The Chainlink

Visiting Chicago, would love advice, rent or bring, saftey, bike culture, ridability...food

Hello Gang!

I am visiting Chicago the last week of September into the first week of October for the first time. I am staying at what I believe is a central hotel, The Blake. I am traveling with my wife who has health issues that require her to walk with a cane, can't be on her feet the way i can, meaning i am going to have some free time on my own. I was thinking about bringing my bike so that when I was alone I could wander around the city by bike. I'd love to get some advice from the people who live and ride there.

( I was just reviewing my message before posting it. Is the bike thing too ambitious? Chicago is a big city with public transport, taxis and sidewalks....will I have more than enough to do on foot? Maybe save the bike for a second trip? )

1. The law. I'm just looking for the basics here. I'm from Toronto and I suspect that the laws/rules are similar. Cyclists are considered vehicles and are supposed to use the road and follow all the same rules that vehicles use. Helmets are not the law but strongly encouraged. Bikes need a bell or some other noise maker. Lights at night. Same thing in Chicago? I do not want to get the attention of the police.

2. Cars and bikes. Are you guys getting along? In Toronto there is pretty constant conflict between bikes and cars, both on the streets and in the media. I'm more concerned about the street situation. Would it be fair to assume that I can safely ride anywhere in the city? Meaning there is a basic respect for each other and that if I am being attentive I should be OK to just explore the city by bike? Or am I going to be uncomfortable on the roads?

3. Rent or bring? Should I bring my own bike or are there affordable rental places that can set me up. I am 6'5" and would like a mountain bike style. What is bike theft like downtown. would a bike be stolen if left locked on the street over night?

4. Riding at night. I'd love to just wander the city at dawn and dusk....any reason not to? If I have lights i should be good correct? Is it rare to see folks riding at night?

5. Bike Lanes. I have found that Chicago city has what look like some great maps to download....there appear to be a fair bit of dedicated bike lanes. Fair to assume they are effective and useful?

6. Food. Off topic and I am sorry to pump you for food info....but I have to ask.... Is Chicago deep dish pizza really a thing? recommendations? Barbecue...where should I check out? Are there restaurant rows? really interested in independent fine dining that is not too pricey. Not into chain food.

7. Neighborhoods to check out.

Thanks in advance for your input

looking forward to this trip!!!

Richard

Views: 694

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

You would be staying in what is called 'the South Loop'. Part of downtown, so it's generally safe. There are many Divvy rental bike stations in Chicago. One is a block west of the hotel, another 2 blocks away at State & Harrison (which is also where the Red Line subway station is). If you want to go somewhere, walk if it's close, bike if it's farther, take the subway/elevated if it's really far (several miles) away. Don't ride a bike on the sidewalk. Bike share pricing is similar to Toronto. There are some streets that are jammed with cars that you should avoid, like Michigan Avenue, Ohio Street, Ontario Street (and streets that intersect with those 3). Chicago's streets follow a grid pattern, so there's plenty of other streets to take if the street you're on is too crowded with traffic.

I think you'll enjoy exploring the city by bike. You can cover a lot of ground and ride the lakefront path.  Here are some quick responses. I am sure more people will chime in with lots of great information.

1. With regards to the laws, yes, helmets are optional (but strongly encouraged). Lights are required by law at night to help you stay super visible. White light in front, red light in back. Stopping and stop signs and lights (be careful - this can get you a ticket if you roll through).

2. Cars and Bikes - yes, it's a thing here too but if you stick to roads with well defined bike lanes, that is likely to improve your experiences. Be careful not to ride too closely to parked cars because dooring is quite common. 

3. Rental - if a hybrid will do, places like Bike and Roll should have a bike for your height.  http://www.thechainlink.org/page/bike-roll-aims-to-serve-local-cycl...

4. Riding at night is very popular. Chicago has a pretty large cyclist population so you will see people out riding at night.

5. Bike lanes - I've been finding Google maps app on my phone, set up for bike routes to be very useful to get around. There are some great bike lanes, some protected. Watch out for glass and potholes. 

6. Food? Chicago is a great food city. Everyone has their favorite pan pizza and mine is Lou Malnati's. Worth checking out. I'll let others chime in about BBQ and other food options. Lots of great non-chain options. 

7. Lots of great neighborhoods. I'd also check out what rides are going on (on Chainlink) closer to your trip. That can be a fun way to see the city in the comfort of riding with a group. 

