Chicago Sun-Times

Share your bike commuting stories

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Several years ago, I got to visit Amsterdam, where the bike is king. Bike commuting is normal there — you see people in business suits riding bikes while talking on cell phones. There's barely room on some streets for cars, which have to drive slowly and wait their turn.

The Chicago area is not nearly as bike friendly as Holland. But bike commuters here say more people would do it if they just tried it a couple of times...

Do you have a bike commuting story? Did you try it, and like it, and now you bike every day? Are you saving a small fortune by going car-free? If you have a story, please share. Pictures are welcome.

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10 Comments

hi, anybody know a good way to bike from algonquin to vernon hills? thanks

Hello, Does anyone out there have a good route from Schaumburg (Barrington & Schaumburg Rds) to Northbrook? I want to ride to work but am really have trouble finding a decent route. Last year I got nailed by a car and broke my back so I am a little shy about riding on the major roads. Thanks!!!

I'm riding to work more now that the streets are clearer and weather permitting (I don't like riding with snow and ice, or in the rain). I must be a slowpoke because it takes me about 35 - 40 minutes to ride about 5.5 - 6 miles. I am amazed at what a difference the wind makes. My ride takes me east on Diversey (from about 4400 W) to Central Park, and then south on Central Park down to about 16th St. I have found drivers to be mostly considerate. There are bike lanes for much of that route. I ride a "hybrid" bike, on the heavy side, but it handles the potholes well. My drive takes me 20 minutes, which I do rarely; more common is CTA, bus only, which takes about an hour. I am allowed to park my bike in the boiler room at work.

I have been riding my bike to work since Sept, 2000. In Nov, 2000, I was struck by a car that blew a stop sign on the corner of my block. The driver stopped and called emergency services, but I realize this is not always the case. After sugery and 5 months rehab for a torn patella tendon, I haven't had another incident with an auto because of a simple rule: let the car go first. Even if they stop for me, I let them go. The odds are 50-50 that the person driving is paying attention to what they're doing, and that's not good enough for me. I work 6.5 miles from home. It takes me 25 minutes in summer and 45-55 in winter due to the wind. If I drive, it takes 10-12 minutes. So I can wait for them to go about there business. I just am amazed at the inconsiderate, inattentive drivers I share the road with. The one constant in my daily commute is prayer. Going and comming from whereever I ride, my Higher Power is right there with me, keeping me right sized and humble.

Hi, Joe,

When I worked regularly in the South Loop, I used to go to Kozy's Cyclery at 811 S. DesPlaines at Polk when I needed help with a repair or a new piece of equipment. They were fine.

As for storing your bike -- I've never had a workplace where it was OK to bring my bike inside. You don't have to let that stop you. I park my bike at bike racks, generally. I take off my front tire and lock it to the my back tire, locking them both together to the rack. I take off anything that could be stolen (like my front light) and carry it in my bag. I also have a lock that permanently attaches my bike seat to the frame. I think it also helps that I don't have a really expensive bike -- which makes it less attractive to thieves. I hear some people dirty their bikes up a bit (like putting stickers on the frame) to make them look cheaper. I paid less than $150 for my bike eight years ago -- so if it got stolen, I'd be really really sad, but it wouldn't break me.

As for clean-up, I carry a washcloth, a small towel, deodorant, clean clothes, and some rose water I buy at a Middle Eastern shop and keep in a spray bottle. Also, I bike defensively and not super fast, so I don't get too rumpled.

I started commuting to work by bicycle in October of 2004. I lived near the intersection of Damen and Augusta in Ukranian Village and I worked in Westmont. It was about a 44.5 mile round trip. When I first started, I would ride South on Damen to the Blue line and ride the L to Forest Park and ride the bike from there to Westmont. I would do this 3 times a week. Once I got a little stronger, I started riding the entire way to work and eventually I was strong enough to ride 4 days a week. In June of 2007 I moved to the Glendale Heights area and my company moved to Aurora. I was riding every day to work, which is a 33 mile round trip. In November of 2007 I was hit by a car in Wheaton and suffered a fractured collarbone. The car blew a stop sign. I was unable to ride until the first week of March 2008. I am now up to riding 4 days a week, but I am not yet even close to being in the physical shape I was before the accident. So I am hoping to be riding 5 days a week again in another 3 or 4 weeks and hopefully by the end of summer I will have my fitness back.

I wish every commuter a safe trip every time you ride your bike. Be alert and watch out. And most of all, please please please follow the rules of the road. If we really want people driving cars to respect our rights to ride the bicycles on the streets, then we have to follow the rules of the road. I am no angel and I have not always followed the rules of the road, but since my accident I do follow the rules of the road. Not blowing through that stop sign, following the proper direction down a one way street, and sitting through the red light may add a few minutes to your commute. But breaking the rules of the road increase you chances of getting hurt and it just makes people mad who drive cars. And you don't want to get hit by a car. My injury was not all that severe, but it was very painful and took a long time to heal. I can't imagine what it would be like to have serious injuries from an accident like a broken pelvis, broken leg, or a severe back injury. So please stay safe and follow the rules of the road.

Hello Rich,

I ride to work from the Glendale Heights area to the NE corner of Aurora. It's a 33 mile round trip. My workplace doesn't have a shower or locker rooms, so I have resorted to using baby wipes to clean up in the morning after I get to work. Our restrooms are single units with locking doors, so I just go in to the restroom, clean up in the sink and with baby wipes, and then get dressed for work.

For a bike shop, I don't know of any in the South loop area. But there is a bike shop in Oak Park called Lickton's. You can look them up on www.lickbike.com. They only sell parts now, but they are associated with an excellent mechanic who does an excellent job. I used to live in Ukranian Village and ride to Westmont, and I could stop at Lickton's on the way home. Now I can't stop there anymore, but I still buy all my bike parts there. I do most of the work on my own bike, but if I can't do it no one else will touch my bike except for the mechanic Lickton's recommends.

I'm interested in riding to work since I'm moving to the South Loop and work in the Hyde Park area. I scouted the lake front bike patch and think it's a pretty safe trip with little on the street riding but I'm worried about finding a safe place to store the bike and being ready to work after the ride, mostly after it rains or sweating in the summer heat. My employer talks the talk on biking to work but doesn't follow thru on it. They're not bike friendly at all. I'm also worried about finding a good bike shop in the South Loop area. I've heard they look down new riders and will rip you off for parts and service. Any ideas?

I commute daily, by bike, year-round, between North Center and O'Hare. This takes me (depending on conditions) 60-80 min's each way (12.5 mi one-way trip) -- not much slower than by car, and faster than CTA. My "funniest" encounter was the motorist who screamed at me for "blocking" him (I was in the marked Elston bike lane, which he apparently "needed" to cut around another car turning left); the poor guy (and his wife) got so focused on yelling at me that they rear-ended the car in front of them. Daily encounters with guys like this aside, I think Chicago's a relatively bike-friendly town; certainly moreso than Washington DC and San Diego (where I also bike-commuted), or New York, Seattle, or San Francisco (where cyclists seem to be officially "targeted").

i use my bike to go to work.
i take my life in my hands every day in chicago streets. i get cut off car door open on me. there should be seperate bike lanes on all the steet. this will protect the bike riders and promote more biking

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Wisniewski published on April 7, 2008 6:00 AM.

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