A better Amtrak + bike guide

Glenview Amtrak station on the map.

Glenview Amtrak station on the map.

I’ve added more Amtrak information to the latest version of the Chicago Bike Guide to make it easier to understand which lines have roll-on bike service and which stations sell bike boxes for the lines that don’t have roll-on service.

Take a glance at the “Other Stations” page – denoted by a bus because it includes Megabus and Greyhound information – to see which Amtrak stations allow you to roll-on to the routes that stop there.

For example, in the screenshot below you see that Glenview is a stop on the Hiawatha train from Chicago to Milwaukee. It only allows bikes on board in boxes, and the boxes aren’t sold at the Glenview station. Note that Amtrak allows folding bikes as simple luggage.

Amtrak stations in the new Chicago Bike Guide

Easy information about which stations and routes have roll-on service.


Below the Glenview station you see a listing for the Hammond-Whiting station in Illinois. At this station you can walk on with your bicycle on the Wolverine train to Michigan (reservation required). The station doesn’t sell bike boxes.

Demo this feature now.

Not all nearby Amtrak stations within the map view are included yet – only those nearest to Chicago.

Version 0.9.0 released with new design and faster Divvy info

The new view of the home screen gives you a better view of the nearest Divvy stations as well as Notices and photos people post with the hashtag #bikeCHI.

The new view of the home screen gives you a better view of the nearest Divvy stations as well as Notices and photos people post with the hashtag #bikeCHI.

It’s been several months in the making and the latest version of the Chicago Bike Guide is now available for iOS. It comes with a new, flat design, performance improvements, and the fastest Divvy status load times. Open iTunes on your desktop or the App Store on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to download the latest version or buy it for $0.99 cents.

What’s new

  • Completely redesigned home screen
  • Divvy station status updates faster than ever
  • Get directions to the nearest two Divvy stations almost immediately
  • Find campgrounds you can bike to!
  • Faster switching between sort methods on stations and places pages
  • View weather in Fahrenheit and Celsius
  • Get turn-by-turn directions
  • See all #bikeCHI photos, from Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, and Twitter

As always, you can demo the newest features for free online.

Improvements

  • More Amtrak information: which routes have walk-on bike service and which stations serve these routes
  • More Amtrak stations
  • Better place searching (still uses Foursquare but adds Esri’s geocoder)
  • Tells you when Divvy goes offline (for inclement weather)
  • Better-quality bicycling directions
  • Sort points of interest (now called Places) by category
  • More burrito joints

In this version I skipped a couple numbers, from 0.8.7 to 0.9.0 because of the all-new design and significant features improvements.

Significant road closures at Halsted/Harrison start in February

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A rendering showing the new flyover that will be constructed above Halsted Street. The design of the bike lanes on Halsted is outdated. The buffered bike lanes there now will be restored.

42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly’s newsletter is the best news source for downtown real estate and infrastructure developments. The latest edition describes two street closures, partial and full, that affect the Chicago bicycling network.

Harrison Street bridge completely closed
Monday, February 17, 2014 and until September

The Harrison Street Bridge over I-90/94 (The Kennedy), between Halsted St. and DesPlaines St. will be closed while the Illinois Department of Transportation performs construction work on the Circle Interchange.

Lane Reduction on Halsted Street bridge
Starting Monday, February 2 and until September

The Halsted Street bridge over I-290 (The Eisenhower) will be reduced to one lane in each direction while the Illinois Department of Transportation performs construction work on The Circle Interchange. Detours will also be in effect and encouraged.

I think Van Buren Street is the best alternative to Harrison. Morgan remains closed until April. After Morgan and Halsted are completely done, IDOT will completely replace the Peoria Street pedestrian bridge making dramatic improvements based in part on my and Ryan’s Peoria Street Pedestrian Street campaign.

Cross-posted to The Chainlink.

Sheltered commuter bike parking: The map so far

Thank you for all of the suggestions! I’ve started mapping them with geojson.io so it can be public while I figure out how to integrate this into the app. There are 19 locations so far, but I haven’t finished mapping them. Leave a comment or a tweet when you find another one.

The intent has changed, based on feedback on Twitter, to include public and private sheltered bike parking, private bike rooms in workplace buildings, and sheltered bike parking at retail locations.

Underground bike parking at Amsterdam Zuid station

Let me know if you come across something as awesome as this guarded, underground bike parking garage at the Amsterdam Zuid train station.

