I parked my van by the Adler Planetarium on Chicago’s lakefront today, and rode my Xtracycle cargo bike through the Loop and up Milwaukee Avenue to Revolution Brewery.
I was meeting the Michael half of awesome TforI supporters Michael & Janet Hanley to talk with him about Illinois Trail Corps. I’ve done gobs of riding in and around Chicago, but it’s been a LONG time—all of the new stuff, the buffered bike lanes, the two-way bike lane on Dearborn, the bike signals, Divvy, bike racks where parking spaces used to be…NONE of that was there the last time I rode in the city. All my biking’s been local for a few years now in my small town; any distance has been on trail.
So some observations:
• Biking in the Loop at mid-day is no faster than driving. That is to say, it sucks. And on a cargo bike, the gaps to sneak by just aren’t as plentiful. Uck.
• I obey more traffic lights than I used to, and I contend it’s not because I’m old. All the bike accomodations make me a little more respectful of the regulatory stuff. It’s like, wow, the streets are respecting me a little more, I should honor that. That’s how it feels, anyway. Also, I’m old.
• Buffered bike lanes…oh, you tempt me. I’ve been a LCI (look it up) and a street cyclist all my adult life. My training is to not be fond of fancy on-street bike facilities. But to my embarrassed surprise, I’ve discovered that I am. At least in the context of Milwaukee Ave. The separation from the cars, while it DOES make for an awkward dance with right turning cars at intersections, just feels…so…nice. (Duh, really: that’s why we like trails so much.)
• To continue the point: the Dearborn 2-way bike lane is fantastic; it was the only place in the Loop I rode that made me glad to be on a bike.
• Two people in the Loop shouted my name as I rode by, once going to the brewery, once coming back. That happens in Homewood all the time, but hello. It was awesome. One was Josh Ellis from Metropolitan Planning Council, who last week bought Illinois Trail Corps a Pulaski, and we will name it for him.
• Taxis seem so much more respectful than they use to, giving quick beeps as they came around me to cut me off. When did they ever alert anyone before? Buses crowded me like they had some point to prove, or maybe they are frighteningly blasè about stripes on a street.
• So many helmets! I would have never guessed so many people—young people!—would wear them. I wore one, but I confess that on a nice quiet trail, I dump it—I’m pretty much a situationist. Maybe they would too, but still, the urban helmet thing is good.
• Divvy bike share is everywhere, at least everywhere I went. Both kiosks and riders, every direction. #Phenomenal
• The Chicago Lakefront Trail, south of Navy Pier, is probably one of the most beautiful, spectacular trails in the whole world, and very likely THE most beautiful urban trail, anywhere, ever. North of Navy Pier, meh.
• And the Chicago Lakefront Trail is the foundation of this world-class cycling city.
• Hot parking tip: Solidarity Drive, between the Field Museum and the Planetarium, was the in-the-know person’s parking when we had Field Museum memberships with a 3-yr old in tow. It was awesome to find that it is still awesomely cheap: 4 hours for $8.
It was a lot of fun, and lunch & a beer with Michael was fabulous. Get the Mother of Exiles pilsner. My god, that’s a good beer.