I've heard a lot of things about Chicago. Some of it positive, but more recently, much of it negative. Reading about all of the shootings, I wondered if we would feel safe. I also wasn't sure what to expect with the sheer size and density of the population. But I've heard so many positives about the diverse culture, the neighborhood vibes, the great food, and of course Chicago is the newly crowned "most bike friendly city in the US!"
We arrived around 6:30pm on a mid-week day, bracing for a traffic disaster. We were pleasantly surprised with very manageable traffic, and when we got into the city proper, the cars weren't the main traffic, rather it was the pedestrians, walking, running, and cycling of all forms. It was awesome! After finding our hotel, we hit the busy streets, sidewalks and park paths on foot to get our bearings. Quickly getting into the pace we planned for getting out on bikes the next morning.
The next morning was a few mile ride down through parks and the Lakeshore trail to the famed Navy Pier. Using some beater steel coaster brake-singlespeeds we hummed right along and didn't worry when locking them up, because there were bikes everywhere! Something like the Wythe, Franklin single-speed, or Bedford single-speed by Brooklyn Bike Co. would be ideal. All sorts were seen jockeying about the paths and streets though, from high-end carbon wonder bikes to beach cruisers and everything in between.
After getting into the pace of big city life, we started to venture into the numerous bike lanes that run through Chicago. You do have to have a decent idea of where you're heading, because once in traffic, you are best to stay in until at your destination. With great signage, bike lanes, and easy to understand layout, it's pretty easy to navigate. At one point, we were stopping to let a fellow on foot cross in front of us. Instead he stopped, put out his hand, and with a smile said the key is keep the flow going, letting us cross on bike first. I guess he could tell we weren't from 'round there? With that lesson in mind, we began to really get it and flowed with vehicular, foot, and cycling traffic, mixing it up like the locals.
In the end, we saw several neighborhoods all as a pedestrian, a mix of bike and foot. We ate at many great restaurants (some outstanding gluten-free options at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and Summer House Santa Monica) and saw some famous sites such as Navy Pier and Wrigley Field. I always felt respected as a pedestrian while in Chicago. I think our community could learn a lot from Chicago in this respect. I would love to see our community continue to evolve this way. Keep it flowing, Maryville.
Rider or is it writer?
My name is Adam Harris. I'm a lifelong cyclist. I love bikes. All types of bikes. I hope I can relay the joy that cycling provides me through glimpses into my thoughts and some of my mini adventures.