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What I like best about bicycling in Chicago

In an interview with a student reporter I gave this past weekend, I was asked to say what I like best about bicycling in Chicago.

I didn’t want to give an answer that would have been true about bicycling in any other city – the question was about here and not about riding a bike. My first answer may seem to disparage Chicago (maybe it won’t be printed…) but a few questions later I told the reporter I wanted to revisit this question.

My new answer put bicycling in Chicago in an extremely positive light and I was being entirely truthful:

What I like best about bicycling in Chicago is the existence of many and diverse subcultures. I mentioned that you can find a group of people who like riding fixed gear bikes, or find a group of parents who ride with their children, or even a group of cargo bike owners (actually, this subculture hasn’t taken off yet – I need to work on that). There are also group rides for every occasion, including one on Sunday for May Day, the Haymarket Ride to Union Park

I felt relieved that I was able to eventually answer this question. I didn’t want to leave the interview telling the reporter that I didn’t like anything about bicycling IN Chicago.

The 2010 Perimeter Ride rolls out after a late dinner at Superdawg. Photo by Eric Rogers.

You may have heard me on the radio this morning in Chicago

Here’s the audio clip of my interview with WGN 720 AM producer Rob Hart about biking in Chicago and the bike crash map I made. It aired this morning – I had no idea until someone left me a comment on a Flickr photo that they heard me.

Listen now: Steven Vance on biking and bike crashes in Chicago on WGN.mp3 (will play in your browser).

I am too nervous to listen to this. I’m sure I said something wrong or misspoke.

Biking in Chicago is fun and you should do it. You don’t need special gear or equipment and you can buy a cheap bike at Working Bikes in Pilsen, at 2434 S Western Avenue.

Transcript

[ding, ding]

A little bell may be what comes to mind when you think of riding your bike, but the reality is more like this.

[sounds of traffic]

A busy street full of cars, trucks, and buses. With drivers who are looking at something else.

Me: There’s a lot of driveways. A lot of drivers are making right and left turns and if you ride too close to the curb they will probably not see you, so you have to ride sometimes outside the bike lane if you want to be noticed.

Steven Vance ditched his car 5 years ago. He rides his bike all over the city and he says sometimes it’s a white knuckled experience.

Me: It can be. It does take a little bit of resolve. Sometimes your nerves will get frayed, but I think the benefit outweighs the cost.

After a newspaper [Bay Citizen] in San Francisco mapped out bike crashes on its website, Vance decided to plot bike crashes in the Chicago area on his.

Me: I saw that, and I thought, “You know what, I think I can do that.” I asked the Illinois Department of Transportation for the data and they promptly sent it over and I, as quickly as possible, put it online.

The diagonal streets are the worst, he found, and that includes Milwaukee Avenue.

Me: You could find Milwaukee just by the number of dots representing the crashes. You didn’t need a label to say that this was Milwaukee Avenue. You could tell simply by the string, the constant string of dots.

 

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