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The Mellow Bike Map app is a new way to get low-stress Chicago cycling directions

A suggested mellow route from Blackstone Bicycle Works to Original Soul Vegetarian on the Mellow Bike Map app.

Ever since the Chicago Reader's Mellow Chicago Bike Map, covering the central city, first came out in 2018, and even more so after the expanded Simplified, Citywide Mellow Chicago Bike Map was published this summer (both included smartphone-friendly Google Maps versions, as well as awesome illustrated renditions by local artist Joe Mills), I've been getting feedback from people who wanted a way to get customized route suggestions based on the map. Streetsblog Chicago cofounder and resident app expert Steven Vance advised me that there was no simple way to do this so, not having tons of extra bandwidth, I put the idea on the back burner. Often when that happens, I never actually get around to completing said project.

Happily, local tech wizzes have taken matters into their own hands, expending the elbow grease to actually get this done. In August Paul Esling, a web developer with the Center for Neighborhood Technology, released the Chicago Bike Routes app, which combines all the routes from both the Chicago Department of Transportation's Chicago Bike Map and the MCBM. His announcement was met with hosannas from local cyclists. Read more about that application here.

Keeping the religious metaphor going here, self-described "web nerd, data maid, and bot mother" Jean Cochrane attacked the same problem with the zeal of the convert. "This summer I was indoctrinated into biking on side streets. Small quiet streets > big streets with bike lanes, every time," Cochrane tweeted.

"Thanks so much for your work on the Mellow Chicago Bike Map," Cochrane wrote me. "It's been a huge help this past summer as I've moved neighborhoods and gotten used to biking in a new part of town."

Cochrane collaborated with fellow tech geniuses Bea Malsky and Kalil Smith-Nuevelle to build out a version of the Mellow Map that can provide directions. In contrast to Esling's application, their app, dubbed Mellow Bike Map, focuses solely on the MCBM.

Check out the new Mellow Bike Map app here.

So kudos to Esling, Cochrane, Malsky, and Smith-Nuevelle for taking the Mellow Chicago Bike Map to next dimension and making it more accessible for local cyclists. In fact, I'm sure their apps will come in handy for my own future explorations of this great city.

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