Regarding #6, Smoque BBQ, on Chicago's northwest side, was recently listed among the nation's top-25 BBQ joints by one BBQ expert.

6. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g35805-Chicago_Illinois.html

30 restaurants per page, 7833 listed.

Selected pizzas,  2nd & 3rd Giordano's listed are:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g35805-d427755-Reviews... 730 E Rush.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g35805-d6536842-Review... 1340 S Michigan.

Deep dish does take 30 minutes to cook, so call ahead or take out.

Not much crust, a lot of meat, cheese, sauce, toppings.

( I was just reviewing my message before posting it. Is the bike thing too ambitious? Chicago is a big city with public transport, taxis and sidewalks....will I have more than enough to do on foot? Maybe save the bike for a second trip? )

It sounds like you're staying for a week or so. You'll have enough to do on foot, but a bike will certainly be nice.

1. The law. I'm just looking for the basics here. I'm from Toronto and I suspect that the laws/rules are similar. Cyclists are considered vehicles and are supposed to use the road and follow all the same rules that vehicles use. Helmets are not the law but strongly encouraged. Bikes need a bell or some other noise maker. Lights at night. Same thing in Chicago? I do not want to get the attention of the police.

About the same as you're used to in Toronto. And, perhaps also like Toronto (though I would like to think not), often observed as much in the breach as in practice. Bikes don't need a bell, though they do need lights at night.

2. Cars and bikes. Are you guys getting along? In Toronto there is pretty constant conflict between bikes and cars, both on the streets and in the media. I'm more concerned about the street situation. Would it be fair to assume that I can safely ride anywhere in the city? Meaning there is a basic respect for each other and that if I am being attentive I should be OK to just explore the city by bike? Or am I going to be uncomfortable on the roads?

The cars vs. not-cars dynamic sounds like it's about the same as in Toronto. Car drivers are often respectful of cyclists, and at the same time often careless and occasionally hostile. Seemingly no one respects pedestrians, so do make sure you yield to them when they have the right of way. I'd say the basic respect is there and you'll be perfectly comfortable exploring the city by bike.

3. Rent or bring? Should I bring my own bike or are there affordable rental places that can set me up. I am 6'5" and would like a mountain bike style. What is bike theft like downtown. would a bike be stolen if left locked on the street over night?

If you love riding your own bike and would prefer to ride it, it's perfectly fine to bring it. But Divvy and/or a bike rental may serve you quite well. If you bring your own bike, make arrangements if you have to to bring it into your room with you, or leave it with the hotel inside somewhere. I would not like to leave it locked outside overnight. This will often be fine in many parts of the city but I think is unnecessarily high-risk. If you bring your own bike bring a good U-lock(s), and cable for the other wheel and saddle. The nice thing about Divvy is that it is easy to change modes.

4. Riding at night. I'd love to just wander the city at dawn and dusk....any reason not to? If I have lights i should be good correct? Is it rare to see folks riding at night?

No, there's no reason not to explore at dawn or dusk, or at night. It is not unusual to see people riding at night.

5. Bike Lanes. I have found that Chicago city has what look like some great maps to download....there appear to be a fair bit of dedicated bike lanes. Fair to assume they are effective and useful?

Yes, I think the official maps are pretty good. You can find paper versions in many bike shops.

6. Food. Off topic and I am sorry to pump you for food info....but I have to ask.... Is Chicago deep dish pizza really a thing? recommendations? Barbecue...where should I check out? Are there restaurant rows? really interested in independent fine dining that is not too pricey. Not into chain food.

Deep-dish pizza is really a thing, but I consider it really something of a tourist thing. If it appeals to you, by all means try it. But if you want to try new pizza generally, I'd try something else that isn't deep-dish, too. E.g. the Boiler Room in Logan Square, or Piece Pizza in Wicker Park, or whatever. Those are just two that I like. I second the recommendation of Smoque for barbeque. I live a few blocks away so it is easy for me to partake of it without the waits! :) Chicago is a great dining city and there are a whole ton of non-chain restaurants that are really good, and not too expensive (though I suppose the exchange rate with the Northern Peso ;) isn't working in your favor) There is tons of really good Mexican food, so I would certainly recommend exploring that. You can hardly fall over without hitting really good, cheap tacos. My two favorites near me are L'Patron and Tacos Tequilas, but there are plenty all over the city.

7. Neighborhoods to check out.

Wicker Park, Andersonville, Hyde Park, Pullman, Hegewisch, Logan Square...there are plenty. I only really know the north side (the South Side neighborhoods I mentioned are places I've wanted to explore but haven't yet.)

