Chicago Loves Bikes!

Chicago loves bikes.  It’s official.

My morning commute yesterday felt like a group ride!  For more than half of the way, I was in a line of 9 cyclists going down the bike lane.  Our spontaneous conga line caused stares, double-takes and smiles.  How could people not consider cycling as a valid form of transportation after seeing so many bikes all around them?  Snowball effect – more riders beget more riders.

On the way home, I spotted my friend Elizabeth.  She had pulled over to chat with the owner of De Fietsfabriek, so I pulled over and joined them, and then we rode home together.  On the way, we saw three bike cops ticketing a van for being parked in the bike lane.  Overhead in a stern voice as we passed, “See, all these bicyclists have to go in the lane around you.”  Today on Streetsblog I saw this video to train Chicago bus drivers how to interact with bicyclists.

I feel that everything is coming together to create a real place for cyclists in Chicago.  The cyclists themselves: out in droves.  The drivers:  expecting cyclists and behaving respectfully.  The infrastructure: far from perfect but following the 2015 Bike Plan and better than almost all other North American cities.  Law enforcement, city government, and Da Mayor: working for us.  The sun: shining down approvingly on all of it.

My giddy optimism is so bright this week!

Do other Chicagoan have thoughts on this?  Bicyclists in other cities – how do you feel about your place on the road and in the community?  Any other optimists out there?

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18 thoughts on “Chicago Loves Bikes!

  1. Miss Sarah says:

    I love running into people while biking. Last Sunday I was shoulder checking to get into a left lane and a really cute guy was right in my blind spot. He was waiting for me to make up my mind because he wanted my lane.

    Anyway, I was startled (both to see somebody actually out biking, and somebody so attractive, no less) and said, “Hey!”

    He said hi back and rode with me to the grocery store before heading on his way. I told him about my blog, hopefully when he visits he’ll notice that I’m not only married, but have a child too:)

    Point is. Biking is social. You can meet cute boys!

  2. BikeWorkPlay says:

    I just watched the video.. you guys have bike racks on buses? how cool!

  3. Hayley says:

    OH, how I love to hear about the police doing what they should to protect ALL the users of the streets! That’s fantastic! You should send them some citizen feedback. I loved this so much, hope you don’t mind, I put it up on my blog too. I have the link up for the Chicago PD’s feedback page.

  4. neighbourtease says:

    That’s awesome, Dottie. I do feel optimistic about bicycles in NYC. There are SO many more people cycling than there were even a year ago and this is, of course, even more noticeable now that the weather is better. There used to be a definite hardcore vibe about cycling here but now my most timid friends are getting bikes and commuting.

    The other day I was leaving a meeting in midtown and I was really surprised to see six or seven cyclists lined up waiting for a light — not only because they were obeying the traffic laws (!) but also because there were more women than men and they were mostly on old upright style of bikes and wearing normal clothes. It was heartening!

  5. Dave says:

    I am feeling rather optimistic about cycling right now. It’s really been a couple of years since we’ve had enough people riding bicycles to call for better laws and infrastructure, and seeing that process starting to really honestly move is exciting.

    It’s great to hear that the same is happening in other cities.

    This kind of scene is becoming pretty common in certain areas of the city in Portland:

    On our way home.

    I’m starting to see more and more kids going to and from school in the mornings too, which is fun.

    All in all, it’s just exciting to see our streets become more available to more people – kids playing, people on bikes, people walking, people skateboarding or roller blading down the streets – it’s great to see people just getting around they way they like to get around.

    It’s exciting too, because the demographic of people on bikes is shifting – lots of people wearing regular clothes (except in the rain, but I suppose that’s excusable), and more and more people just kind of casually getting where they’re going. A smaller and shrinking percentage of people during work commute hours looking like they’re aiming to make the 3 mile trip in world record time.

  6. Beany says:

    I wish I had a spontaneous bike conga line!

    There are definitely more bikes out this year than there was last year. And when I see one out in the wild, I get a little too excited and hurry over to offer my greetings and too often wind up scaring the other rider. So I’m trying to be more subdued when I’m out riding on the streets. I have to keep telling myself, “be calm! Be calm! It is just another cyclist don’t scare them away!”

    On an official level there is a very strong sense of….absolutely nothing. The city here doesn’t appear to care one wit about cyclists. The other cyclists (many of them) are very apathetic. The big plan to increase multi-modal share to 10% in 10 years has the city offering to sweep the bike lanes more often.

