Byke March 2001
May 14, 2007 5:03 PM   Subscribe

[ChicagoFilter] I am going to attempt to bike to work, which means biking along the lake from Andersonville to the Navy Pier area. Any tips? I haven't biked in 10 years, and don't want to be killed by racing pros.

I want to get into this bike commuting thing, for health reasons and because it's fun. I'm just about to get a nice, comfy bike for the trip -- and will be biking from roughly the middle of Andersonville to Navy Pier. Is it a straight path down? How long do you think this will take? Are there any bike etiquette things I should be aware of? General as well as specific tips are most welcome. :)
posted by moooshy to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm currently getting into casual weekend biking and (according to google maps) your 8.5 mile ride seems pretty intimidating to me. If I were in your shoes I'd probably try to train up to that. Maybe take a Saturday and ride half of it and see how you feel?
posted by saraswati at 5:44 PM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: The bulk of my commute is on the path from Montrose to Buckingham Fountain. It takes me from 45 minutes to an hour for my 8 miles total, but I'm pretty speedy.

It is a very fun trip! It's a straight shot down to Navy Pier, but you'll cross major streets until you pass Montrose. It twists around a little bit, but it's dead simple to navigate--just follow everyone else. Going southbound, I like to take the right-hand path just after the footbridge at North Ave, but watch for sand at the start of it, and be careful merging back to the main path, especially on the northbound trip. The path stops at Grand and you'll continue on a sidewalk under Lake Shore Drive for a bit untill it picks up again.

Path etiquette is the same as any busy road. Stay to the right, pass on the left, look behind you before you make any sudden moves. Announce yourself with a cheery "On your left" if you think the person you're passing needs a heads-up. Go slow when you need to.

Traffic runs fairly smoothy in the morning and can be incredibly busy in the afternoon. The summer brings out a lot of kids, dogs, rollerbladers and gaggles of pedestrians taking up the entire path. Be safe, moderate your speed, and enjoy the ride. And make sure you've got good brakes.
posted by hydrophonic at 5:51 PM on May 14, 2007

Welcome to bike commuting and how timely that you've decided to do so during Bike to Work Week. I'm still fairly new to it, but I'm enjoying it so far.

The first thing I would suggest is to get to know the laws where you're biking. For example, is it legal to bike on the sidewalk there? Are you allowed to take up the entire lane on the street or do you have to ride all the way to the right?

The 8.5 miles if it's not hilly should probably take about 30-45 minutes at a reasonable pace. Don't forget to bring water!

When I first started commuting and even now, I found the folks at BikeForums to be very helpful. They have a sub-forum just for commuting.
posted by nakedsushi at 6:03 PM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: I would love to bike commute, but my current commute is too short. I have however bike commuted quite a bit, and 8 miles sounds like a good distance.

You'll have to decide whether to wear the same clothes on the bike and at work, or to bring a set of clothes. If you stick with the same clothes, you'll have to worry about getting them smelly, and possible dirt and grease. If you decide to change clothes, you'll have to take them on your bike or keep extra clothes in the office.

The first couple times you commute, have a backup plan, like a cell phone or something. A new bike is an untested bike, muscles might not be strong enough, etc. You don't want to be riding without lights if it's dark.

Good roads for driving are not good roads for cycling. If you have a local bicycle advocacy group, see if they have a bicycle map, which shows streets that have less traffic and less hills.

Learn how to ride as traffic. This means no riding on sidewalks, running red lights, taking the lane if necessary, making left turns from the left hand lane, and riding straight and consistently. This is tough if you choose heavily congested streets with 40mph traffic passing <6 from your left shoulder. choose a less busy route. if you enjoy cycling, a slightly longer route doesn't>
You'll also be hungrier than normal, so have something ready to eat when you get to work.
posted by meowzilla at 6:28 PM on May 14, 2007

meowzilla: "I would love to bike commute, but my current commute is too short. I have however bike commuted quite a bit, and 8 miles sounds like a good distance."

Yes. Obeying the rules of the road makes the rest of us cyclists safer, because it teaches drivers that we are responsible and predictable. It's the driver's disrespect for cyclists -- unfortunately fostered by red-light-running traffic-swerving cyclists -- that causes him/her to view us as a pest rather than try to coexist with our safety in mind.
posted by loiseau at 6:42 PM on May 14, 2007

Make sure you get a nice comfortable seat. I tried biking to work along the Erie canal and ended up numb in some areas that are normally quite fun.
posted by fvox13 at 7:36 PM on May 14, 2007

My first bike commute was about very flat 12.5 miles each way on some pretty busy roads. I had a really heavy mountain bike and a milk crate on the back where I would put my backpack. I was much faster if I ditched the crate and instead just used my backpack, but found it was nice to have my upper body free for that distance. I also put a radio in the milk crate, though today I'd buy a set of speakers or radio/speakers for the handlebars.

