A bike path is usually a misnomer for a multi-use pathway. Lots of Rails to Trails are called bike paths. Beware of runners, walkers, skateboarders, scooter riders, stroller pushers, and worse of all — dogs on leashes. Many times those leashes cross the path because the owner has no clue that other people are using the path. The bicycle is the top of the food chain on a bike path. Ones that are dedicated for and have priority to bicycles have signs saying “Bicycles have right of way”.
Bike lanes are marked lanes adjacent to roads and highways. They are marked Bike (or Bicycle) Only. It is supposed to be illegal for motorized vehicles to drive on them. If there is a marked bike lane and you are riding a bicycle outside of the lane any mishap with a motor vehicle is the bicycle rider’s fault. Many bike lanes in smaller towns are a collection point for gravel, glass, and debris. Call the local highway maintenance department to have them swept. It is their responsibility.
A Bike Route is usually a series of signs showing the safest way from point a to b for common commuting across a city. They are usually surface streets with some exceptions using highway berms. There are a very few on Interstate segments. If you are on a highway expect to get flat tires from shards of steel from motor vehicle tires.
There is a fair amount of confusion amongst Suburban Cyclists about what they are actually contributing money to support when they do rides like Bike The Drive. Most suburbanites are quite familiar with the Chicago Lakefront Trail. It is a multi-purpose path that runs the length of the city’s Lake Michigan shoreline.
But is this what your money is going to create more of? Not exactly.
Bike Lanes will not be as accommodating as the trails and cycle tracks that you have encountered in DuPage County. Should you venture into the City of Chicago to ride your bicycle on a holiday you will not be allowed to have your children on skateboards or your grandmother in an electric wheelchair. And neither will you be able to bring the family dog along to trot beside your family caravan as you make your way towards the Millennium Park concert you are attending.
So what good are bike lanes? That is a very good question. While most folks are bicycle-friendly they envision that when Chicago is transformed into something more bicycle-friendly than it is today, it will have Bike Path qualities. Aside from the Burlington Trail that will run through Wicker Park and the Chicago Lakefront Trail there is precious little that really draws the occasional rider and his family. For that you will need to find trails in the Cook County area.
Bike Lanes are for commuters. Keep that in mind when you think about giving. These lanes really do not benefit the average person with more to move along than just themselves. Young children in a cargo bike bucket can be moved on them. But not much else. Even the Cycle Tracks in Europe are far more inclusive. You might want to save your money to contribute to something like that.