The Chainlink

This may have already been discussed but nothing came up in my search anyway:

 

I typically take Elston on my commute from Skokie to the Medical District but decided to try Milwaukee Ave. this morning since so many bikers use it. I really don't get it, because to me Elston seems much wider, there is a dedicated bike lane (for whatever that's worth at times) not a sharrowed lane which Milwaukee seems to primarily be, the road surface on Elston is much better, no bus traffic, there is no construction now (several spots on Milwaukee), Elston doesn't have to deal with people getting to the CTA train stations or onto the highway (almost right hooked there this morning), less traffic early in the morning and fewer stop lights/sings to deal with.

 

Please enlighten me as to why everyone prefers Milwaukee. I usually don't see other bike commuters on Elston in the morning (granted I'm riding between 5 and 6 am) whereas I saw at least 6 headed toward downtown this morning.

 

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While it has never been my regular commute route, I've used Milwaukee more often because it was closer to where I was going.  There are a lot more places on/near Milwaukee where I'm likely to stop along the way, too.

 

Elston is less congested, but traffic moves faster there, sometimes a lot faster.  Safety-wise, it's a trade-off between fast moving cars that may right hook you and slower traffic with bus obstructions and greater risk of dooring.  Pavement quality has varied over the years.  In some years/locations, Elston has been better, but sometimes Milwaukee has the advantage.

 

There are pros and cons to each route.  It depends a lot on your start/end locations, preferred travel speed, places you might want to stop along the way, etc.

This topic has come up before.   Yeah, I can't stand Milwaukee either.   People use it because they believe (incorrectly) that filtering between stopped cars is safer than riding next to "fast" traffic.  Also, the Ashland/Elston intersection heading north is tricky and you need to take the right lane, which many people are too scared to do.

Elston has some weird/bad intersections that I don't personally like, and a lot of strange zigs and zags of the bike lane that I fear might confuse cars as to where exactly the bike lane is where it jumps around from parking to no-parking zones.  That makes me uncomfortable in them at times as the lane shoots left into what the cars might think is "their lane" when it isn't marked with very bright paint.    

 

There are some bad intersections and spots on Milwaukee too.  North is one of them.  I particularly dislike the spot right before it crosses the expressway heading downtown where there is this huge unmarked killzone as cars are zipping by trying to get onto the onramp crossing bike traffic with about zero regard for our life and limb.

 

Milwaukee has a TON more bike traffic and with more traffic comes increased awareness.  Milwaukee just FEELS safer as the cars driving down it seem to be more aware of us and expect us to be there.  Elston is not nearly as accepting and is a bike ghostown of a bike lane in comparison, and in many spots it seems that cars are zipping by closer and faster because of this.  Perhaps it is just a perception. -Milwaukee just seems to have that safety in numbers vibe.

 

When it comes down to it I mostly will use Milwaukee just because I live right off of it in Logan Square. Heading over to Elston isn't convenient for me (I hate riding Diversey from California-ish all the way to Elston as it sucks) and few of the options to cross the expressway and/or river are good.  If I need to go East  I take Logan to Elston and use it to go a little south before heading East again.   The Damon Bridge is a good way across the river if a bit out of the way and turning left onto it is kind of tricky due to the way that light is timed.  That's the way I go to get to Menards or Dominicks and that area.  

 

But if I'm heading downtown Milwaukee is the path of least resistance as it goes the right way and I'm only a couple hundred feet away from it. If I lived on Elston I'd probably take it more often for the same reasons.  

 

I agree that right now the construction and other issues makes Milwaukee kind of crappy.  I stay away from downtown most of the time as there isn't much that interests me and I rarely need to go further south than Wicker park unless I'm just joyriding.  Not much of that in the winter as there is much less joy in riding for me as I really dislike the cold  If I could hibernate in the winter I would.

 

Off on a tangent -I LOVE the idea of a stop sing!  Get together a bunch of carolers and sing songs to the bikes riding by!

 

;)

I love the picture - stop sing - that's what I get for posting using my smartypants phone. Maybe we should  have a flash mob biker sing on Milwaukee or Elston on of these days or at the March Critical Mass ride.  :-)

 

I guess I am not too bothered by the faster traffic (the stuff on Elston is nothing compared to the cagers on Pulaski). As far as the zig-zaggy bike lane, I usually just maintain a straight, predictable line by taking the lane especially by the Micro Center/Target shopping area.

 

That Ashland/Elston intersection does suck and, like you envane x, I take the right lane and usually indicate to passing traffic I intend on going straight on Elston.

