Cycling In Chicago Is Awesome


A new thread has emerged on the ChainLink which is making an attempt at “Culture Change”. This is a welcomed development and hopefully will be contagious. I offered the following contribution to the discussion:

Biking on Chicago Lakefront Trail

Chicago has lots of practical aids to getting around. You can get some of them for free and others for a small fee. There are maps for Chicago’s city limits as well as the greater Chicagoland area. The map from Active Transportation Alliance takes you all the way out to Kane County.

Many cyclists from other cities would probably drool over the kinds and number of trails we have available. You can even find an excellent book for planning your great weekend escapes here:

I rode with Greg Borzo this spring when he was conducting a guided tour of the architecture of the city with an emphasis on the period detailed in the book “Devil In the White City”. It was a great ride and would be wonderful for tourists visiting the city who desire to gain some deeper appreciation of both our architectural heritage as well as our sometimes sordid history.

You cannot overlook the fine lectures of Lee Diamond. I’ve enjoyed these as well. The price is reasonable and the tours are specific enough that you can always find a tour of the very neighborhood area that you desire:

The Chicago Lakefront Trail is a treasure. Having been out west in cities like San Francisco you can always come to appreciate not having to ride up and down very steep streets to reach business and commercial districts on bikes that are geared for level terrain.

You have to travel to the Old Plank Road Trail or  Fox River Trail to find a flat terrain trail as long as the Chicago Lakefront Trail. But the Fox River Trail has some challenging climbs near the Elgin area. And there are some just north of Crystal Lake which are downright reminiscent of San Francisco.

But when you couple the quality of the trail upkeep with the scenic availability of things like Navy Pier of the Museum Campus or the Notebaert Nature Museum or better yet the Museum of Science and Industry then you have a tourists dream come true.

But frankly Chicagoans who have not done the “tourist thing” have a treat awaiting them if they have not visited the Nagasaki Garden just behind the MSI or my favorite the Botanic Gardens at the northern end of the North Branch Trail.

We can ride from Indiana (to visit the Pierogi Fest) all the way to Milwaukee basically on trails and side streets. You really have to visit a lot of other cities of comparable size to get this kind of breadth of trail experience.

And if you can make your way west to the Illinois Prairie Path you have your choice of basically four branches that lead you out towards the Fox River Trail. And if you travel far enough south on the Fox River Trail you can take the Virgil Gilman west as far as Waubonsie College. Or better yet head south to intercept the I & M Canal which leads you on a several days ride all the way to LaSalle-Peru.

And I believe you can take the Hennepin Canal even further west. And all of this is within the northern sections of the state of Illinois. I could detail the links available for riding up past the Wisconsin border as well.

Milwaukee is a very ridable city and offers another Lakefront Trail experience that extends through the downtown area. And if you want to, you can take the train into Milwaukee and tour their rather extensive urban trail system. I especially like the Hank Aaron Trail and Oak Leaf Trails. And like Chicago you have access to their city streets and trails via maps:

Before I forget there is another extensive trail system that takes you through the northwestern sections of Indiana. Once you ride as far south and east as Highland, IN you are then free to take the Erie-Lackawanna Trail to its connecting trail areas which will get you at least as far east as Hobart:

The only reason to be unexcited about riding available both on street and on trail is perhaps to have not yet come across the various resources available that lead you to discovery. You could easily spend three bicycling seasons exploring just the trails and streets of the greater Chicagoland area and its connecting municipalities to the north and south without ever getting bored.

If you have some ideas about cycling in our great city, then why not drop by the ChainLink forum offer them. Perhaps we can overwhelm the negativists enough to change even their sour dispositions.