A map that focuses on striped bikeways in downtown Chicago.

When you look at your bikeways more abstractly, like in the graphic above, do you see deficiencies or gaps in the network? Anything glaring or odd?

It’s a simple exercise: Open up QGIS and load in the relevant geographic data for your city. For Chicago, I added the city boundary, hydrography and parks (for locational reference), and bike lanes and marked-shared lanes*. Symbolize the bikeways to stand out in a bright color. I had the Chicago Transit Authority stations overlaid, but I removed them because it minimized the “black hole of bikeways” I want to show.

What do you see?

Bigger impact map

This exercise can have more impact if it was visualized differently. You have to be familiar with downtown Chicago and the Loop to fully understand why it’s important to notice what’s missing. It’s an extremely office and job dense neighborhood. It also has one of the highest densities of students in the country; the number of people residing downtown continues to grow. If I had good data on how many workers and students there were per building, I could indicate that on the map to show just how many people are potentially affected by the lack of bicycle infrastructure that leads them to their jobs (or class) in the morning, and home in the evening. I don’t know how to account for all of the bicycling that goes through downtown just for events, like at Millennium and Grant Parks, the Cultural Center, and other theaters and venues.

*If you cannot find GIS data for your city, please let me know and I will try to help you find it. It should be available for your city as a matter of course.

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.
  • Jonathan R
  • jason tinkey

    I would love to see the open grate on the Kinzie St bridge covered. It’s the best route from the Milwaukee corridor into downtown, apart from that.

    • Steven Vance

      I’m glad you bring this up. I made a map of the treated and untreated bridges (CDOT parlance) in Google My Maps. Here’s the link:

      The size of the bubble is based on the length of the untreated portion of the bridge.

      We can take a pragmatic approach to this.
      1. Which bridge has the most bike crashes? (There’s no existing data for this.)
      2. Which bridge has the most traffic? (This part is easy.)

  • Steven Fleming

    I wonder if this means cyclists are tending to buy houses closer to the lake, even if that means living way up North or down South? Alternatively, would I, as a cyclist, look for a house near a bike lane that runs perpendicular to the lake, that I would then ride along? A slightly longer trip, but a nice one.

    • Steven Vance

      It’d be interesting to know what effect the presence or lack of bike lanes has on housing location selection.