I think that Milwaukee is a place to be seen for some riders.
I commute to the loop everyday using Milwaukee, it has its pros/cons as James identified. My laziness (I live in Logan Square) and ease of stopping at bar on the way home trumps going out to Elston. The construction near Division is not too bad. I have seen worse ^_^

I hadn't been downtown in a long time when I went to the mass at the end of Jan and was really surprised at how bad the construction on Milwaukee was that day.  Whoah!  

 

I was a sickly wuss and skipped CM last Friday so I don't know if it is any better down south of Wicker Park as I just have no need to ride further down there much unless I'm riding with my wife to her work just for fun or going to CM.  She doesn't ride in the winter at all because she hates the cold even more than me.  I'm hoping that Milwaukee is mostly finished with the construction for a while.  If not, I might end up taking Elston more.  

I personally loved Elston over Milwaukee when I used to commute from Logan Square. I always felt safe on Elston, no pressure from cars and the commuting bicyclists were a different breed than on Milwaukee.

 

It seemed that on Milwaukee I was always getting passed by other bicyclists very close, on the right/left, making dangerous moves in the bike lane and in traffic. I didn't see that on Elston.

 

If I didn't take Milwaukee, I would choose what I call the Logan Local route.

 

Thanks,

Ethan Spotts, Marketing & Communications Director, Active Trans

I always ride Elston when going up to the NBT, but if I'm riding around the city it tends to leave me further from my destination.  I agree that the bike lanes on Elston are much better than riding on Milwaukee between Divion and North especially. 

 

I do notice on my way up to the NBT that Elston feeling like riding the same block for 7 miles.  The scenery never seems to change and the time riding down it just seems to go slower than the miles riding on the path.  There are few destination on Elston and little in terms of entertainment.  For hammering through some miles its great, but its like riding in a straight line through corn fields. 

Yea, that's one of my favorite things about Elston; you can really get zoned out and put in a good effort without worrying about getting doored, missing a turn, or other distractions. I have noticed that I've gotten in more "Cat 6" commuter races on North Elston when there's other people out with the same ideas.

 

Sometimes it seems like the route to the NBT goes on and on and on...
Liz said:


I do notice on my way up to the NBT that Elston feeling like riding the same block for 7 miles.  The scenery never seems to change and the time riding down it just seems to go slower than the miles riding on the path.  There are few destination on Elston and little in terms of entertainment.  For hammering through some miles its great, but its like riding in a straight line through corn fields. 


+1  this is exactly how I feel.  Elston is depressing as hell.  Either it is wasteland urban blight or mini-mall hell.  There aren't many destinations on that road that interest me unless you count Home Depot or JoAnne's Fabric.  Microcenter and PetSmart maybe. But those are all really near me anyhow so if I go there I'm coming off logan and ride Elston a whole 200 yards before pulling of into that shopping plaza.  

 

Nothing North or south of that area calls to me until Trader Joes and that shopping area around North.    There is Erehwon in that area -and oh yeah  MooseJaw a little north of that if you scoot over on webster to cross the river get get to Clyborn.  But overall there are MANY MANY more interesting shopping and hanging out places directly on Milwaukee.  If it wasn't for the things listed above I'd probably never go over to Elston.    Rarely do I ever go much further south than North Ave unless I have to go to REI and I hate REI as it has become the walmart of sporting stores.  To heck with them. I'd rather go to the other places I listed.

 

It's a rarity for me to wander very far from the Logan Square/Bucktown area.  Wicker Park, Lincoln/Old Town, Roscoe, maybe some Avondale but I don't really ever NEED to leave that area for anything I require short of leaving town all together to go up to Madison (too far to bicycle) to check on my parents.   The only time I venture farther than this 4-5 mile radius is if I'm bored and just riding around exploring or riding CM.  I'm ususally not that bored to go joyriding in cold weather (brr) -I only leave the house when I need to in the winter.  

 

Milwaukee street has just about everything I'm looking for so I find myself on it more often than not.   Perhaps that's similar to why so many others are riding it.  

 


Liz said:

I do notice on my way up to the NBT that Elston feeling like riding the same block for 7 miles.  The scenery never seems to change and the time riding down it just seems to go slower than the miles riding on the path.  There are few destination on Elston and little in terms of entertainment.  For hammering through some miles its great, but its like riding in a straight line through corn fields. 

I would never dare choose Milwaukee over Elston.  What am I ... some sort of philistine ??

Remember t.s. eliot and pick Elston more times than not to be more "real"



The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,

Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends

Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed

And their friends, the loitering heirs of city director;

Departed, have left no addresses



(.... poetic enough?) 

I am joking, btw ... both streets work well for any cyclist's Chicago destination(s)

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