The Mellow Chicago Bike Map: Routes Recommended by Members of The Chainlink

A close-up of the map. See the full interactive map below. Image: Google Maps
A close-up of the map. See the full interactive map below. Image: Google Maps

The Mellow Chicago Bike Map, a collaboration between The Chainlink, Chicago’s social networking site for cyclists, and Streetsblog Chicago shows low-stress, mostly on-street bike routes suggested by Chainlink members on a recent forum thread. Thanks to Chainklink owner Yasmeen Schuller for granting permission to incorporate this material into the map.

Unless otherwise noted, these routes work in both directions. Many of these are on quiet side streets, rather than the business streets that are more prevalent on the city’s official bike map (which is itself a great resource), hence the name of this map.

Note that some of the routes include intersections with main streets that don’t have stoplights or four-way stop signs. Please use caution at these unsignalized crossings and wait for a safe gap in traffic before proceeding, and use this map at your own risk.

Below are some descriptions of the routes by Chainlinkers from the thread. I’ve added a few additional on-street routes as connectors. Click on the lines of the Mellow Chicago Bike Map below for details about the routes.

While this map is not intended as a comprehensive route guide (the city’s bike map or Google Maps’ Chicago biking layer and directions are better for that) hopefully it will give you a few ideas for new streets to try.

And keep in mind that the Mellow Chicago Bike Map is a work in progress. If you know of any great routes that aren’t included here (especially South or West Side streets – the map is currently somewhat North Side-centric), let us know in the comments section, and/or post a comment on the original Chainlink thread and I’ll update the map. And now for the routes…

Racine Avenue to Major Taylor Trail (Simplified) (green/brown/yellow)

“Heading south on Racine through Back of the Yards… past Sherman Park to Garfield and over to Damen either straight through to Dan Ryan Woods or looping around Marquette Park and exploring is a great day ride. You can catch up with the Major Taylor Trail at the Dan Ryan Woods and go all the way to the south suburbs or cut through to Blue Island and have a picnic or a beer and Metra back if you like.” — Chainlinker Caiken. Note that the yellow line for the Major Taylor Trail is a simplification and doesn’t show the signed on-street detour between 105th and 115th.

Drexel Boulevard (red)

A relaxed north-south route between Oakwood and Hyde Park Boulevard.

Loomis Avenue (burgundy)

“The mighty Loom (Loomis St.) from Archer (Bridgeport Bakery, yeah!) north to Jackson.” — Chainlinker Jim Reho

Blue Island (blue)

A decent route between the Southwest Side and downtown.

18th Street (yellow)

“For the views [on the bridge over the river]” — Chainlinker Jennifer. Connects to Calumet and bridge and tunnels by the 18th Metra station and Soldier Field to the Lakefront Trail.

Wood Street (lavender)

Thanks to the new-ish Neighborhood Greenway on Wood in Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village, including a contraflow lane on Wicker Park Avenue, it works as a continuous low-stress, north-south route from 15th all the way to Cortland.

Oakley Boulevard (orange)

A relaxed north-south route between Wicker Park and Tri Taylor.

Northbound from Loop to Ravenswood (blue)

“Dearborn-Kinzie-Kingsbury-Erie-Larrabee-Dickens–Magnolia-Webster-Southport.” — Chainlinker Shawn Evans

Southbound Route From Ravenswood to Loop (pink)

“Southport-Belden-Lincoln-Larrabee-Oak-Cambridge/Kingsbury-Illinois-Wells.” — Chainlinker Shawn Evans

Erie Street (turquoise)

Suggested by Chainlinker Alex Z.

Kimball (blue)

“I’ve recently discovered that Kimball is quite nice for it’s whole length between Lincoln and North Ave despite [not being a recommended route on the city’s bike map]. The speed limit is 20 or 25 and there’s lots of stop signs at T intersections and one ways that slow motor traffic but make it pretty easy to keep rolling on a bicycle… It’s mostly a very nice and alternative to Kedzie and Central Park.” – Chainlinker Jacob Wilson

Cortland Street (brown)

A quiet east-west street between Damen and Racine, but be careful at the (signalized) intersection with Ashland.

Wolcott Street (maroon)

Wolcott is a nice north-south alternative to Damen between Diversey and the Berteau Greenway (with a jog necessary on Lincoln and Byron). Also works as a southbound route from Andersonville to Bucktown.

Wellington Avenue (purple)

“A good east-west route between Broadway and Lincoln/Southport.” — Chainlinker Carter O’Brien

Northbound on Leavitt (orange)

From Wellington to Bowmanville.

Southbound on Bell (pink)

Works from Montrose to School, at which point you can head east to Leavitt.

Ravenswood Avenue (yellow)

Works as a north-south route between Lawrence and Addison, as well as many other stretches on the North Side. “Love me some Ravenswood” — Chainlinker Fran Kondorf

The Berteau Greenway (green)

An official city-designated east-west Neighborhood Greenway with traffic calming and contraflow bike lanes.

