Bicycle commuters stop at a Bike Pit Stop for free coffee, water and minor… (Michael Tercha/Chicago…)
When the "L" is too crowded and parking too expensive, the wise Chicagoan rides their bike to work. Dodging pedestrians and traffic jams can be intimidating, so to encourage more two-wheel commuting, Bike Chicago is hosting Bike to Work Week, a week of events through June 15.
Events still open for this week are a showing of "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" on Millennium Park's Great Lawn on Tuesday at dusk, a lecture at the Chicago Cultural Center on Wednesday at noon about making Chicago streets safer for bikes and Thursday's free bike tour of the Loop leaving from Buckingham Fountain at 6 p.m. The week culminates in a rally on Daley Plaza starting at 7:30 a.m. on Friday.
The summer months can be much more dangerous for biking commuters, at least according to Anthony Mikrut, manager of Old Town's Village Cycle Center. With more cycling traffic in the warmer weather, he cautions people to be wary of other cyclists as well as traffic.
"The lakefront is my No. 1 place to avoid," Mikrut said. "There's a lot of different people out there. People are race-training, people from out of town are walking around, not paying attention, there's rollerbladers on their cell phones … there's just a lot of distractions. It's safer to be going with cars who acknowledge that there are bikers on the road than people on the lake walking around like they're in la-la land."
Mikrut also recommends people take care of their bikes in the summer, keeping their tires properly inflated and the bike's drive train well lubricated to avoid any breakdowns. Another tip: "carry wet naps with you so you can wipe off at work instead of getting all hot and sweaty."
For bikers, knowing what intersections to avoid can go a long way in shortening your journey and staying safe. Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Transportation listed the 20 most dangerous intersections in the Chicagoland area, most of which were outside of the city. The four in Chicago were Kedzie at Belmont, Stony Island at Chicago Avenue, Western at Peterson and Roosevelt Road at Canal.
Local biking blog GRID Chicago listed its own worst intersections for bikers in October. The list included Milwaukee at Elston, the three-way intersection of Elston, Ashland and Armitage and Halsted at Roosevelt Road.
The City of Chicago recommends a few tips for bikers in all seasons, such as staying visible with rear blinking lights in addition to the required front headlights, biking predictably and obeying the rules of the road. More tips can be found here.
The Active Transit Alliance also has a guide for biking to work, including some wardrobe advice. Their site recommends wearing black or dark colored pants to help hide grease stains, and pack a bag with your work clothes instead of getting them sweaty on the way to the office. Their full list of tips and diagrams can be found at their site here.