A Separated Bike Lane Commute

Big bicycling improvements are happening in Chicago!  I heard that the city recently installed a separated bike lane on Elston Avenue, so I went a little out of my way yesterday morning to check it out.

The  city calls the Elston bike lane “protected,” but as you can see below, plastic bollards do not provide any real protection from dump trucks.

But I am not knocking the lane at all.  I love it!  Biking down this wide industrial road with fast traffic is now easy as pie.  Bikes have their own area and cars seem to respect it.

Intersections and parking lot entrances are marked with green paint to remind drivers to watch for bicyclists.  Some stretches of the lane have car parking to the left, providing real protection from moving traffic.

Look at that wide open lane with the Sears Tower beckoning – beautiful!

After a while, the separated lane ends and turns into a buffered lane, which is also new.  Although this design forces bicyclists to watch out for opening car doors and cars pulling out of parking spaces, there is a lot of breathing room that helps bicyclists feel more comfortable.

After Elson I turned onto Kinzie Street, which has the city’s very first separated bike lane installed in the spring.  I wrote about this beautifully designed and implemented lane earlier this year.

Finally, I turned on a side street for the last few blocks to my office.  This is the only street on the route that does not have a bike lane, but it does boast the beauty that is the underside of the L train tracks.

Biking my entire commute on mostly separated bike lanes was awesome.  I’m excited for the city to create more of these safer lanes.  Mayor Emanuel recently said, “By next year I believe the city of Chicago will lead the country in protected bike lanes and dedicated bike lanes and it will be the bike friendliest city in the country.”  Sounds good to me!  (That is how a big city mayor should talk, in contrast to Toronto’s horrible mayor.)

I think an abundance of separated lanes in a city would result in a massive increase of everyday cycling – don’t you?

If you agree, PLEASE sign this petition supporting protected bike lanes!  Right now there are 2,000 something signatures; we can double that number if we spread the word!


  • http://www.anniebikes.blogspot.com anniebikes

    Oh yes, I believe it will definitely help. Novice riders need to feel safe. Go Chicago!

  • Lauren

    I would go out of my way to have my commute like that. I signed the petition – hopefully Tennessee will eventually follow suit :)

    And the comments from Toronto’s mayor made my jaw drop. I cannot believe he not only thinks that way, but actually shares those thoughts with the rest of the world!

    • Donna

      Yup, he’d get the boot if he were the Mayor of Chicago but for some reason in Toronto this type of boorish behaviour is tolerated. I didn’t vote for him but the previous poster was right when he said there was basically nobody to vote for. The poor quality of candidates was simply astounding for what is basically Canada’s largest city and economic engines.

  • Nikki Overway

    I signed! Chicago passing Seattle in bike safety standards would just sweeten the deal of moving soon… :)

  • anon

    How did you get from Elston to Kinzie without traveling on Milwaukee?

    • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

      I did travel on Milwaukee for a few blocks, but there is no separated lane there, so I did not think the majority of our readers, who don’t live in Chicago, would care to have an exact play-by-play. :)

  • babble on

    I ride most of my daily commute on separated bike lanes, too, and after 25 years of fighting traffic, it makes ALL the difference.
    YES! I couldn’t agree more. His Worship Mayor Jabba the Ford is a nasty piece of work. The way we’ll win the Jabba Wars is to encourage enough cyclists out on the roads until we really do reach a critical mass. And then that porcine politician will have to replace all of the bike lanes he has removed.

  • Babble On
  • Fjnkindelan

    If you want to ensure we get a protected lane through the loop please go to the Active Transportation Alliane site and sign their petition. There are anti-bike forces in Chicago to reckon with so the more signers the better.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kevin.giant Kevin Love

    Yes, plastic bollards just don’t qualify as “protection.”

    I far prefer the concrete barriers around this cycle path here in Toronto:


    And yes, our mayor is a profoundly disturbed right-wing ranter. Unfortunately the man who should have been mayor was taken down by a sex scandal before the last election. Leaving the votors with a choice between several lesser-known but sensible candidates and the well-known extremist crazy ranter. I voted for Joe Pantalone, one of the sensible ones.

    It just goes to prove the point of Sir Winston Churchill that democracy is the worst form of government… except for the alternatives.

    It isn’t just cyclists that Mr. Ford hates. Yes, he hates cyclists, but he also hates homosexuals. And he hates immigrants, except Chinese who “work like dogs.” And he hates the poor. And he hates mentally ill people, in spite of his own dubious grasp of reality. And he hates the homeless. Here’s a video of his “compassion” (NOT!) towards the homeless:


    • http://www.biketoworkblog.com/ Bike To Work Blog

      I’m fine with the plastic bollards. They feel more…*searches for word* …pleasant than the concrete barriers. Maybe that’s a poor rationalization, but most of my reason for riding is because I enjoy it.

  • Lafs

    Recently returned from Boston. I read that the mayor, Thomas Menino wants Boston to become the best city in the world for biking so we had high hopes. I can tell you he has a long way to go based on our experience as visitors to the city. We used the bike share system, Hubway, and when we hit a couple of nice public parks with wide open paved paths (perfect for biking), we discovered bikes weren’t allowed. Luckily we found a path off the city streets to ride along the Charles River.

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  • stvwebphoto

    Looks like an awesome bike lane, wish I had an area like that to ride on a daily basis!! On another note, there was an article in the latest Mens Journal profiling the guy that builds Rivendell bikes, as soon as I saw the name I thought of your Betty Foy. Thought you may find it interesting!

  • http://twitter.com/GigiIn312 GiGi

    I just moved to Chicago! I’m used to bicycle commuting but in a much smaller city and I must admit that I’m a little nervous about hitting the streets of Chicago. Does anyone have any advice/tips? I would really appreciate it.

    Also, was looking at your “About” page. You ladies sure have some beautiful bikes.

    • http://letsgorideabike.com LGRAB

      Welcome to Chicago – email me! LGRAB@letsgorideabike.com. We can meet up for happy hour with some of my other biking friends sometime and talk. :)

      • http://twitter.com/GigiIn312 GiGi

        Wow, yes! Thank you!


    I have a lot of hope and expectations that Chicago will be the first city in the U.S. to provide enough overwhelming evidence that protected bike lanes create safety improvements and lower the traffic stress level enough for most adults to comfortably ride a bike.
    In June, three Chicago Aldermen and two CDOT staff members went to Denmark to observe the bicycle infrastructure there and a few months before that a Chicago Aldermen, planner and traffic engineer visited six Dutch cities to study bicycle infrastructure designs. The end result should be a higher quality of protected bike lane design in Chicago than would otherwise be expected.
    The Dutch spend about ten times more money per mile of bicycle infrastructure than the Danes do. This makes it difficult to extensively use many of these designs in North American cities, but so far, Chicago is doing an admirable job with the funds they have to work with.
    Here’s a entertaining Streetsfilm about the study tour to the Netherlands:

  • Bike to Work

    Way to go Chicago! I’m hoping for Minneapolis to install separated bike lanes on Portland and Park Avenues and one-up Chicago. When cities compete to be bicycle-friendly, cyclists win!

  • safetyhelmetsforkids.com

    Glad to see the city of Chicago getting on board for cyclists even though i don’t live there. Hopefully, more 7 more cities will follow suit. Remember to wear those nsafety helmets & follow the rules of the road while you enjoy your new bike route

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