The Best Bike Cities in North America: Chicago, Illinois

You don’t have to give up the amenities of a large urban environment just because you prefer traveling on two wheels over four

Chicago, Illinois.     Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Windy City is known for being a transportation hub. O’Hare International Airport is the second busiest in the world, making Chicago a likely pit stop for travelers. Luckily for them, once off the plane, train, car or bus, visitors to Chicago have ample opportunities to stretch their legs and take a relaxing bike ride along some of the city’s on-street lanes and off-street trails and paths.

You’ll have over 170 miles of on-street protected, shared and buffered bike lanes to choose from, including the Lakefront Trail, an 18-mile paved route that follows Lake Michigan. A tree-lined boulevard system will connect you to parks and attractions, such as the Osaka Japanese Garden in Jackson Park and the Garfield Park Conservatory. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll likely see one or more of the 13,000 bike racks scattered throughout the city. For those traveling by CTA rail, stations often come equipped with sheltered bike storage areas for stowing your ride while you head off on your next adventure.

If, like many travelers, you find yourself without a bike, you can easily rent one from the B-cycle bike share program, which currently offers 100 bikes at six stations.

The city has made great strides as of late to create a bikeable environment for residents and visitors alike. In 2010, they enlisted the help of Bicycling Ambassadors, who provided educational materials and outreach to 60,000 people that year about how to safely navigate city streets by bike.

The bike culture in Chicago is as diverse as the people living and traveling through the city famously are. Messengers, families, people commuting to work, kids going to school, and everyone in between make up the daily sights and sounds of bike traffic in Chicagoland.

The 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championships took place in Chicago in August, bringing together bike couriers from around the globe for a week of races, libations, and celebrations a la messenger-style. The series of profiles on the event blog capture some of the humor and spirit of messenger culture.

The Handlebar restaurant is one of many gathering points for cyclists of all stripes. Critical Mass rides happen on the last Friday of every month. Plus, there are family-friendly Kidical Mass parades, ladies-only Critical Lass pub cruises, Slow Bicycle Society picnics, and rowdy Midnight Marauders rides. More event information can be found on Chicago’s online bicycling community website, thechainlink.org. As a metropolitan center and bike hub, Chicago really does do its best to make every cyclist feel welcome.

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