The unedited list so far:

1. It’s at Monroe and Wells. Single silver joined rack a la middle school bike parking. Rack is on Monroe side. free, sheltered. Fills up by 9 during peak riding times. Been almost empty since it got cold via @yo_uterus
2. Northwestern on Chicago issues bike permits for its garage, but I don’t use one. I use the racks or leave it in my office.
3. Erie Ontario Parking Self-Park, 321 E. Erie. There’s a 68-bike capacity bike room. via @emonkus
4. Financial Place and Van Buren via Anne http://goo.gl/maps/YtCnN
5. @jimsey, 1 S Wacker has private, building tenants only in underground garage last I worked there in 2011.
6. NEED MORE INFO 909 Davis bldg in Evanston has bike parking in its underground garage (for employees only tho)
7. I discover small, covered rack at SW corner of Kinzie/LaSalle. via @and_hertzberg
8. Benson/Davis in Evanston, via Candace
9. Maple Avenue garage in Evanston by Candace.
10. 30 N LaSalle (in alley)
11. 30 N LaSalle (bike room)
12. 55 W Monroe
13. 333 S Wabash
14. Ridgeland Green Line station
15. Blue Cross Blue Shield building
16. Clybourn Metra station
17. Target on Division
18. Target on Jackson
19. Mariano’s on Halsted

Do you use sheltered bike parking? Let’s map it!

New bike parking at the Clybourn Metra station

Sheltered bike parking steps away from the Clybourn Metra station that serves UP-NW and UP-N lines.

A Streetsblog Chicago emailed us to ask about the availability of sheltered bike parking in River North, where they work long hours and want to keep their bike out of the rain and snow.

Neither John nor I knew of a resource that listed or mapped these locations, but I said I know sheltered, publicly-accessible bike parking exists. (Most CTA ‘L’ stations have sheltered bike parking, and they’re marked on the CTA system map.)

Let’s get that list and map going! Leave a comment when you find a place where the public can park (free or paid). Here’s what two tweeters submitted so far:

* It’s at Monroe and Wells. Single silver joined rack a la middle school bike parking. Rack is on Monroe side. free, sheltered. Fills up by 9 during peak riding times. Been almost empty since it got cold via @yo_uterus

* Northwestern on Chicago issues bike permits for its garage. Erie Ontario Parking Self-Park, 321 E. Erie. There’s a 68-bike capacity bike room. via @emonkus

Looking through my photos I found another location, at the Clybourn Metra station, but I advise that you avoid locking overnight here.

Maintain your bike lock before it’s too late

Use Lock-Ease on bike locks now to prevent trouble in the future

This can of Lock-Ease comes with a “flexible snorkel” so it’s easier to direct the fluid (it can get messy).

If you’re having trouble with your bike lock in the cold temperatures (basically you have a tougher time turning the key and removing the lock from the shackle) fix it now before your lock becomes frozen. In Chicago, winter temperatures go up and down, and the freeze-thaw cycle doesn’t just create potholes, it can make your lock stuck when snow or ice melts and trickles into the lock.

Lubricate your lock with Lock-Ease beforehand, helping to remove the grime that, with a little bit of moisture, becomes problematic and prevents your key from turning or increases the difficulty of removing the lock from the shackle.

Squirt some Lock-Ease graphite fluid into the key hole and where the lock enters the shackle. Use this time to also scrape off rust from the lock – with a rag – and inside the shackle – with a Q-tip.

Note: There came a point during my use of a Kryptonite u-lock that I could no longer turn the key and remove the lock. I contacted Kryptonite to have it replaced under warranty, which they gladly did. The disadvantage is that locks are heavy and I paid an expensive shipping fee. Clean your lock now to avoid future trouble!

January 2014 map data now published

This screenshot shows paths, parking lots, roads, and buildings that I've added to OpenStreetMap and that now appears in the Chicago Bike Guide.

This screenshot shows paths, parking lots, roads, and buildings that I’ve added to OpenStreetMap and that now appears in the Chicago Bike Guide.

One of the benefits of moving from the “offline” map (stored in your phone) to the “online” map (downloaded on the fly) is being able to update the map data without having to update the app.

I published updated map data on Tuesday with the latest building and place names (like the Dominick’s stores that are now Jewel grocery stores), corrected and smoothed roads, demolished buildings, and more features (like the mapping work I did for campgrounds).

The update doesn’t come with the latest bike lanes marked, but they’re all marked in the hidden database from which bike route suggestions are made, so you’ll always get the best directions. I am changing how I mark bike lanes – using data straight from OpenStreetMap instead of manually, which takes longer – and that work is still in progress.