Switching out your daily commute for a bike ride can offer benefits to your physical health and mental wellbeing. You can also reduce your carbon footprint by choosing to ride on hybrid bicycles rather than driving. If you’re thinking about starting to ride a bike to work in Chicago, here are a few tips to help with the transition to a cycling commute.
Research Bike-Friendly Routes
The safest place to ride a bike in Chicago – or any city – is on a designated bike path or in a bike lane. Riders on city bikes have access to more than 200 miles of bike lanes, including marked shared lanes and neighborhood bike routes. The city has made significant efforts to expand the number of bike lanes in recent years, with the goal of establishing a 645-mile network of bike paths in the city’s Chicago Streets for Cycling Plan 2020. The plan sets goals including providing more bike paths where more people live and to build more infrastructure where bike ridership is high. Make the most of all those pathways by finding a route that includes bike lanes and paved trails. The City of Chicago offers several bike maps, parking information and planning documents on the city’s website.
Take Precautions to Stay Safe
Sticking to bike lanes helps reduce the risk of accidents while you’re on the road. Still, it’s important for riders on commuter bikes to be aware of potential hazards like car doors opening into car lanes or cars turning across them. You can also consider alternate routes that go through quieter neighborhoods, rather than along busy city streets.
Wear Layers to Extend the Biking Season
Chicago is known for its chilly winters with blowing winds. That type of weather can make commuting to work by bike a challenge. Riders on hybrid bicycles can extend their outdoor commuting season into the chillier months by wearing appropriate clothing. Wear layers so you can adapt to the weather as your body temperature rises on a longer ride. Plan for a base layer that will wick away sweat to help keep you dry, a middle layer to keep heat in and provide insulation, and an outer shell to ward with wind and rain. Keep your head and ears warm by adding a hat or fleece-lined headband under your helmet.
Maximize Comfort and Safety With the Right Gear
All riders should wear a well-fitted helmet when they’re navigating the city. Look for one that meets safety regulations, sits comfortably on the top of your head, and has straps that can be adjusted for a fit that’s snug, but not too tight. Commuters can add fenders to keep roadway dirt and muck from getting kicked up onto their work clothes while they ride. A bike basket or pannier packs are more comfortable for hauling work supplies than a backpack or messenger bag.
When you’re ready to take the leap into commuting to work by bike, you’ll need a sturdy ride. Find a reliable vendor of hybrid bicycles and other types of bikes for the best selection and service.