Scenes From My New Commute

My new commute is not very different from my old one.  The biggest difference is that my office is not by the lake, so it makes sense to take city streets the whole way instead of the Lakefront Trail.  The other big difference is that  I don’t have to ride through downtown.

The streets I take have either bike lanes or marked shared lanes.  As you can see below, I’m able to slide past car traffic in the bike lane.

Car Traffic

Unfortunately, the bike lanes are all directly in the door zone.

Door Zone

In the short stretch below, car are not yet parked in the morning. For a few brief moments, I can breath freely. If the entire route provided this much room for bikes, it would change my life. Seriously.

Breathing Room

Here are some more obstacles.

A huge hole cut in the bike lane with no warning or bright paint. Hope you’re paying attention, cyclists!

Inexplicable road gouge

Watch out

I’ve never seen a parked Hummer that did not encroach on the bike lane.



This delivery truck left lots of room between him and the curb, content to park in the middle of the bike lane.

Truck in bike lane

Truck in bike lane

And of course, potholes.


Almost there, downtown is looming.

Downtown in the distance

Despite all of the obstacles, it’s still better than driving or taking public transportation.


I wonder how different my commute looks from other peoples’ commutes. Are these photos foreign to you or somewhat like what you encounter everyday?

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51 thoughts on “Scenes From My New Commute

  1. Elisa M says:

    completely foreign. My commutes have absolutely no bike lanes at all. The 1 bike lane we have is also in the door lane, so I don’t ride it. Bike lanes in door zones make me wish for sharrows (another discussion completely!).
    Do you miss the Lakefront trail?

    • dottie says:

      I’ll still be taking the Lakefront Trail for fun once or twice a week. I can’t give up the beautiful views, even if it takes me longer to get to work. The city street route is mostly the same route I used to take when I did not take the path.

      I guess I should be grateful for the bike lanes, although I always complain about them.

  2. G.E. says:

    Well, since I’m not working at the present, and school is 32 miles one way, I can’t bike there. But, when I was working, my bike commute was somewhat similar. There are definitely tons of potholes, so if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to lose it. They’ve recently been fixing them, so part of that problem is resolved. In addition, the traffic on the main road was travelling at approximately 75+ mph, so it was definitely scary when they’d swing over into the bike lane (which is actually just the shoulder of the highway). Once into town, there is no shoulder and no bike lane, so it’s REALLY scary because no one pays attention. It’s funny, they call our city a “bicycle friendly” city, but yet some of the major roads don’t even have bike lanes or space for a bike to even ride. Then there are the people who insist on honking at bicyclists when they’re just trying to make their way along their journey. Because I don’t live in a major city, there aren’t many streets with the issue of cars parked parallel on the road, but on those that do have parallel parking, many are parked much like the Hummer you noted. I’m convinced people are just highly unaware of their surroundings, and/or they think the world revolved around them.

  3. Stephen says:

    I don’t have any bike lanes on my commute. It’s mostly quiet local streets and a few tree-lined minor and major collectors, with one crossing of an urban artery. Going through the city cemetery is in ways the most beautiful and interesting part. But there are very other cyclists. It’s green, but kinda lonely.

    I think your commute is very interesting. I’d trade a few tree-lined streets for a few urban ones with peds, other cyclists, and interesting buildings. Maybe the grass is simply greener, but I think downtown and near-downtown Chicago is fascinating.

  4. laurencon says:

    I always worry about going into a particularly deep pothole and falling off my bike into traffic. Going south on Damen just before you hit Van Buren there is a huge one that freaks me out every time.
    Bike lanes are new to me, since I moved here recently from Richmond, VA. It is easier to bike here, but cars don’t expect you to veer suddenly out of the bike lane to avoid a pot hole. I’ve been yelled at by drivers for not being far enough in the bike lane, too.

  5. Lucas says:

    Despite all of the obstacles, it’s still better than driving or taking public transportation.

    I couldn’t agree more… but I do have one question; why is the part of the road in need of the MOST repair, ALWAYS the bike lane?

  6. Miss sarah says:

    The potholes. Yours look rough too! Ours are epic.

