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Old 07-18-2008, 04:59 AM
Location: Charleston, West Ashley
65 posts, read 140,053 times
Reputation: 24


Hi everybody,

I was wondering how realistic was to ride a bike in Chicago. I know there are plenty of bike lanes, specially on the lake front, but I was wondering how much people really ride on it on weekdays, not only during week-ends and summer days.
I will work in HP in few months, and I'd like to know how far I could go with my bike. I still dont know where I will live in Chicago, still depending on my partner'sl location work. But in case we won't live in HP, what are my options? Will it be ok to leave HP to go home (anywhere) by bike? Are the bike lanes on the lake front "safe"? Until where?
Another question is what about riding a bike during winter? Is it that cold that it's impossible (not talking about rainy day or snow, of course)?

So, basically, how do you use your bike? Wich distance? Do you need to combine CTA/bike? Do you use it daily?

Thank's for giving me an idea!!

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Old 07-18-2008, 05:40 AM
Location: Chicago
38,705 posts, read 98,007,612 times
Reputation: 29875
First, pause and take a breath. That's a whole lot of questions.

Second, riding a bike around here is a fairly common means of getting around, and not just for recreation. This is one of the few American cities where it's pretty easy to get by without a car, so quite a few do just that. Bike lanes are wide enough on most major streets that cars mostly give adequate berth, but there's always a handful of flaky drivers plying the streets. Riding defensively with a keen awareness of your surroundings at all times is a must. Car-bike accidents make the news with distressing regularity, though it seems to be the biker's fault almost as often as the driver's.

Third, the lakeshore path is fine from beginning to end. Additionally, just about everything east of Cottage Grove is safe enough to ride through all the way to downtown. West of Cottage Grove is a dicier area until you hit about 33rd Street, but honestly, I don't know that anyone is going to bother a lady riding her bike down the street.

Fourth, how far one can realistically ride depends in great measure on how much time you're willing to devote to your bike commute and what kind of shape you're in.

Fifth, riding your bike in winter is not completely impossible, but only the heartiest do it year-round. Sometimes it gets cold enough that it hurts just standing around outside; I have no idea how the hell people ride in weather like that, but a select few do. I don't know if they clear snow off the lakeshore path or not, but the arterial streets are usually cleared off within a day after a snowfall. No such luck on the side streets though.

Sixth, bikes are not permitted on CTA trains during rush hour, which limits your CTA/bike combo commute options if you plan to come and go during normal business hours. I think you can still use the bike racks on the buses during rush hour, but I promise you're going to get a lot of glares from a busload of people (literally) for holding them up while you toss your bike on the rack.
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Old 07-18-2008, 07:08 AM
Location: Charleston, West Ashley
65 posts, read 140,053 times
Reputation: 24
thank's Dover!
yeah sorry, I coudnt stop asking

here I used to ride my bike for 4/5mi everyday, and I guess I could do untill 6mi, but the weather is not really a problem
anyway I come from Strasbourg in France and I was used to harder winters than the ones of Barcelona, and at that time I used my bike everyday too whatever the temperatures were....but well Chicago winter looks a lot of different that's why I was wondering if really people ride bikes, but I can imagine there is always determined people...just not sure to be one of them, nevertheless I hope to be able to ride my bike as often as possible, it's such a good thin that riding home after work!

yes, I knew about the restriction during rush-hour on CTA, it's something I will have to take into acount

thank's for your informations!
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Old 07-18-2008, 09:34 AM
28,460 posts, read 80,779,820 times
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Generally the paths on the lakefront are not cleared of snow and , depending on weather are likely to have ice and wind that make McMurdo Station seem more pleasant McMurdo Station - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Just about anyone that does bikes in the winter chooses to do so inland, visibility is the biggest challenge with LED lighting and super reflective vests an absolute must. Actual clothing to keep the snow and wind out is surprisingly effective, the non-bulky stuff is just real expensive. There are a few well known folks that make a point of bicycling EVERY day no matter what and the equipment is pretty good if you want to spend the money. Realistically it is cheaper, safer and more pleasant to take public transit once temps drop below the freeze line. To each their own...
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Old 07-18-2008, 10:48 AM
11,973 posts, read 30,226,978 times
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Keep in mind that the Lakefront bike path gets pretty congested. On busy days, it can feel like you're risking life and limb. The pleasant casual ride on the bike path can really only really be had on off-peak hours.
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Old 07-18-2008, 03:30 PM
Location: University Village
440 posts, read 1,443,337 times
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Chicago is a great biking city, wondersteph, but it is urban bicycling and absolutely not for road weenies.