I agree. I've visited Toronto several times and gotten around a bit by bike. Comparable conditions (and interaction with drivers).

I'd strongly recommend that you talk to the hotel and see if they'll let you bring the bike up to your room or store it somewhere indoors. Bike theft is a significant issue here.

3. Rent or Bring.

Depends on your usage. I'd bring your bike if its not too much trouble and you're serious about getting around town easily. Check with your hotel to see if you can bring the bike into your room or if they have a storage room. Otherwise, these are a couple options:

- Divvy bike share for $10/24-hour period, unlimited rides of 30 minutes or less. But they're heavy cruiser-type bikes, not very comfortable for extended rides. And you should download the Divvy app so you'll be able to locate stations. No locks, just dock at stations.

- Bike rental, like Bike & Roll (http://bikechicago.com/bikerentals/). $45/day for a Trek 3500. Their hours shorten in fall (close at 7pm), but I don't know when that takes effect.

6. Food.

Lots and lots (and lots) of options.

- Deep dish: Skip unless you're really curious. Pequod's in Lincoln Park is the best. Long wait for table and for pizza to cook.

- BBQ: check out any of these: http://chicagoist.com/2015/05/27/chicagos_14_best_barbecue_joints.php. Lem's is great, but kind of a hike and maybe not the best area for a first time visitor. Honey 1 is probably the best bet on the south side. Smoque is a hike (and not a fun one), but on the north side; best for their brisket. Small's Smoke Shack is a little bit closer on the north side; unique and great. Your best bet for great BBQ without too much travel is Green Street Smoked Meats in the West Loop.

- Restaurant row: speaking of the West Loop, head over to Randolph Street west of the expressway. Anything from great Italian subs at JP Graziano, to ultra-high end dining at Grace. Research any of these others to see if they appeal to you: Girl and the Goat (and Little Goat), Avec, Blackbird, Au Cheval, Maude's, Formento's, Publican (and Publican Quality Meats), Momotaro, Vera, Nellcote, High Five Ramen, Ramen Takeya, Cemitas Puebla, Tanoshii, Tete Charcuterie, Belly Q/Urban Belly.

Other food/neighborhoods:

- Logan Square has Yusho and Fat Rice (two of my favorites), plus Lula Cafe, Longman & Eagle, Analogue (under the radar cajun), Jam (great brunch), Billy Sunday (cocktails), Lost Lake tiki bar

- South Loop (your neighborhood, but not walking distance with a cane): Eleven City Diner or Bongo Room for brunch/lunch, Cafecito (Cuban sandwiches and shakes), Acadia (fine-dining).

- Wicker Park: Piece pizza, Hot Chocolate (not just for breakfast and pastries, but great dinner too), En Hakkore, Antique Tacos, Big Star, Xoco, Dove's Luncheonette, Taxim, Trenchermen, Wasabi, Lillie's Q

River North (tourist oriented area just north of the loop, but several great restaurants): Xoco, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Naha, Tanta, RPM Italian, Slurping Turtle, Bohemian House, Sumi Robata Bar, Three Dots and a Dash (underground tiki bar).

On the subject of bike rentals... I had someone from out of town attend a week-long course that I teach. Instead of renting, she merely bought a bike on Craigslist for about $85--a price that even included a U-lock.  She rode it all week, fixed one flat tire, but then sold the bike again at the end of the week.   I don't know whether she came out ahead or not, but given the daily price of Divvy or Bike & Roll, I'm betting she basically got the bike for almost nothing.   Even if the bike was simply abandoned at the end of the week, it might be cheaper than renting.   In any case, I thought it was kind of an ingenious approach to getting a bike for a week.

Might as well buy one from http://www.workingbikes.org/the-shop/ and donate it back when you are done, instead of buying from craigslist.

Great idea!

Oh, I like that idea even better.   Even the Craigslist idea kind of blew my mind when I first heard about it.    I've had people ask me about bike rentals before, but the idea of simply buying something and selling at the end of the week never crossed my mind.

I forgot to mention, if you want to try the best pizza in town, deep dish or not, you might want to follow local food reporter Steve Dolinsky. He's in the middle of a broad review of as many pizza places as he can get to. Results to be posted after Labor Day: http://www.stevedolinsky.com/pizza-quest-underway

RSS

© 2008-2016   The Chainlink Community, L.L.C.   Powered by

Disclaimer  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service