It’s far from perfect — there aren’t enough protected lanes, and there are way too many crashes. But speaking as someone who’s been commuting on a beat-up hybrid for 22 years, I can say that biking in Chicago has never been better. There are more people on bikes, which improves safety for everyone, and more drivers have grudgingly accepted our existence. The bike lane network was about 350 miles at the start of 2021. It’s been growing, and Chicago Department of Transportation plans to expand it to 450 miles by the end of this year, and the Divvy bike-share system is spreading all over the city.
When people ask me why I commute by bike, I joke that it’s because I love food and hate diets. But it can really be the best way to get around. It’s more private than the CTA and less isolating than a car. It’s green, and a unique way to see the city. You’re outside and aren’t going too fast to observe things — changes in seasons, buildings going up or down, kids playing, public art. You can eavesdrop on other people’s conversations just long enough to be intrigued, but not enough to get sucked in. And we’re on a prairie — so it’s mostly flat, easy riding. With the Lakefront, Bloomingdale, and Major Taylor Trails and other paths and “greenways” connecting parks and neighborhoods, there are plenty of good places to give city biking a try.