I enventually got the point I could do the ride in 45 minutes.

I'm lucky that I don't get too sweaty or smelly after biking, though I know some folks do. We did have showers at work, so I would bike to work and then shower which was nice, though I didn't always have to do that.

Get some fenders, even if it's not raining, there are some thing I'm glad I had fenders when I ran through/over them.

Get a helmet if you don't have one.

It's amost NEVER safer to ride on the sidewalk.

Get a patch kit, pump.

Is there a bus that lets you take your bikie along the same way? It's nice to mix modes sometimes, bike in and bus with bike back.

Get a bike buddy who goes at your same pace.

Don't cheap out on lights if you are going to bike at night. The cheap small blinkies are not usually enough. I did find a cheap LED one that is almost was good as my expensive cats eye, and is much more portable, so I actually end up having it.

Get a BELL!!! I think its one of the best ways to avoid an accident. Helps prevent dooring, slow drifting of cars into you, the guy who is looking past you for cars and doesn't notice you at cross streets, etc....

Asssume drivers don't see you, don't be afraid to take the lane if you have to. Be predictable though, don't weave in an out of traffic.

Have fun!
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:45 PM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: Check out for route planning, also if you're in Chicago check out to get ready.
posted by kaydo at 7:50 PM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: I take almost the same route from Lawrence Ave to Michigan Ave. It is straight down the Lake Front path, and it'll take you all the way to Navy Pier. The ride takes me about 35-40 minutes. You may want to leave a bit early the first day so that you can figure out how long it's going to take you.

I don't like the reverse commute in the evening, because the path gets way too crowded when it's nice out. In the morning, it's not so bad, but in the evening I take a street route that keeps me happier.
posted by smich at 7:59 PM on May 14, 2007

For example, is it legal to bike on the sidewalk there?

In Chicago, it's illegal to bike on the sidewalk in a business district, or on any sidewalk if you're twelve or older. It's good to know this because you might get a chance to ask a driver why they were honking at you, and they'll probably tell you that they think you belong on the sidewalk.

Make sure you get a nice comfortable seat. I tried biking to work along the Erie canal and ended up numb in some areas that are normally quite fun.

To prevent the numbness, I prefer a firm seat ("saddle," if you're a bike snob) with appropriately placed anatomical cutouts. i.e. men's, women's. But firm seats aren't comfortable at first, but are much better if you ride a lot (like say, 16 miles a day.)

I recommend replacing your quick-release levers with bolts. Ask at your bike shop, and don't forget the seat post. Then all you need is a pocket-sized U-bolt lock to lock down your frame.

Here's the Chicago bike map. You can find the more useful paper version at quality bike shops all over town.

Some tips on traffic and commuting, and some workshops.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:22 PM on May 14, 2007

From Andersonville, I recommend taking Berwyn over to the lakeshore path. Why? Because there's a small portion of Lincoln Park on the west side of Lake Shore Drive, with a tunnel under the highway that'll save you having to fight through traffic at the Foster entrance ramp.
posted by me3dia at 10:30 PM on May 14, 2007

I just started commuting, in Tokyo, but have a few things to say. Carry an extra tube, and know how to change it. You will become pretty dirty (and so will the bike) with all the stuff flying off the ground and cars so wipe your bike down every few days. I have pretty much covered my body in reflective tape and flashing LEDs. If you have showers at work, you're lucky. I don't and find that this kind of stuff is great.
It's super fun, good luck!
posted by m3thod4 at 10:53 PM on May 14, 2007

Don't wear cycling clothes. As recently touched on in the blue, the more "pro" you look, the more everyone else assumes you know what you're doing and so the less slack they bother cut you, including safe passing distance.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:20 AM on May 15, 2007

I started out bike commuting with a backpack - which I found just lead to a very sweaty back by the time I got home - so I'd suggest getting a rack and some panniers for your bike. It's made things far more enjoyable for me, especially in July and August.

Other than that, I think everything is mostly covered above. No shower at work, but I do keep a change of clothes here - so I can change out of my shorts and t-shirt when I get to work.

If you're going to be wearing pants, you might want to get something to keep your pant leg from getting grease on it. You can get a simple reflective velcro band for about one or two dollars.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:21 AM on May 15, 2007

the only thing i have to add is that fenders will be your friend. if your bike doesn't come with them, get a set.
posted by lester at 6:39 AM on May 15, 2007

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