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Ask Chicagoist: City Bike Paths?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on May 16, 2006 2:12PM

I always see these signs in Wicker Park. .. but I'm wondering exactly what they are. Southeast to downtown. Does that mean that if I just keep going on Milwaukee Ave. I'll end up downtown? Is this a citywide urban bike path, or what? What if I want to go somewhere else, not downtown? (see attached photos)

2006_05_askbikepath.jpgChicagoist thinks May is one of the flightiest and most manic depressive months on the calendar. We can't keep track from one moment to the next what the weather is supposed to be like, so while we’re itching to bring out the bikes, it seems that whenever the sun graces us with its presence and we’re about to go for a ride it starts pouring rain or the temperature drops below freezing. And, sadly for us, we just can’t bring ourselves to become all-weather hardcore bikers -- we tend to limit our bike riding to the nicer weather. Happily though, June will be here soon enough, and Memorial Day weekend our favorite "bike path" will be open for a quick morning ride.

As for the signs, yes, they are telling you the best route (according the city) to take if you’re on a bike and heading to a particular place. The green informational signs indicate that you’re on a bike route, and if you keep following them you’ll wind up where they say you will. If you take a look at the official Chicago Bike Map you’ll see that Milwaukee Ave. is labeled as a "recommended bike route" and then turns into an "existing bike lane" right before it hits close to downtown. These recommended routes tend to showcase the streets that are going to be the friendliest to bikers, and hopefully on these streets you’ll be at least a little less likely to be injured by a distracted driver -- although frankly we wouldn’t bank on it (don't forget your helmet).

The signs tend to show popular destinations, like downtown or the lakefront, but of course you’re allowed to deviate from the signage and plan your own route to Uncle Bob’s house (which may not be a common enough city highlight to put on a sign). According to the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, the signs, which the city adopted in August 2005, conform to the new national standard for bike route signage, and should be seen nationwide by 2008.

Wondering if it’s really like riding a bike? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.