Bike Winter Chicago – What a Commute Looks Like

We had some snow last week and I rode to my office in downtown Chicago through some snowy, icy, unplowed bike lanes and it wasn’t real fun.  Then I flew to LA for the rest of the week for work – which was a little more fun, or at least, a little more sun.  Today I came back to more of the same : snow, cold, and messy bike lanes. We had snow over the weekend, but by this morning most of the bike lanes were plowed, except where businesses along them had decided to shovel back into the lanes, making them icy and dangerous at times. This was my report from this morning:

Kinzie Bike Lane: 
Eastbound lanes report: Clear except for just west of the bridge – kinda slippery, be careful. Bridge plates are in pretty good shape now though. The big pile of snow blocking the lane at the Merchandise Mart (from them pushing their snow there) is now a GIANT pile of snow & will probably be there until Spring. 
Westbound lanes report: will report tonight.

Dearborn Bike Lane: 
Not bad but the lanes going down the hill towards Kinzie are slushy and icy now – probably very slippery during the evening commute – I am considering walking that stretch. Bridge looks good. 55 W. Wacker building continues to push ALL their sidewalk snow into the bike lane making it kinda difficult at the intersection around that grate.

snow_from_office
I left about 5:30-5:45pm and while the downtown streets were clear, albeit a little narrowed by the snow, the downtown bike lanes were not equally as clear.  They were neither plowed nor salted, and were steadily gaining more snow as businesses along them were starting to shovel their excess snow into the bike lanes.   I took these photos of the Dearborn bike lane between Kinzie and Wacker.  The first one looking south towards the bridge, and the second one looking north down the hill towards Kinzie.
dearborn_bike_lane_looking_towards_the_river_from_kinzie
dearborn_bike_lane_looking_towards_kinzie
All along Kinzie, before the bike lane and then as I was riding in it, businesses were busy shoveling their sidewalks into the street and/or bikelane.  I gotta commend them for shoveling – as a pedestrian that’s great. However, why can’t they manage to do a nicer job like Gilt Bar, who had a very clear and shoveled sidewalk that was not shoveled into the bike lane along Kinzie?
Unfortunately, the example was already been set by either Streets & San or the Merchandise Mart (not sure who is responsible here) who has been repeatedly pushing all their excess snow smack dab into the entrance of the Kinzie bike lane at Wells.  Now, any eastbound cyclist has to leave the bike lane and ride through or around traffic to get across the intersection or to even make a right-hand turn.   Here’ s my photo taken from across the street as I was headed westbound earlier this evening.
kinzie_bike_lane_snow_pile
Once I was clear of all this I rode west on Hubbard which was fairly clear and then to the neighborhood streets where , as it started to snow more heavily, were more snow filled, but not bad to ride on since the snow was sticking.  By the time I got home I was covered with snow.
me_and_my_snowride
My Omafiets seemed to take it all in stride though – she’s a big ole Dutch bike that I think secretly waits for the snow.
my_omafiets

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  • Agatha Bitchy

    Holy crow. Does Chicago Public Works (not sure if that’s right; here it would be) not come by and re-clear the bike lanes at all? No salt?

    Also, are you and your Omafiets rocking studded tires through this mess or no?

    Be safe, A

    • http://dingdingletsride.com/ Samantha

      So first, yes. Oma and I are rockin’ the studded tires. Second, from what I’ve been told, while the Dept of Streets & Sanitation plows our streets, it is the responsibility of the Chicago Dept of Transportation (CDOT) to plow the bike lanes. Heard they got the right equipment as part of the infrastructure when building out the bike lanes. No idea why they are not being plowed at the same rate as streets. Methinks there is some confusion and politics going on.

      • http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/commentlist-oneauthor.php?commentid=1406616 Elliott Mason

        I bet by Dec 2015 we’ll have it all straightened out. Because this really is the first year, there’s going to have to be a lot of discussion with buildings about where they’re allowed to put their snow (NOT in the bike lanes), because there are in some cases almost a hundred years’ tradition of where you shovel it and that takes a lot of retraining.

        City needs to start slapping some serious tickets, though, or nothing’s going to change before February when the skies really open up.

      • http://dingdingletsride.com/ Samantha

        I think you ‘re right. Some education/PSAs would go a long way.