I probably put five times the number of miles on my bikes than I do on my car. However, the neighborhood you live in will dictate the degree of utility that the bike has for you.

FYI, my job, which is in River North, requires that I go down to Kenwood 3-4 times a week, so I am very familiar with the ride down there. The lakefront trail is wonderful, but the wind can be intense at times, so it is not as easy as you might otherwise think.

If you live and work in Hyde Park, you've got no problems, because Hyde Park is small enough that a bike will pretty much get you anywhere you need to get to on a day-to-day basis. Kenwood is basically a suburb of Hyde Park, so that adds or subtracts nothing from what I just said.

As you go farther north, however, things start to change. MLK drive and Drexel are both good bike routes, but I would not recommend you go much past Pershing if you are going to take the boulevards to work. In fact, I would probably recommend that if you opt not to live in HP/Kenwood, you go all the way to South Loop, because this will put much more of the city within easy biking range.

Assuming you opt for South Loop, the lakefront path will be your best route to Hyde Park, mainly because the trail is nearby and it has no stoplights.

I don't know what kind of bike you are riding, but if you are contemplating a lakefront commute, you may want to consider something a little more nimble than your average commuter bike. I ride a euro transportation bike to work, but realistically, it is not ideal for rides longer than about 5 miles. Since pretty much everwhere I need to get to is within that distance, it works well. But a commute to HP from South Loop would probably be more like 6-7, and often against the wind, which can be really tough when it comes off the lake.

As far as the winters, contrary to what a lot of people think, the cold is not the issue. As long as you are riding, you are generating heat, so if you wear the right jacket and gloves (your basic dowhill ski stuff) you don't really get all that cold. What IS an issue are the short days, and I've had enough close calls (even with front and rear lights) that I don't ride to work much after November 1 or much before March 1. In the winter, I ride my bike to the UIC/Halsted blue line stop where they have enclosed bike parking. I'll try riding to work again this year, and maybe things will go better, but that's where I'm at right now.

Hope this helps. Best of luck.
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Old 07-18-2008, 05:56 PM
Location: South Side
5,984 posts, read 10,510,341 times
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Actually, the lake front bike paths are the bailiwick of the Parks District, not Streets and San. That means that in the winter, it galls me to see that the paths in the park are often clear of snow far before the alleys, and have much lower traffic. I bike the lakefront as a means of transportation about two or three times a week.

Note to moderator: I shot the snap below. Copyright me!

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Old 07-18-2008, 06:03 PM
10 posts, read 40,961 times
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Milwaukee Ave. has tons of bike commuters on it during all seasons.
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Old 07-23-2008, 06:27 AM
Location: Charleston, West Ashley
65 posts, read 140,053 times
Reputation: 24
thank's a lot for all ur answers
here I sued my bike a lot, it's so easy, and I really hope I could keep riding a bike in Chicago, even in the colder winter of Chicago
my bike here is well equipped, with 2 large side-bags so I can put in it my sport bag or my groceries, that make it a bit heavy but so convenient
and yes, in winter specially, I guess visibility is very important..

so thank's again for comments and advice, I'm really looking forward to start riding ur city!!

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Old 07-25-2008, 12:13 AM
Location: Chicago - Humboldt Park
13 posts, read 63,190 times
Reputation: 18
chicago is a great city to bike in. i bike about 5.5. miles each way to work and 3.5 miles to my weekend job.. i live in humboldt park and work full time in uptown and weekends in river north. i moved back from nyc a year ago and biking is the best option. i get everywhere in 15-30 minutes, which would be much longer via public trans or driving. In addition, there are always plenty of bikers so i never feel unsafe or alone. just be mindful, that some drives, especially out of towners or suburbanites are not the most bike educated when it comes to driving.
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