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A Beginner Guide to Biking and Cycling in Chicago

A Beginner Guide to Biking and Cycling in Chicago

  |     |   Lifestyle and Culture, Sports

Thanks to the hundreds of miles of new bike lanes that have been created in the previous 10 years and the city's thankfully flat geography, Chicago has been routinely ranked as one of the country's most bike-friendly cities.

This guide will get you started riding in Chicago, regardless of whether the warming weather has motivated you to forgo other modes of transportation (or you're interested in how those winter warriors manage it). We presume you are familiar with the fundamentals, but if you want a refresher on the legislation or basic safety, the city's website has information on both.
There are several ways to cycle in the city, including fearlessly commuting all year long, using the occasional Divvy when the bus is running late, and cycling lazily to the park. So don't worry! We'll show you how to use Divvy effectively, identify the greatest bike streets in Chicago, and become familiar with the city's bike culture. Let's start moving.

Why independent bike shops are the best

If you want to own a bike, the first step is to purchase one. Yes, it is feasible to find a discount online or at a big-box retailer, but your local bike shop will offer you so much more. Through seminars, lectures, and other educational initiatives, bike businesses like the Recyclery in Rogers Park and Blackstone Bicycle Works in Woodlawn teach eager riders how to repair their own bicycles.
The two locally owned businesses are anchored in the area and offer high-quality bikes at affordable prices. These stores provide reconditioned bikes, upcycled bikes, and used components to make riding more accessible to locals.

Stay safe

The good news is that riding around Chicago is not too stressful. But there are several locations to be cautious about, just as with any type of city bicycling. Bike lanes, particularly those that are next to parking spaces, are one of the most frequently frustrating situations. The risk of obstructed lanes or, worse still, dooring—when a car or passenger opens their door into an approaching biker—rises for riders.

By making it simpler to report lane blockages, groups like Bike Lane Uprising are working to call out drivers and shield them from further injury. Despite how frequently automobiles and trucks stop or idle in a bike lane, it's against the law, and violators face a $150 fine.
If the situation is very dire, call 311 to report any construction or automobiles that are obstructing bike lanes. A request for increased bike lanes, the disposal of abandoned bikes, or more bike racks at a place can also be made using the web portal.

The Chicago Reader's Mellow Bike Map, which offers bikers some of the most attractive routes across the city, is a reliable resource for a calm ride. The routes are intended to show riders streets that may not be highlighted on the city's official bike map, those quiet residential areas that aren't officially designated as bike lanes but in practice offer some of the most laid-back riding available, according to John Greenfield, who assisted in developing the map.

Using your bike and the CTA

Once you feel at ease in your local neighborhood, you might want to go out to discover other fantastic riding spots in Chicago. You might choose to use the CTA or the Metra to go to the Lakefront Trail or the 606 because there isn't a pleasant cycling path there.
Before having to cancel your plans, make sure you are aware of the limitations when it comes to riding your bike on public transportation.

  • Bicycles are not permitted on L trains during peak hours, which are from 7 to 9 a.m. and later from 4 to 6 p.m.
    There are no prohibitions or time limitations on buses, plus they feature front and rear external bike mounts! It is simple to hop on your bike and not worry about obstructing anyone else.
    Bicycles are prohibited by Metra on trains departing from downtown from 3:30 to 7 p.m. and on trains traveling downtown from 5 to 9 a.m.

Divvy for renting bikes

The city's transportation is now greatly dependent on the Divvy Bike service. Since its launch in 2013, the system has expanded significantly, and there are plans to expand Divvy to every neighborhood in the city and quadruple its size by adding roughly 10,000 more e-bikes.

Here are several ways you may use the bike-share program to your advantage, depending on how you go about it. The first option is the $3 one-time, 30-minute riding pass. It is the ideal length for a fast leisure trip and was intended to assist commuters in getting home from the final L or bus station.

There is also a $15 24-hour pass, which is excellent for visitors or tourists who want to see the city. If you commute, Divvy's yearly membership costs around $99, and the Divvy for Everyone program provides low-income residents with subsidized membership rates.
So what is the drawback? The bulky, hefty Divvy bikes might not appeal to you if you're a committed rider seeking to invest in your own gear. However, the service is reasonably priced, and there are no issues with storing or locking. In the end, everything depends on your riding preferences.

Take up winter biking

Choosing to ride in the winter is one of the greatest decisions each ambitious cyclist must make. Inclement weather calls for extra caution, but a little chill shouldn't keep you off your bike. Here are some suggestions if you want to make year-round biking a habit out of your seasonal bicycling.

  • Think about the state of the roads. Road quality is the main source of winter bike safety concerns. Black ice may surprise even the best-prepared cyclist, and clearing snow from certain spots can take weeks. Consider the most current weather and the most recent snowfall before you go. It might be advisable to forego the trip because the majority of neighborhood streets and bike lanes won't likely get plowed. Unfortunate design flaw: protected bike lanes are also not plowed. Stay on major highways if you do venture outside.

  • You should allow more time. Your body just won't move as rapidly in the winter, even if the roads are clean. Be prepared to go much more slowly, especially during strong winds.

  • Think about your equipment and larger tires. Road bike tubes are typically small, reducing road contact to increase speed. Consider using bigger tubes in the winter to improve traction and assure safety. This guide goes into further depth about this procedure and lists additional useful winter equipment, such as mudguards, and functional pumps, as essential winter necessities.

  • Dress in layers! No matter how chilly it is, riding is a vigorous kind of exercise, which results in perspiration. This can be mitigated by stacking carefully. Consider wearing three layers of clothing: a base layer of breathable workout clothing, a second layer of insulation dependent on the day's temperatures, and an outer layer that is wind and water resistant. Another thing to consider is that bicyclists are also susceptible to overheating, so avoid dressing in too many layers.

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