Glenwood Avenue / Greenway (red)

Thanks to the new Neighborhood Greenway on Glenwood (which includes contraflow bike lanes and bike symbols on Carmen, connecting with buffered bike lanes on Broadway), you can now bike both north and south on all of Glenwood between Devon and Carmen.

  • planetshwoop

    This is great!

    But does anyone go East-West? Ever? Looks like I have to get involved. :-)

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Definitely. While this map so far focuses on two-way streets, some of the best east-west routes are one-way couplets, such as Roscoe and School/Aldine in Lakeview, which will reportedly be getting bikeways in the near future. I’ll update the map with some of these east-west options in the near future.

  • Chicago Cyclist Greenview, northbound from Clybourn to Wilson, is an excellent, natural Neighborhood Greenway / Bicycle Boulevard — except, that is, for two somewhat difficult crossings (Addison and Irving Park). Southbound, it is also very good but (technically) illegal in the “counterflow” segments. Here is a map showing the route I mean, plus the counterflow segments and difficult crossings:

  • Chicago Cyclist

    I think Sunnyside might (between Pulaski and Damen – ish ?) be a good low-stress route …

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yeah, I use that all the time. When traveling from Logan Square to Uptown, I typically take Sacramento to Hutchinson (a rare southwest-northeast street on the North Side) to California, cut through Horner Park on trails to the northeast corner, then take Montrose to Maplewood to Sunnyside (which terminates a couple blocks west at the river). The one fly in the ointment is the unsignalized Sunnyside/Ashland intersection, which is difficult to cross. Detouring a block north or south to signalized intersections at Wilson or Montrose is an option there.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yeah, Greenview is great. You can use Clybourn/Greenview for the northbound route from the Loop to Ravenswood shown on the MCBM (blue line) as an alternative to Southport, which is usually a nice retail street route, but is pretty awful in Lakeview right now due to ongoing utility construction.

  • David Henri

    I’m assuming everyone only bikes north and south, not east and west.

  • Bodega Mayback

    I’ve made a couple of notes on EW ones these over the years. It’s a bit messy since it was from my notes in my phone:

    Roscoe East bound |4miles|: pioneer->milwaukee
    Granville: lakeriver
    Wabansia/Bloomindgale|3.5miles|:leclairedesplaines river(via bloomingdale st passed harlem)
    Palmer EastBound |4miles|:hanson parkcalifornia
    Wilson from the lake to pulaski
    in evanston/skokie main street from lincoln to the lake
    Indiand/Michigan from 63rd to 31st

    NorthSouth i have:
    Racine|8miles|:31st98th/vincennes (already mentioned)
    Kimball/Homan|11miles| (use trumball for SouthBound south of cermak): ^devon/mcormick31st
    Long |3.5 miles| Lawrence Grand
    SouthCalifornia|9.5miles|: fulton74th

  • Carter O’Brien

    Echoing others, in that what this map beautifully highlights is the shortage of good east-west routes, *especially* along the highways and the river.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Good stuff!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    See note below on this subject. Got any suggestions for good east-west routes?

  • rene paquin

    Is it just me, or is the Blue Island route not showing up?

  • EM

    Custer from Howard to Main is the best path to/from Evanston (better than Ridge/Clark/Sheridan)

  • Allan Marshall

    Yeah, I usually either went along Custer into Evanston, or did Chicago(also known as Clark St. in Chicago)-South Blvd.-Hinman(which parallels Chicago 1 block east) north into downtown Evanston. Or vice versa heading back into Chicago.

  • Allan Marshall

    I’m very surprised Elston Avenue wasn’t shaded, on this map. Also IMO, Wilson should be shaded from Pulaski east to the lakefront. I’ve never had a problem biking ANYWHERE along Wilson, and during the day it’s a nice low traffic alternative to Montrose and Lawrence.

    Just note if you bike west of Pulaski on Wilson, the width of the street isn’t as wide, vs. east of Pulaski. But it’s still bikeable. From Montrose/Kostner as a north and eastbound shortcut to get to Wilson/Pulaski, I use Kostner(going north, left turn), Wilson(east, right turn), Kildare(north, left turn), Elston(southeast, right turn), Kennicott(northeast, you make the left turn from Elston right after passing Ay Ay Picante restaurant), Kasson(southeast, right turn), then get onto Wilson.

    Another east-west street I’m very surprised wasn’t shaded for this map, was Augusta Blvd.(1000 north). For Pilsen, I’m surprised 19th Street wasn’t shaded from Western east to Halsted. Note that one block of 19th St. is one way westbound(Wolcott to Damen), so at that point you’d bike to Cullerton to get around that. The rest of 19th, is a 2 way street. BONUS if you bike that route, is that there’s an extremely cool painting on the northwest corner of the outside of the building at Cullerton/Wolcott, that’s worth a quick photo or 2. And within the Bridgeport neighborhood, Wallace is a good north-south street to bike on. Don’t forget just north of Peterson and south of Devon, Granville is a good alternative east of Kedzie Avenue to the lakefront.

