Saturday, January 19, 2013

Bike commute from the Loop to Lincoln Park

by Michelle Stenzel

Map of the route shown on the video. Starting in
the Loop: Madison to Dearborn to Huron to Wells.
Last Friday was Chicago's Winter Bike to Work Day! Did you bike to work that day? Many people reading this post might not be bike commuters yet, due to fears of motor vehicle traffic on the streets, or just because it’s a great unknown. I spent many years only riding locally in the neighborhood, or to commute downtown, I rode on the Lakefront Trail to get to the edge of the Loop, and then I walked my bike the last block to work. The thought of riding down major arterials or in the central business district made me very nervous. In the years before I finally gathered the courage to ride on busy streets, it would have been nice to have a visual tour of what I could expect.

So, using my new handlebar-mounted video camera, I’ve filmed my bike commute home a number of times in the last few weeks and have posted one below. I chose this video because it’s pretty typical of my commute. It was taken on January 11, 2013, a Friday afternoon around 3:30 pm, on a cold (but above freezing) and overcast day. I begin my ride on Madison at Michigan Avenue and end the video just north of North and Wells, once I reach Lincoln Park. 

Note that I’m on bike lanes for every portion of this commute, except for the three blocks on Huron, which is designated on the Chicago Bike Map as being the “recommended bike route” to take from Dearborn to Wells.

My commute is about 18 minutes. I shortened the video to 13:23 by speeding up the parts where I’m waiting at a red light to 4x normal speed. I didn’t overlay any music because I wanted the viewer to hear the ambient noises. (Unfortunately, it makes the clips at red lights a little annoying!)
(More after the jump --->)

Here’s the video:

I’m not sure this video will help recruit any new commuters. Actually, I’m pretty sure it may have the opposite effect, even though that’s certainly not the intent. part of our mission at Bike Walk Lincoln Park is to encourage more bicycling, and Michael and I have discussed ways of doing that since its inception, but we’re not going to whitewash current reality. Although there aren’t any “close calls” or any dangerous events on the video, I think there’s plenty that may make a less-experienced rider say, “No thank you.” 

The Dearborn protected lane portion, although only a few blocks of my commute, is definitely my favorite part of it, because I can relax and just follow the signals without worrying about  motor vehicles sideswiping me, or coming too close for comfort. 

I think I’m struck most of all how terrible the condition of the roadway is. This applies to Dearborn (mostly in the protected bike lane portion, ironically), Huron, and Wells alike. The bumps were so bad on Wells yesterday that it caused my chain to fall off the gears! I hope all these very well-used bike routes are fixed as soon as possible, although likely it won’t happened until spring.

In general, I think the video reflects that there’s still a strong case to be made that Chicago needs many more miles of smooth roadways and protected lanes before we’ll be successful in getting people who are “interested but concerned” to join us on the streets on bikes. As I’ve said before, we still have a long way to go. So, what did you think?
We're on Twitter @BikeWalkLP


  1. Looks like a pretty typical and non-threatening commute, and I say that from the perspective of a daily commuter who has far less experience than you! (You must have a really wide-angle lens since everything-especially intersections, looks much bigger than it really is.)

    1. Yes, the camera is very wide angle, I believe 165 degrees or so. --MS

  2. The portion on Wells where the road under the bike lane is all ripped up, I just ride in the car lane. I get honked at occasionally, but there's no way I'm riding over that shoddily-applied concrete.

    1. I do that as well, but it's a l-o-n-g stretch of street that was torn up. --MS