Rolling Along Taylor Street – In Search Of Doors


Drum and Monkey Bar

I am on Taylor Street approximately twice a week during the week. The on the weekends that we ride in the city we are there twice again (assuming we ride both Saturday and Sunday.

As Chicago streets go it is “quieter” than say Halsted or Milwaukee and a good deal nicer to look at. What makes it so charming is the quaint look of the street lamps and the numerous shops and establishments up and down the length of the street between Morgan to the east and Ashland to the west.

The stretch beyond Ashland is where the UIC Medical Center and other buildings are gathered. And what you cannot help but notice (especially if you are riding a bicycle) is that this place is usually  full of tourists stopping by to dine at one of the various restaurants or to drink their dinner at one of the bars.

It is not Rush Street but it does not have to take a back seat to most commercial areas where dining and and drinking are concerned. Just north and south of Taylor Street are residential housing that have been in place for decades. Across from the Drum and Monkey Bart is the Joe DiMaggio Memorial Fountain that faces the Italian-American Sports Museum.

Like I said this is a happening place. Tour buses routinely stop in from the of the Museum and people debark to grab a cup of coffee or to tour the museum. A docent aboard the bus can generally be heard telling the story of the area and its Italian neighbors who still largely populate the area and attend the churches nearby.

Assessing Your Chances of Getting Doored

I would say that the potential for getting doored on this stretch of road is quite high. It has numerous law enforcement cars parked just around the Starbucks Coffee shop that faces the Drum and Monkey. If you have ever ridden there once you do not have to be reminded on your next visit to keep your head on a swivel.
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But even if it is your first visit you cannot mistake this for a place where the chances of getting doored or colliding with a pedestrian are astronomically high. So you adjust your speed and act accordingly.

City riders are probably not aware of how jaded they become to their surroundings. I watch them fly by doing 15-20 MPH and hell bent for leather on reaching some destination or another. Every now and then several riders pull into the fountain area and stop for coffee at the Starbucks, locking their bikes to the rack outside before entering.

Several cyclists appear to be living above the coffee shop and their bikes are always visible outside. For the most part the cyclists along this route are well behaved as are most of the motorists. It is too narrow a thoroughfare to get “jiggy with it”. People do park with their rear ends sometimes jutting into the bike lane.

Nobody seems to go ballistic about this. I have noticed too that several cyclists who are apparently skateboarders use the bike lane when touring the area on their skateboards. No big deal. It is a nice area and a bit laid back. But as I said before if you ride an area often enough or do not “have your head in the game” you can forget to avoid the door zone rather easily.

Defensive Tools

On each of our recumbent bicycles we carry these attached to the handlebar just below our eye level:

Planet Bike Blaze 1W

Blaze™ 1-watt LED is twice as bright as 1/2-watt LED

  • Blaze™ one-watt LED is twice as bright as half-watt LED
  • Reinforced alloy midsection
  • High and low power beam along with SuperFlash™ flashing mode
  • SuperFlash™ mode is highly visible, even in daylight
  • QuickCam™ bracket mounts, adjusts or removes in seconds w/o tools
  • High/low/flashing run times of 7/14/20 hours on 2 AA batteries (included)
  • 76 Lumens
  • weighs 144 grams with batteries

SKU #3044


But there is an additional light that we carry when we know that we will be riding specifically at night. That particular light is no longer made but has been replaced by another. What is different is that the original version used straps along to secure it to a handlebar. You could just as easily secure it to your helmet by running the straps through some of the vents.

The beauty of this light was that you could aim it with your head movement. I highly recommend using a very bright cheap light mounted to your helmet for alerting drivers who are exiting their vehicles that you are approaching.

Cateye Helmet Light

The light looks a bit like this one (pictured at right). If you have the Blaze 1W unit turn it to the blinking mode when in use. This produces an annoying pattern that will alert the most distracted motorists that you are on the roadway and are a force with which to be reckoned.

If they still persist in ignoring you the Cateye should do the trick aimed directly at their rear view side mirror where the brilliance will seem as if a cop has pulled up behind them ready for a “stop and frisk”.

And lastly carry a good whistle. I really cannot believe how cavalier urban riders are in preparing themselves for the means streets of the city. But they ride along on a daily basis and soon begin to accept the silly narrative that the ChainLink Forum likes to toss out that it is the motorist who is always at fault so why bother being proactive.

The ChainLink is generally filled with folks who have had no formal training in defensive strategies when facing traffic such as you often ride through. What is more they are far more interested in grousing about a death or an injury after the fact than alerting anyone who will listen before tragedy strikes. In general I would strongly disregard just about 90 percent of what they have to say and find instead a League Certified Instructor who does not have a political axe to grind and will not blow smoke up your dress about how very safe this all is. It is not and that is what makes staying alert so very important!

Forget that nonsense (peddled by the ChainLink crowd about this or that pretty green lane being your salavation) and simply assume that you are riding through a lawless town in the 1800s where there is no Marshall Earp and you are your only defense. Ride accordingly and you will not have visit emergency wards to see if you have sustained a concussion or require stitches.

But you must get your heads out of your rectums when it comes to riding on these streets. This is not your “me time”. If you want to relax and decompress go home and climb on the treadmill or stationary bike. And if you have neither of these ride the Chicago Lakefront Trail instead. I always grit my teeth when I read that riders are using their commute to unwind. That is silly and no doubt a contributing factor to some of the deaths of recent times.

One more thing, some of these ChainLink jerks are likely to suggest to you that a fixed gear brakeless bike is “the bomb”. It is just that an explosive waiting to go off under you and just the wrong moment. Call me silly and old fashioned but I think brakes are sorta essential. Kinda like toilet paper. You can get along with the later but things get pretty stinky in a hurry. The same can be said of riding without brakes. Let someone else on the ChainLink be the Darwin Award winner instead of you.

Stay alert and vigilant and ride as if your life depends on it. It does!