, down to the beat level?

The differences between the crime map and the Black Chicago map are telling, especially on the SW side.
Thanks for the link Kristian, although you're completely wrong.

Look at the map for robbery in the past year:

This is a decent match for the black population distribution even without correcting for per capita.

You need to adjust to per-capita rates to get good comparisons btw areas with different populations, which the police stats dont do. So, for example, the Garfield Parks are only "orange" on the police map because they have a small population (~20k) versus say Austin (~110k). Also, those southeast areas have some really tiny populations. All of South Deering has only 16,990 people.
Depending on how out of the way you want to ride I would say riding more North if you want better roads, Armitage gets bumpy but is well paved, and really I agree that anywhere North of North is good (although North itself was really torn up last time I rode it to Oak Park)

And to finally kill this dead, I went ahead a ran the numbers (which was fun, good way to learn about Chicago).
As you can see, the best black areas are about as violent as the worst white/hispanic areas, hovering around 5 per 1000. EVERY neighbourhood above 6 per 1000 is black, except for that one freak point which is the Loop. I think its pretty obvious why that area is an outlier.

If you colour coded a map with two colours red = under 5.0 and blue = over 5.0 you would end up with a near perfect representation of the black population distribution in Chicago, which was my original point.
HA! Awesome. F that guy. I'm a little white girl living in Garfield and I couldn't feel safer. Unlike some white neighborhoods my friends live in, where girls get hit in the backs of their heads with baseball bats late at night...
i use to live in elmhurst and i had to ride to 91st and western daily, i took the prairie path to the end which is forest park, then i went south to Roosevelt>california>73rd st>western>goal. if you have the time to go south to Roosevelt, that might be your best bet to get to work safe and with wide streets, then all you have to do is shoot up any major street going north you feel comfy on to get back to north ave. and always check google maps sat view to check out streets to see if there are sidewalks, and how narrow. i try to avoid streets or roads without any sidewalks.

its kinda sad people need numbers to calculate how safe they would be, your only as safe as to how vulnerable and naive you are, the only point proved with numbers is that you'll get robbed anywhere.



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