  7. Doug says:

    Much different. I live and work in a city of 87,000 people. I take a scenic road on ridge overlooking the city and Lake Superior for most of the distance I cover. It is a wooded ridge most of the way with little traffic. I see more deer, fox, skunks, and porcupines than I do cars. Even a black bear near the public golf course once.

    When I drop down and take city streets, there is no infrastructure for anything but cars. No bike lanes at all.

  8. Carrie says:

    a bit different on the Prairies – our buildings are all shorter! Our potholes are obnoxiously deep and could seriously crunch car/bike wheels if you hit ’em (I hit one my first year thinking it was shallow and it ripped my muffler off my car – definitely would have crushed my wheels on my bike…or my head!), and Winnipeg’s idea of a bike lane is to just paint a silhouette of a bike on the right side of the lane (nope, the lane isn’t any bigger, just the regular single car lane but with a bike graphic on it?!?). Some shoulders are paved, some roads have no shoulder….but when I was downtown today I noticed that they’ve started putting a few dedicated bike lanes in some of the one way streets (they’re not on the side of the road, but in the middle?), so there’s hope yet!

    • dukiebiddle says:

      Those silhouettes do not indicate a bike lane. They are sharrows, and many, myself included, feel they are far more safe than many poorly designed on-street designated bike lanes. I’d be interested in hearing more about those middle of the lane bike lanes (although those might be a different kind of sharrow – intended for slower speed shared traffic – but still awesome).

      • Giffe says:

        I used to be very intimidated by sharrows before I figured out how to use them!

        (Why does it seem like every intimidates me? :) )

      • Carrie says:

        This was making me nuts, so I called City Hall. OK, so now you can color me “embarassed” – the “goofy” bike lane? Not so goofy. – They rezoned a few downtown streets since I last worked there and made the former outside driving lane a parking lane. Bike path now runs between parking lane on the right, and two driving lanes to the left. Now I’m picturing picking the driver’s side door outta my teeth! I think you’re right, I trust the sharrows more.

  9. Scott says:

    Hey, that looks like Lincoln Ave to Wells. It seems like you have a mix of decent bike lanes and some crap cycling sections. Just like my ride to work down Milwaukee and Clinton. If you want to switch it up (or visit Stanley’s for fresh veggies on the way home), Damen->Elston->Milwaukee is an option.

    I also commuted on the lake front path for a couple years. At first I didn’t like the streets as much, but now I prefer it, especially in the winter.

    • dottie says:

      Yup. I may try D->E->M sometime, although it would be a longer route. The only potential problem is that I’d have to take Chicago Ave across the River. Do you know if that is safe?

      • Scott says:

        Oh yeah. I take Chicago Ave over to Milwaukee all the time. I like to stop at the Whole Foods on Dearborn. I saw two other dutch bikes parked outside Northwestern when I stopped there after work and rode Chicago to Milwaukee this week.

        Another one I like is Southport to Clybourn to Wells. This can avoid the double river crossing of Damen and Chicago.

      • chibikegal says:

        I take the Chicago Ave bridge often, it is my main route to Michigan Ave. But whatever you do, don’t try to cheat on the sidewalk going east, as there are steps on the east side…which one might not notice til the last minute… causing a wildly flailing demonstration of how not to ride a bicycle down a flight of steps…

    • E A says:

      I do that often. :-)

      Chicago Ave across the river isn’t the best (grated bridge – be careful) but it’s doable. I prefer to do it when it’s not wet.

      • Jeff Schneider says:

        The grated bridge thing is pretty hard to avoid in Chicago. I like crossing the river at Kinzie – not too far from Chicago Ave. – the bridge is grated, but the span is short and the traffic is not too intense.

  10. Mr. CrankyPants says:

    Very different for me too. Side streets, a few MUPs, some very nice single track should the mood strike and there’s always plenty o’ climbing no matter which way you go.

    However, if I worked downtown, significant portions my commute would be nearly identical.