    So I careen from one emotional high (I love bikes wooo!) to an emotional low (the world sucks and I hate everyone) when it comes to promoting bicycling.

    I think I’m still a little grumpy from being ignored by so many cyclists this morning. I’ll cheer up soon enough.

  7. Beany says:

    Miss Sarah: yes, I’m happily married and all, but I love me my male eye candy on bikes.

  8. DramaMama says:

    Wow, bike lanes! Apparently our fair city is not there yet. But I will say that we have seen an increase in people who are serious about biking as a mode of transportation – I have seen lots of people w/home made carts and such…it’s always a pleasure to start a conversation and participate in a little community building! I’m glad I stumbled onto your blog…I look forward to reading more! Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Zweiradler says:

    Sounds great! I love cycling together with others, too. It’s now getting warmer (60 °F) and more people start to use their bikes again.
    Thank you for commenting on my blog, Dottie. I wanted to post more during the last months, but I didn’t have enough time (and occasions).


  10. Christa says:

    Great story, Dottie. Go Chicago!

    Yes, I sense some progress too. This week I met two young women who have heard of the Cycle Chic movement. This is the first time someone (outside the usual bike community) knew what I was talking about.

    Snowballing. Now.

  11. Audra says:

    I had a similar feeling yesterday. One stretch of my commute is always particularly bike heavy, but yesterday there must have been about 10 of us all waiting at a red light, and someone in a car asked if we were all together. Nope – we just all had the same great idea! It’s wonderful to see the spring weather bring the bikes out in droves.

  12. Scott says:

    My commute down Milwaukee felt like a group ride too! The bike rack in my office parking garage is getting full after being empty all winter. The fair weather cyclists are back!

  13. G.E. says:

    Though I don’t have a ton to share about local bicyclists in my area, I thought this might be a good place to give some info regarding bicycle improvements across the US. For those of you interested in improving bicycle lanes/infrastructure(for any who have not been made aware of this yet), there is a link here: You can sign a letter to your specific congressperson right at the website, and there is quite a bit of information on the legislation itself, if you’re interested in reading more.

  14. Ben says:

    Although here in Seattle there are lots of cyclists out year round, Spring is in full effect here (at least this week!) and all the cyclists are getting out and putting in some miles.

    Our busses have 3-bike racks, and a couple of times the bus that I sometimes take to/from downtown have had all three bike slots full (I sometimes do a multi-modal commute, bus 8 miles downtown, ride 3.5 to work; other times I just ride the 11 miles). I’m glad I get on the route early both ways, otherwise I’d have to wait for the next bus. Although at that rate, it would save more time just to bike the entire way home.

    I’ve really been impressed with Chicago’s dedication to improving cycling conditions. I think Seattle has been complacent lately in its bicycle-friendly status. We have a long way to go yet, though. Thankfully, our newly elected mayor is a cyclist, so I think we will get the support that we need from the city now.

  15. Christa says:

    @Miss Sarah, cute story! Poor guy though. I’m newly single and definitely want a cyclist boyfriend. It’s such an important lifestyle factor. And the bicycle seems like a mark of health so it’s attractive.

  16. Lee says:

    Love it — this will be the Summer of the Bike! I’ve been noticing more bike traffic than normal at the intersection outside my window on Belmont, and considering we’ve barely had a taste of spring so far, I’m expecting an explosion of bike traffic this season. I’m optimistic too that this will be remembered as the year we passed that threshold where there are so many cyclists that it becomes normal. Biking in Chicago is leaving the sub-culture and is no longer a radical activity. Now, some corners of bike counter-culture may be disappointed to see their way of life go mainstream — but I love it. Can’t wait to see the Lincoln Park trixies and chads lined up in bike traffic too.

  17. Steven Vance says:

    Wait! The Chicago police ticketed someone for parking in the bike lane? I have never heard of that actually happening.

    Thanks for posting the link to the Streetsblog story about the CDOT/CTA video:

  18. Catherine says:

    Very cool! We have yet to have a nice weather day on a weekday in which I’ve commuted (second half of last week was gorgeous but I was home sick), so I don’t know.

    The trail was positively packed on Saturday (I was using it to get home from the mall), but likely mostly with recreational/weekend cyclists. I got all sorts of strange looks being on there in a sundress with a basket full of shopping bags (which were full of new sundresses. Ah, spring).

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