The Chainlink

Should We Set Up an L.A. Bike Trains-style Program in Chicago?

By Jared Verbeke

Five years ago when I first started cycling, I often rode with a bike club in Champaign Illinois. I used to love going out on the back roads with the local bike club to ride bikes with two dozen other people because I would stop constantly worrying about my safety and enjoy the scenery and comradery. After all, who wouldn’t be able to see a huge pack of cyclists, all donning bright clothes riding two abreast down the roadside? It was such a peaceful way to get into cycling and ultimately riding with the group is what made cycling so much fun for me. It was safe and, of course, the miles flew by faster because riding with the group was so social.


When I moved to Chicago and started commuting to work by bike I remember wishing that I could ride with a group of people to and from work every day. In the couple of years since I’ve learned the best ways to get around the city and I now feel fairly safe on my commute. However, I know a lot of people who would like to feel safe riding through the city but just don’t.


Lately, I’ve started to ask my coworkers at Jellyvision, a small tech company with mostly 20 and 30 year olds, why more of them don’t ride their bike to work. Most people live within a 10 mile radius of Jellyvision and most of them would save time, improve their fitness, and save money by biking to work. We have showers and an indoor bike storage space, so it seems like the perfect commute-to-work situation. The overwhelming answer that I always seem to get is, “I don’t feel safe riding my bike in the city,” or “I don’t know how you ride next to all the cars!”


I totally get that answer because I can remember visiting Chicago when I was 18 and being freaked out driving alongside cyclists. It’s a daunting task thinking about getting into cycling, especially in Chicago. You need a bike, a helmet and you’ll have to learn the best roads and the best routes through the city.

What if we had something to help people make this leap? What if we could slowly start converting everyday drivers into every day bike commuters? In my mind, even if we only convert a few people, then we will have made a difference.


I’d like to start a Chicago chapter of what are known as “bike trains.” A bike train is a social group of cyclists that commute along a specified route. Bike trains have a conductor that is the ride leader. They make sure everyone follows the rules of the road, they follow the specific route that is safe, and they are trained to help anyone from a beginner to an advanced cyclist make it to work safely. A great example of a bike train organization is L.A. Bike Trains. Check out their website at www.labiketrains.com.


I’m looking for anyone that might be interested in learning more or helping to get this effort of the ground. In the next few weeks, I’ll be speaking with the team at L.A. Bike Trains to learn more about their organization and I’ll be putting together a specific business plan that will help us get organized. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from anyone that has any thoughts on starting a Chicago Bike Trains chapter.


Enjoy biking in this beautiful weather and let’s start getting some of our coworkers to bike to work!


Happy Biking!

Please comment below if you are interested in this possible program. You can also contact Jared directly.

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Comment by David of the North (David606xx) on June 12, 2015 at 1:40pm

I like where you're going with this. For years I've mulled and mulled but never acted on an idea for a "Pulse-Mass" where everybody would meet up near downtown and send a peloton up a particular street every 20 minutes or so to take the lane and allow commuters to ride safe and free.

I ride Clark Street every day from Rogers Park to River North and back again during rush hours. Post an event if you start the ball rolling on this and I'll throw my shoulder to the wheel!

Comment by Tominator on May 19, 2015 at 2:07pm

Chicago Bike Buddies works with noobs to teach them how to ride their commute.

http://chicagobikebuddies.com/

I rode with the Champaign Cycling Club when I was in college at UIUC. Really learned how to ride cooperatively, in a group. Best training anywhere.

Comment by Serge Lubomudrov on May 12, 2015 at 5:08pm

Interesting... East Lakeview to South-West Loop, arriving by 8 a.m.

Comment by Peter Taylor on May 12, 2015 at 4:24pm

Keep an eye on www.majortaylorchicago.com . A couple of times a year we do a major-does-metra ride.  We ride out to the end of the line and ride back.

Comment by Tommy Boy on April 24, 2015 at 11:26am
I would volunteer and help teach people. I am sick of hearing people say it is too dangerous to ride in the city. Statistically it is more dangerous to be a pedestrian or in a car.
Comment by Marcusn on April 19, 2015 at 9:58am

I occasionally ride from here in Lake Bluff, to River north. I pass through all the various suburbs along the lake, and would be thrilled to introduce/lead anyone to bike commuting. I could potentially meet up with anyone along the northshore. I don't ride too fast (about 13-14mph) and leave Lake Bluff about 5:15am, arrive downtown around 8:30am. I should note, I don't usually ride home the same day. 

Comment by Andy J on April 15, 2015 at 6:34pm
Glenview to Evanston here. Would love to join others going the same way.
Comment by Skip Montanaro 14.5mi on April 12, 2015 at 5:19pm
I'd be happy to participate in an Evanston-Loop bike train. I follow three different routes to/from work, so I'm pretty flexible. I am generally at work from about 7:30 to 4:00.
Comment by Jeff Markus on April 12, 2015 at 5:01pm

As an avid vehicular cyclist I applaud the concept of 'bike trains'.

I will be commuting a new route this year but am still on a mfg schedule (at the shop at 6AM outta there at 3:30P).

I would be glad to do the train twixt Harlem and 15th in Melrose Park leaving Harlem about 5:30-5:40. There is construction at the river that would definitely gain from bikers being able to 'take the lane' thru the zone.

Jeff

currently I run out Fullerton to the Forest Preserves and slip around to Grand to the 'hoods avoiding the 'burban 4lanes because at that hour drivers are too bizzy putting on make-up and drinkin' coffee to trust...gee do I sound ... yup I am so a group would be nice.

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