    I’ll probably think of more later.

  • Allan Marshall

    Not sure if it was only suddenly shaded within the last hour today, but I see Blue Island Ave. is shaded on this map between Roosevelt(by St. Ignatius College Prep) and Damen. See my comment above in the Disqus comments section of Streetsblog, since it seems like a bunch of streets that I thought would be shaded for sure were sadly omitted(i.e. Augusta Blvd, Wilson between Pulaski and the lakefront, 19th Street(noting the fact there’s a 1 way westbound part between Wolcott and Damen that requires eastbound riders to briefly use Cullerton instead), Granville, Wallace(within Bridgeport), etc).

  • Carter O’Brien

    I’ve been biking on Elston since 1990, and while it’s my bread and butter for many trips and a route I recommend over Milwaukee for downtown commuters from the NW side, it is not what I would call a mellow ride. Between the legacy industrial use and presence of big trucks, the often dubious road condition and more than a few dicey intersections (especially the hair-raising one when going NB approaching Ashland), it has a long way to go in that regard.

    I do also dig Augusta. And I also like Wilson, although one commenter made a fair point about the pinch point just west of Western (I find that one hiccup acceptable and just take the lane).

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Rene, not sure why Blue Island isn’t appearing for you. Allan, I’ll keep your suggestions in mind for updates. In general the routes shown on the map so far were side-street routes suggested by Chainlinkers or additional routes I added to link those streets up. The ultimate goal of the map is to have a create a network of nice side street routes as a lower-stress alternative to the busier retail street routes emphasized on the CDOT map. So even though Augusta is a perfectly good east-west route with bike lanes, the MCBM might wind up showing a one-way couplet of, say, nearby Iowa and Walton streets as a mellower alternative. On the other hand, Augusta and Granville may make the cut, since they’re decent, not super-busy routes. 19th and Wallace definitely might be good additions. Stay tuned.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I should have noted that heading east Wellington is solid going all the way from Clybourn into Lincoln Park (the actual park) and then it’s an easy hop on to the LFT. It’s heading west that it gets a little more complicated, as Wellington only runs eastbound between Broadway and Lincoln Park, as well as between Hoyne and Southport/Lincoln. The story/possible urban legend is that a well connected alderman lived right off of Wellington just west of Ravenswood and had that stretch made one-way as he was personally irritated with traffic. A lot of Lake View seems to follow this lack of logic, actually.

  • Jacob Wilson

    Today I rode Union (700W) north from Garfield to 26th. Would definitely recommend as a low stress alternative to Halsted. North of 43rd it’s one way north with 2 travel lanes and hardly any cars so you can definitely take the whole lane without motorists getting twitchy.

  • Keith Davis

    The narrow part of Wilson (west of Western to about Francisco) can be problematic for a bike if two cars occupy each lane (personal experience). In that area, the Lawrence bridge over the river is preferable to Wilson- at Wilson the bridge roadway narrows even further, the bridge has a big hump so you cannot be seen on the far side immediately, and cars do not slow down to the posted 15 mph limit. The sidewalk on the Wilson bridge is narrow and often has pedestrian traffic. Lawrence has a wide bike lane.

    Leland is a good one-way westbound alternative from Manor to Spaulding and east of the river is good mostly one-way eastbound to at least Clark (there is a light at Western and almost no one turns south off the Western-Lincoln-Leland junction). The Lincoln-Leland junction at the south end of Lincoln Square looks a little tricky but traffic is generally well behaved.

    Winnemac is also a good east-west route, east only from California to Leavitt (with a short jog against traffic at Rockwell) and then two way to at least Clark. Lights control the crossings at both Lincoln and Western.

    Sunnyside, eastbound west of Lincoln, then two-way east of Lincoln, was also a decent route for me in the past. All these streets are generally in good repair (as of now) and are not narrow.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    The Mellow Routes map doesn’t correctly show the Greenview (natural) neighborhood greenway bike route (southbound, Wilson to Belden to Southport to Clybourn; northbound, Clybourn to Wilson). The map (blue line) is drawn as running down the alleyway just west of Southport. Please correct. Thanks!

  • johnaustingreenfield

    That Blue line is actually showing a route that involves Southport, not Greenview, the “Northbound from Loop to Ravenswood” route. I moved that line a little bit west of Southport so that you could see it and the pink line of the Southbound from Ravenswood to Loop” route at the same time. Sorry if that’s a little confusing if you zoom in without reading the route directions, but it makes the map easier to understand when you zoom out a bit.


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