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Chicago cycle paths

The cycle-friendly Wind City

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Regardless of the perennial wind, Chicago's other constant is the (equally durable) presence of bicycles. In this dynamic metropolis, cycling has increasingly become the main way to get around. It is no longer merely a pastime or a way to exercise, but instead a genuine alternative for everyday commuting. The “Chicago Streets for Cycling Project 2020”is in fact the tangible result of this evolution, an ambitious initiative that aims to turn the city into a paradise for cyclists. The idea, which was launched by city Mayor Rahm Emanuel, aims to make Chicago the number one bike city in the United States.

The base

The project does not limit itself to a simple list with scores. With 645 miles of innovative cycle paths, the plan in fact offers all Chicago residents, from the youngest to the elderly, a safe and convenient network of cycle paths. This has been a genuine improvement on the quality of life of its citizens, with a positive impact on several aspects of urban dynamism, from promoting physical exercise to a general reduction in transport costs. Over the years, thanks to its cycle-friendly initiatives, Chicago, has reduced CO2eq by 352.7g for each mile. At the same time, all this has resulted in economic development, with new business opportunities that have since opened along the new paths and that consequently offer increased appeal for potential investors.

The project is based on three key guiding principles: ensuring a network that is accessible to all residents, focusing on the most populous areas and enhancing the cycling infrastructure in areas with high levels of utilisation. These principles were developed through a participatory process that involved the Chicago community actively, ensuring that the needs and preferences of its citizens were taken into account. A key element of the project was in fact the “Neighborhood bike lanes”, that wind their way along the quiet, mostly residential streets. These trails are designed to connect local destinations, such as shops, parks, schools and public transport, and to offer a safe alternative to congested roads. The result was the creation of a low-stress cycling environment with minimal speed and traffic volumes. In addition, the implementation of new types of cycle paths, such as the neighborhood Greenways, barrier-protected lanes and buffer-protected lanes have been the focus of attention. This infrastructure provides increased safety for cyclists and encourages increased use of bicycles as a means of transport.

The lanes

Some itineraries stand out in particular for their beauty and historical interest. One of them is the “Lake front Trail”, a route which stretches for about 18 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan. This path offers breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline and the sparkling waters of the lake, which is also home to parks, beaches and other attractions that make the cycling experience unforgettable.

Another unmissable itinerary is “The 606”, also known as “Bloomingdale Trail”. This trail stretches for about 2.7 miles through several neighborhoods of the city, allowing cyclists to ride through urbanised areas and enjoy unique views.

For those looking for a more relaxing experience, the “North Branch Trail” follows the course of the Chicago River through parks and nature reserves. This route offers the perfect opportunity to surround yourselves in nature without straying too far from the city.

Whether it's enjoying the views of the lakeside beaches or exploring the historic neighborhoods, in the windy city there is therefore something for all cycling enthusiasts, and with the implementation of this ambitious vision, Chicago has become an example of excellence in urban cycling, inspiring other cities in the United States and around the world.