biking in chicago

I feel compelled to write about biking this month, maybe because the snow has melted and spring is in the air. I think we all know that driving less, and biking and walking more is better for all of us.

Did you know that there are organizations working on making it safer for us to do that? The Active Transportation Alliance (or Active Trans for short) is a coalition of people who are working to make walking, biking, and public transit safe and equitable options for getting around Chicagoland. Perhaps you haven’t heard of them but you may have heard of their annual event Bike The Drive, this year to be held on Sunday, September 4, 2022, or, the less familiar to me, Chicago Bike Week, happening May 16–22, 2022. More info on these events can be found on the events tab of their website.

Local Biking Resources

Active transportation alliance

Active Trans has so many resources on its website. If you want to know what’s happening in your neck of the woods bikewise, check out the “Our Work”, “In Your Community” tab. It’s there that I learned about The 49th Ward Greenway that links Rogers Park to Evanston. I also learned that there are three local advocacy groups and bike clubs in my town!

I love maps so I’m kind of thrilled to see how many there are all over their website. You don’t have to love maps to love the name of this one: The Simplified Citywide Mellow Chicago Bike Map. Read about it and link to it here

Bikes on Mass Transit

Metra. I’ve never brought a bike on a train but Metra is making it easier to do so. It used to be that only some lines allowed them but the latest news from their website is that they’ve relaxed that rule so that all 11 lines allow them. They even have specialized Bike Cars on 4 lines that can accommodate 16 bikes as opposed to the usual 5. It’s a great trend.

Be advised that you need to bring a bungee cord to secure your bike on the train, and bikes or e-scooters cannot be longer than 70 inches.

This video demonstrates really well How to Bring a Bike on Metra.

CTA. Bikes are allowed on CTA trains, 2 per car.  Buses have outside racks on the front. Read this brochure for all of the details. Watch this video if you want to see it in action.

Amtrak. You can also bring a bike on cross-country Amtrak trips. The rules are different depending on what line you’re on. Sometimes they need to be checked like baggage. Other times they need to be boxed. Info is here on their website.

Donating Bikes

Maybe you have a bike that you have outgrown and would like to donate. A young friend of mine calls this “keeping it in the flow”. 

There are two different local organizations doing the good work of opening up access to bicycling to those who might not otherwise have that access. They are The Recyclery and Working Bikes. Though they are both located in Chicago, there are spots for drop-offs in many different Chicagoland locations.

The Recyclery

The Recyclery Collective is an educational bike shop that promotes sustainability by giving access to tools, skills, and opportunities for collaboration. You can donate bikes at their headquarters in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, near the Howard el station at 7628 N. Paulina St., 6 retail drop-off sites in Chicago, 1 in Zion, and even a couple at private residences in Elgin and Indian Creek.  Full list here.

On Sundays, they have an Open Shop from 10:00 am–2:00 pm when you can use their tools and their expertise to fix your bike for a $10 suggested donation.

I was excited to read that more recently they’ve added what they call an FTWN-B Open Shop on Sundays from 3:00–6:00 pm. Femme, Trans, Women, and Non-Binary members of the community are welcomed to the shop. They’re aiming to provide a welcoming, safe space for individuals who have historically been excluded by the bicycling community.   

Working Bikes

Working Bikes has been around a bit longer, since 1999, giving donated bicycles new life by redistributing them as tools of empowerment in local and global communities. They are located at 2434 S. Western Ave. in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. They encourage you to organize a bike drive in your community and even have a guide and materials to help. There is a Google map of all of the possible drop-off locations including Wheel & Sprocket stores in both Evanston and Park Ridge. 

There is so much to learn about these great organizations on their websites.

Bike Safety

Is your bike in good shape but your riding skills are a bit rusty? Ride Illinois has bike safety quizzes for all ages on its website. Spoiler alert: it’s not easy but it is educational. You get a second chance on every question, so you really do learn. Ride Illinois, is a nonprofit organization making Illinois better through biking. There are a lot of maps and other info on their website, too. 

Speaking of safety, don’t forget to wear a helmet! Of course, I had to figure out if anyone had invented a more sustainable version. 

There is a paper honeycomb bike helmet that has not quite made it to market. I like this direction. I think the collapsible and folding ones are also intriguing. Though not made of materials that can be recycled, at least they take up less space. The Discerning Cyclist has a review of what he believes are the best three here

Divvy Bikes

Divvy Bikes are the pretty blue bikes that can be rented for a single ride of up to 30 minutes, with a day pass affording you unlimited 3-hour rides for 24 hours or through an annual membership.

I’m kind of surprised at how reasonable memberships are. This seems like a good deal if you don’t have a place to store a bike. $108 a year in Chicago. I spend more than that on parking tickets. I wish I were kidding. There is a program in Chicago and Evanston called Divvy for Everyone (D4E) with annual memberships that start at $5.

They even have this program Bike Angels wherein you earn points and swag for riding bikes from crowded stations to those that are running low on bikes. Sounds like a good first date activity. Okay, maybe a second date.

If reducing your driving is an idea that appeals to you, you might enjoy this blog post To Drive or Not to Drive