CYCLING USA – Chicago gets it right

Relaxed and comfortable – with hands free for texting perhaps?


Americans are in love with their cars, right? But even in New York bike use is growing fast and Chicago is putting in some work to define itself as a bike-friendly city. They have innovations other places could well imitate.

Chicago is mostly flat, which helps, though like Amsterdam it has wind to contend with.

We wouldn’t yet say that lots of Chicagoans are using their bikes for commuting or shopping, but there’s a good enough sprinkling of cyclists in any city street to encourage us to think that critical mass (the time when there are so many cyclists around that drivers automatically expect them) is soon to be reached.

In the meantime, Chicago has cycling signage around the city, dedicated cycling lanes and some great recreational paths.

Where there’s waterfront, it’s a no-brainer to put a cycle path along it, The shores of Lake Michigan get a great workout on a Sunday morning.

Renting a bike is cheap and easy in Chicago.

Helmet wearing is optional…

…though the police always wear theirs.

And Denmark is the only place outside Chicago where I’ve seen buses with bike racks. Even in Holland, if buses replace trains for part of the trip, your bike can’t be transported, so you’re stuck.

The writer was the guest of The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.

13 Comments

Filed under Cycling, USA

13 responses to “CYCLING USA – Chicago gets it right

  1. Hey Richard,
    Good observation about Chicago. Two years ago some Dutch experts went to Chicago to help the Department of Transport to implement cycle infrastructure. They are making great progress to make cycling convenient and an everyday activity.
    Outside the USA I have seen buses with bike racks on a trailer in Germany and Austria. Especially in use in tourist areas to go up hill. I never used them yet.

    • Thanks Herbert.

      It was really good (and unexpected) to see this sort of work going into an American city. I’m also yet to use bus/bike transport myself, but I have been stuck even in the Netherlands, when a train was replaced by a bus and I suddenly couldn’t move my bike, well at least without doing a very long pedal!

  2. Brisbane in Australia has bike racks on buses too

    • I didn’t know that, but I’m very pleased to hear it. Sydney should be next…come on, Sydney, before Melbourne beats you to it!

    • Paul Martin

      No they don’t.

      They did have bike racks on Brisbane’s buses many, many years ago as a trial. It was scrapped after a year (or less) and the racks sold to interstate buyers.

      There are no bike racks near bus stops, and only some train stations have anything resembling decent bicycle storage options. Nothing like the decent lines of bicycle racks (under a simple roof) like in The Netherlands. Ours are rubbish metal loops out in the elements, usually located near waste bins in an insecure location. Don’t expect your bike to be there when you return…

      Dr P Martin
      Brisbane, Australia

      • Bummer! What went wrong,Paul?

      • Thanks for updating me, I live on the Goldcoast and don’t go to Brisbane often and just remember the big promotion when they started using the racks on buses. Have been travelling a lot and didn’t know it had been discontinued. I agree about useless bike racks, same on the GC.

  3. psteckler

    All the buses here in Portland, Oregon have bike racks on them (of course).

  4. psteckler

    I was living in Sydney until the end of 2011. While there, I wrote to Sydney Buses, asking them why they didn’t have bike racks. I received back a form letter, with a litany of excuses. Later, I wrote to Clover Moore, the Lord Mayor and a big cycling proponent. She sent my message along to the NSW Transport Minister, who replied with a similar litany of excuses. Adding bike racks to buses would really help commuters in Sydney. You can already bring your bike on the trains and ferries.

    • Yes, I have taken my bike on Sydney trains and ferries and very convenient it is too. Well done for being so active. We’ll just have to keep up the agitation for the buses to come to the party as well.

  5. It is a good observation on Chicago. The people of Chicago are using their bikes for commuting or shopping. That’s why the get more benefits, such as it is a good exercise. And they save fuel, and also control the air pollution in Chicago.

    • All very good things, BRCP. Thanks for the visit. We live in Amsterdam, so we’re naturally very keen to promote cycling as a part of normal life and it was good to see some of that happening in Chicago.

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