May 26, 2024 - News

Biking in Chicago surges

Biker rides on the lakefront in front of city buildings
Cyclist on the lakefront path. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Chicagoans have gone bike wild in recent years, upping their crosstown trips by 180% and their neighborhood trips by 113% per a new report.

Why it matters: The increases coincide with a boost in city bike infrastructure designed to have just this result. And more biking means less car traffic congestion and reduced vehicle emissions.

Zoom in: A new collaborative study between CDOT and mobility data company Replica looked at biking habits from fall 2019 to spring 2023.

By the numbers: In that time period, Chicago saw bike trip increases of:

  • 117% for shopping
  • 93% for dining out
  • 8% for commuting

What's more: The survey found a 207% rise in zero-auto households and a 166% increase in non-white cyclists.

  • And Divvy has reported bike and scooter share use rose 108% over the same period.

What they're saying: "Chicago has seen a huge growth in biking in recent years, a trend that has been true across demographics and in every neighborhood," CDOT's Complete Streets director Dave Smith said in a statement.

  • "Replica data reflects what we've been seeing and hearing across communities — interest and enthusiasm for biking throughout Chicago has never been greater."

Between the lines: The greatest density of bike infrastructure remains along the lake, downtown and in areas of the North Side.

  • Today about half of Chicagoans live a half-mile from a low-stress (fairly protected) bikeway, and the city aims to add enough protected lanes to boost that figure to 70% in a few years.

Yes but: National studies suggest that cyclist deaths rise with increased bike use, a trend that has emerged in Chicago as well.

What's next: The City Council is starting talks to reduce Chicago's default speed limit from 30 mph to 25.

  • Our current default of 30 consistently plunges us to the bottom of national biking safety lists because of its association with increased cyclist and pedestrian fatalities.

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