Chicago’s bike lane signals are bad and someone is going to get hurt

Here’s some extended kvetching about Chicago’s bike lanes.

A while ago, I posted a controversial review of the new separated bike lane in Evanston–controversial because everyone loves new bike lanes and I used up a lot of space complaining about its new traffic signal arrangement.

In retrospect, it was silly for me to complain about Evanston’s traffic signal arrangement, because the lights in the Loop are worse. Much worse!

Let’s get into some nitty-gritty detail.

Continue reading “Chicago’s bike lane signals are bad and someone is going to get hurt”

Tour de (à?) New York 2017: a pre-trip primer

I’m beginning a solo bike tour to New York on Thursday. Thus Chicago Bike Report goes on hiatus for a few weeks, as I trek through the wilds of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and New York.

But you don’t want to hear about that, right? This is a cycling news and analysis blog. Wait–what’s that? You do have questions about my bike tour? Oh, I’m flattered. Let’s talk about my bike tour!

What bike are you riding? Is it cool?


Yes, it is cool. It’s the Prairie Chicken, my just-built, repainted, custom decaled 1987 Cannondale SR-400. An old racing frame that isn’t really suited to touring. Short chainstays, bad rack mounts, and barely enough clearance for 28c tires and a rear fender. But, like her namesake, she’s a scrappy grouse, and I think she’ll do just fine. The aluminum frame seems quite robust.

I built it up with mostly used parts, scrounged from various old bikes. (Thanks, Dad.)

Some highlights:

  • Surly Cross Check fork, with plentiful rack mounts
  • Heavy-duty Sun CR-18 36-spoke rims with some type of Shimano hub
  • Shimano RSX crankset, LX rear derailleur, Tiagra front derailleur (new), 9-speed cassette
  • Shimano Light Action barend shifters, 8 speed (set to friction mode because the drivetrain is 9 speed)
  • Handlebars angled too high (shush, I fixed it)

The racks: an old, heavy-duty aluminum Jandd in the front and an Axiom DLX Streamliner Disc in the rear. The latter mounts to the brake bridge, owing to the lack of braze-ons. Let’s hope it’s sturdy enough!

What’s your route?

Something like this, but not exactly:

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.01.19 PM.png

First, up to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There I catch the ferry to Ludington, Michigan, and continue east through Ontario. From there I follow the Erie Canal across New York, then down south to the suburbs of New York, to my parents’ house. I’ll be following the Adventure Cycling Association maps part of the way.


What are you bringing? Can you describe it in more detail than I care to hear?



I’m using some old Lone Peak Panniers, seen lined up along the top of the white Tyvek ground sheet above. Panniers contain the items arranged vertically below them. From left to right, these are:

Left rear: sleep supplies, a couple Ziploc bags, 50 feet of paracord to hang food away from raccoons

Right rear: clothes, including 2 cycling outfits (plus the outfit I’ll wear), a base layer, long pants, long-sleeve jerseys, jacket, a couple garbage bags for miscellaneous rain protection

Left front: rain gear, toiletries, electronics, and bike repair. This includes a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, a solar charger, a Topeak Road Morph G pump, chain lube, zip ties, chain tool, tubes, patches, tire levers, Kryptonite cable lock (not U-Lock! must save weight), and a couple plastic bags as makeshift shoe-covers

Right front: The kitchen. A cool Trangia camping stove, a 500ml Nalgene of denatured alcohol fuel, a plastic flask of rye whiskey, some water bags, a titanium spork, and food for the first couple days: oatmeal, couscous, tuna, 5 Clif bars, 2 gels (gross).

Handlebar bag (since converted to saddle bag): multitool, maps, sunglasses, notebook and pen, camera, nylon shorts for modesty around non-cyclists

And mounted on the front rack will be my tent, a Kelty Grand Mesa 2-person.

All in all, the gear weighs 38 pounds.

As far as weight distribution goes: the smaller front panniers hold denser items, so they’re about as heavy as the rear ones. Putting the tent on the front rack gives me slightly more weight in the front than the rear.

That’s how I want it, because I’m wary of putting too much on the Axiom rear rack. This in spite of its stated capacity of 110 lbs. It seems like it’ll hold 25lbs just fine. But 110 pounds is nutty, and it’s only a matter of time before someone sues Axiom for making false claims.


I had a few weeks with no obligations. Why not?

I don’t anticipate being able to update the blog on the road, but expect a couple comprehensive posts at the end. Check back in a few weeks, and enjoy your rides in the meantime!

Review: Evanston’s Chicago Avenue project, a bike lane built for drivers?

A new, separated bike lane opened along Chicago Avenue between Davis Street and Sheridan Road in Evanston this past weekend. It’s a big deal. It’s the first phase of a $13 million project to build a 2-mile protected bike lane from downtown Evanston to the northern end of Northwestern’s campus along Sheridan Road.


