Chicago Among the Nation's Most Bike-Friendly Big Cities

August 11, 2010

With more than 350 miles of marked bike lanes, signed bike routes, and off-street paths, Chicago has one of the largest and most innovative bike infrastructures in the nation.

During the past 15 years, the Chicago Department of Transportation's Bicycle Program has invested heavily in the city's bike network, including the installation nearly 10,000 bike racks (more than any other U.S. city) and outfitting all Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses with bike racks.

The Bicycle Program has also established a number of creative programs to encourage the use of bicycles. For instance, its Signed Shared Roadway program encompasses more than 225 miles of bike route signage identifying good streets for bicyclists to ride by providing direction, destination, and distance information.

The crown jewel of Chicago's bike program is the Millennium Park Bicycle Station (officially renamed the McDonald's Cycle Center in June 2006). Located on the northeast corner of the city's famed Millennium Park, across from the 1,136-foot-tall Aon Center, the two-story facility is Chicago's first full-service bicycle station, and one of just a few such facilities in the U.S.

Since opening in July 2004, the 300-bike, 16,500-sf station has become one of the park's most popular features, operating at near capacity. Commuters and recreational cycling enthusiasts alike are drawn to the station because of its location in the heart of the Loop and high-end amenities, including showers, lockers, a bicycle repair and rental shop, and a snack bar.

The best part: Parking is free, and no membership is required. The station does charge a nominal $3 daily fee for use of the showers and locker room (monthly and annual passes are available for $20 and $149).

The station is also green. A glass curtain wall enclosure marks the entrance to the mostly below-grade facility. The enclosure is topped with a 120-panel photovoltaic module with cells arranged in a checkerboard configuration to cast a dappled daylight pattern onto the atrium space. According to Chicago DOT, the system generates 7–8% of the electricity required to run the facility.

Chicago-based Muller & Muller Architects designed the $3.1 million station, which also houses the Chicago Police Lakefront Bicycle Patrol Unit. It was funded by the Federal government's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.

For more on Chicago's bike programs, visit www.chicagobikes.org.