  11. Richard says:

    There are times – especially in heavy traffic – when without really trying, I can travel at the same speed as the cars. I like these times, not least because it enables me to escape the ‘door zone’.
    However, it never ceases to amaze me how many car drivers get really hacked off at this – the sheer gall of a mere cyclist encroaching on ‘their’ patch of land and honk / swerve past me etc.
    I’m new to this city, but if only the drivers would chill out a bit!

    Anyway, thanks for the pictures Dottie. I love your take on the situations, even if it must double your commute time!

  12. Deb says:

    I have bike lanes for half of my commute, and that’s my zone-out time. The bike lanes are on fast streets that have no side parking at all, so I only have to watch for people making right turns. Or left turns. Or police cars casually parked in the lanes, or utility people doing the same, or people parked in the bike lanes because the school parking lot is full and they’re trying to pick up their kid(s).

    But mostly I don’t have to deal with any obstacles in the bike lane. Can you call your city on potholes? In DC they’re apparently pretty responsive. The worst potholes on my commute (not in bike lanes, just on regular roads) have recently been filled. Still not great, but at least they’re not wheel grabbing monsters anymore.

    The main thing your commute is missing is hills! The flatness is definitely foreign to me.

  13. Sean says:

    This is very similar to part of my ride in NYC: bike lanes with little clearance from car doors, cars parked in bike lanes, and sections of spotty pavement. One thing missing is a construction site. We have lots of them and for some reason the city lets contractors put the bike lane inside the fence that encloses their site. It is maddening to be riding in a bike lane and suddenly find a 10+ feet high wall of plywood blocking your path.

    On the sunnier side, I also have the Henry Hudson Greenway, like your Lakeshore Trail, for part of my journey. This is generally wonderful: car-free, few traffic lights, and smooth pavement. It makes such a difference to have good infrastructure. Not only is it safer and more enjoyable to ride on, it also makes you feel “taken care of” and “respected.” I think everyone likes that.

  14. Evelyn says:

    The potholes aren’t too bad in DC, but the bike lanes are always in the door zone, and there’s always at least one UPS or some other kind of delivery truck per block parked in the bike lane. It’s the bane of my existence to have to merge with traffic in order to weave around them. At least the drivers who let me through are fairly understanding.

    Also, when I’m biking on city streets, the stoplights drive me insane. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if I’m walking, biking, or driving (which I admit to doing sometimes): I always hit a red light. At. Every. Single. Intersection.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      UPS and FedEx can actually be responsive to phone calls about their drivers blocking bicycle lanes, from what I’ve read. Here is a public statement from a UPS customer rep in NYC:

      Basically, we do our best to be as expeditious as possible when making deliveries in NYC. However … if you encounter a driver parked in a bike lane for an extended period of time , please send us his/her vehicle number. With your help, we will talk with individual drivers who are parking in NYC bike lanes for an inappropriate amount of time.

  15. Catherine says:

    Familiar from just riding around downtown DC and the parts of Arlington that may as well be downtown DC, but my commute itself (as you saw on my video that you very kindly Twittered or Tweeted or whatever you call it) does not take me through those parts (thankfully!).

    With the exception of the mile or so to get onto the trail, my whole route is National Park Service land and part of the East Coast Greenway (connecting bike trails from Key West to Maine). I have it pretty easy :)

    (Excuse the crazy timestamp–grad student still hopped up on chocolate and caffeine after hurriedly finishing a late homework assignment!)

  16. Brian says:

    I believe as gasoline prices get higher and higher you’ll see more acceptance of bicycles and bike lanes. I thought the picture of the Hummer blocking the bike lane was great, that picture sums up what I think most Americans feel about cyclists. We have a rails-to-trails program where I live so there are lots of nice bike only trails.

  17. Mamavee says:

    I never met a hummer I didn’t feel immediate disgust toward the driver for. There was a hummer owner at the preschool a few years back. He was ALWAYS blocking thing. Would park in the handicap spot which I admit I did too at times but I didn’t take up the whole spot. and he never held the door open when I was behind him or even seemed to be aware that anyone else was breathing his air. I always had to resist the urge to kick him in the shins. No surprise that his kids were creepy.

