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Can’t Get a Cab Today? Grab a Bike

If you’re going just a couple of miles in Chicago, getting there by bike is usually the fastest option—and it usually beats public transportation on longer trips.

A surprisingly speedy way to go.   Photo: Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune

A bunch of Chicago taxi drivers are going on strike today to protest the city’s recent decision to allow ride-share companies such as Uber to pick up passengers at the airports and at McCormick Place. It’s not clear how many drivers will participate in the strike. But if a cab shortage forces you to consider other ways to get from Point A to Point B, the fastest alternative is likely to be—surprise!—pedaling a bike. At least for trips under 20 minutes.

That’s the conclusion of the Social Computing Group at MIT. As part of its tremendous You Are Here project, it used directions from Google Maps to determine the fastest way to get from any point in Chicago to any other point in the city (or at least the center of any census block group to the center of any other block).

For commutes of about two to two and a half miles—or 20 to 25 minutes by bike—MIT finds that cycling is almost always faster than public transportation or driving. The team mapped out commuting time between census blocks, and you can see in the image below the fastest way to get from the selected census block to others (yellow is bicycling, blue is public transit, and red is driving). For almost all census blocks, for anything within a 20-minute trip, biking is the fastest way to get there.

Click the image below to check out the best mode of transportation (and time estimate) for different routes in the city.

Of course, these estimates don’t (necessarily) apply if you’re disabled. That’s been an issue with Uber, too. And as I’ve learned since I became a parent and started navigating the city with a large stroller, not being able to use stairs cuts off a fair number of El stations.

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