The plan was first approved in 2014, but the Evanston city council delayed it for two years. Then in September 2016, Chuyuan “Chu” Qiu, a first-year Northwestern student from China, was killed by a cement truck while turning her bike at an intersection onto Sheridan Road. That awful event spurred residents to press the city to complete the project quickly. Officials complied, and work began in late March.

At first glance, everything about the new lane suggests progress for cyclists. Few would dispute the need for better bike infrastructure on Chicago Avenue and Sheridan Road, as it’s a busy route for cyclists and drivers alike. It’s a refreshingly ambitious project, and as far as bike lanes go, it’s expensive. You’d think this would be something of a jewel in the crown of Chicagoland bike infrastructure.

But the second glance tells a more complicated story. Yes, it’s a separated bike lane. But the result so far is marred by compromises that actually create new dangers for cyclists. In many ways it’s a bike lane for drivers: its main priority is getting cyclists out of the road. What they do once they’re in the bike lane hasn’t gotten as much thought.

I won’t overstate the case, because there’s lots of good to this project. It looks like a bike lane and sometime acts like a bike lane. It provides pretty good protection to riders between blocks. They’ve even extended the walk signal timing at the intersections! That’s wonderful. But especially at intersections, where crashes tend to happen, the plan leaves something to be desired.

Read on and see what I mean.

Continue reading “Review: Evanston’s Chicago Avenue project, a bike lane built for drivers?”

Bike Lane Review: The Glenwood Greenway

This past week saw the opening of the long-awaited Glenwood Greenway, a $65,000 bike lane on Glenwood Avenue between Ridge and Foster. The interesting thing about the Glenwood Greenway is that it’s a “contraflow” bike lane, meaning that the bike lane is oriented against car traffic. Car lane goes north, bike lane goes south.


The project took two whole years to materialize, possibly because some residents complained it would impede cars and “blight the community with ugly signs.” But most people seemed to support the project. 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman persevered, and here we are.

So how’d it turn out? CBS News is again predicting bike-pocalypse. But I happened to ride on this stretch four times Wednesday, and I, for one, think it’s pretty good.

Continue reading “Bike Lane Review: The Glenwood Greenway”

Nice weather? Good luck getting a Divvy downtown

Nice weather in Chicago brings a smile to the face of many a local bike commuter.

But does it bring a smile to every bike commuter? What if you’re relying on a Divvy to get home? You might be annoyed that you can’t get a bike. Especially if you work in the Loop.

(By the way, it’s Divvy Week. You can get a free burrito or something.)

Continue reading “Nice weather? Good luck getting a Divvy downtown”

Map of the day: Potholes, part 2

A post on Tuesday showed potholes patched by the city in the previous 7 days.

But what about potholes that the city hasn’t filled? That question is more involved. Being non-experts, the best we could do is consult city data on potholes reported to 311.

(Note: the link above is a mess. Click the “visualize” tab, fill out the form, zoom in, cross fingers.)

Each day the Chicago’s 311 line gets hundreds of pothole service requests. For example, this past Tuesday: 306. Monday: 401.

Dating back to January 2009, the 311 hotline has received 463,199 reports of potholes. Let’s take a look at em.


Continue reading “Map of the day: Potholes, part 2”

Map of the day: Potholes patched this past week

April 17th has been proclaimed the start of paving season. But even in the paving off-season, city crews have been hard at work filling potholes on the Chicago’s 3,800+ miles of streets (albeit with varying success).

If the weather cooperates, crews can fill several thousand potholes in one day.

Luckily, the city plots these filled potholes on maps, which you can sort through in a variety of ways.

Here’s what they’ve done in just the past week.

Check out the whole map here.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.22.14 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.30.02 PM.jpgHydepark.jpg

Hyde Park leading the way in South Side pothole clout.

And the most surprising bit of data from this map:Screen_Shot_2017-04-17_at_11_36_05_PM.png

209! What!

It doesn’t look so bad on Google street view…

pothole belmont.jpg

Expanded LFT Renderings: a 36-foot wide trail

Today the Chicago Parks District unveiled its website for the expanded Lake Front Trail, a project paid for by (evil?) billionaire Ken Griffin.

The plan calls for segregated pedestrian and bike paths along the entirety of the 18-mile-long Lake Front Trail. Let’s look at some of the cool renderings:

First: North to Fullerton


Click here for a very large version.

The stretch near Fullerton is 36′ wide. Wow. For reference, the 606 Trail is only 14′ wide–a 10-foot main path with 2-foot running paths on either side.


Here’s a complicated section near the North Ave. underpass:


It’s like the bike/pedestrian version of Grand Crossing.

Preformed thermoplastic can be slippery for cyclists when wet, which would be a problem. But we aren’t thermoplastic engineers, so we’ll assume they have it figured out.


Next: Ohio to Oak

Mostly the same, but with the new connector trail south of the Ohio Street beach.


Click here for a very large version.

How exciting. The first segment, from 41st to 35th, is scheduled to open this Spring. The next two segments, spanning collectively from Ohio to Fullerton, are supposed to open this summer. The fourth planned segment, from 56th to 41st, will apparently open in Fall 2017, but it’s still in the design phase.