  18. dukiebiddle says:

    The Hummer in my neighborhood has bullet hole decals to make the monstrosity look extra tough. I’ve never seen or met the owner, but I am sure that he is super awesome.

  19. bongobike says:

    That Hummer is parked more than two feet away from the curb! If he had parked properly, it wouldn’t have encroached on the bike lane. Isn’t it always the ones who drive the worst who get the biggest cars and trucks?

  20. jamimaria says:

    It looks pretty much just like my commute. I’m pretty sure that it is that same road. I’ll look for you in the mornings. I usually wear a yellow jacket with a yellow helmet. Not too fashionable, but sometimes I throw it on over a dress.

    Hopefully they finish up the construction soon. I’m certainly getting a little tired of weaving through those spots.

    • dottie says:

      Cool, I’ll keep an eye out for you.

      I agree about the construction, although sometimes it allows me to get ahead of all the cars because the construction workers often allow me through even when both sides of traffic are stopped.

  21. Deenie says:

    No bike lanes at all here. Half of my commute is through quiet neighborhoods, but the other half is on a major street. It can get a little tense!

  22. Horace says:

    Great photos. I’ve been meaning to document my commute in a similar fashion, as soon as the cast comes off my hand (for a dislocated and sprained thumb).

    My commute is very mellow. A long section of bike lane adjacent to the train tracks means few intersections and no parked cars. And then I get a bike path for about 2 miles. Total of 6 miles.

    How far is your Chicago commute?

  23. E A says:

    Hey… that route looks familiar! ;-)

    Welcome to the Lincoln/Wells commute route.

    And Happy Holidays. I took a photo the day I saw the workers putting up the decorations…

  24. Emma J says:

    I just wish there were more bikes in all these pictures! Good for you and all the other pioneering cyclists leading the way here in the US!

  25. maria says:

    Looks like a tricky commute in areas!! This is why I get nervous biking, but I’m sure you’re so used to these things by now.

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  27. sqlgrrl says:

    Completely different. First of all, out of 12-14 miles (depending on route), only .25 (yeah…a QUARTER) of a mile is actually set up with a bike lane. Which was terribly disappointing as about 3 miles were being repaved, and I was anticipating a lovely bike lane along the whole stretch. Nope. Only .25 of a mile, and it’s in the last .4 miles of my commute. grr…

    But my route is very different. First is typical suburban neighborhood with cul-de-sacs. Then, four lane road with no shoulder or bike lane. Then about 4 miles of two lane road with cow farms on one side, gravel quarries on the other. Then a stretch through more industrial areas, lots of warehouses, trucking facilities, etc. odd, that I feel much safer HERE than right outside my neighborhood. The truck drivers are MUCH better when it comes to sharing the road with cyclists. Then my commute changes to apartments, some small 1950’s ranch houses and BOOM I’m at work. I live in a small satellite town outside of the largest city in our state. So I have to leave our small town, go through some more rural areas, then industrial, then hit the outskirts of the big city. Luckily the office is not downtown.

  28. Sox says:

    Well, the Hummer could have fit in his lane if his driver had snugged it up against the curb.

  29. BB says:


    A Sunday drive.

    going to Phoenix College here..

    I rode on the east coast I had enough of door zones.

    • Giffen says:

      Your youtube videos are really intense. Those commutes are so different than mine that I can’t even describe it. I should really put up some videos. (I mostly go really slowly on narrow and winding residential streets with lots of old trees.)

    • Giffen says:

      BTW, this comment (on one of your videos) totally made my day:

      “He’s in such a hurry that he needs to honk at you, race quickly around you, then slow down, stop, speed up to pass you again, slow down, etc. Where’s the logic in that? Oh…right…road rage has no logic.”

  30. academichic says:

    As if I needed any more reasons to hate Hummers… S.

  31. […] calm of the trail whenever I want, I never burn out. That’s what I did today, rejecting my new street route in favor of the trail, even though it added 15 minutes to my […]

  32. […] calm of the trail whenever I want, I never burn out. That’s what I did today, rejecting my new street route in favor of the trail, even though it added 15 minutes to my […]

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