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While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

Different routes for different bikers

Footprints coach Gina Kenny wrote this; I'm just the very-very-proud-of-Footprints messenger:

Even though it hasn’t been ages since I started commuting, I still forget how intimidating some things can seem when you first start. A Footprints participant wanted a route from her home in Homewood to the Old Plank Trail.

I planned a route taking 175th Street to Kedzie Avenue; taking Kedzie south; continuing going southwest as it becomes Olympian Way; going briefly west on 212th Place to Main Street and then taking Main Street south to the trail.

I’ve commuted on 175th Street a few times and thought it was not a bad street to commute on. Ashley made it part of the way but turned back – “Call me a chicken, if you will” she had wrote to me in an email. I thought about when I first started commuting – how I would tense up every single time that I heard a car coming up behind me. How I would take a route with residential streets, even if it added two miles to my route. And, I realized how scary riding on a four-lane street can seem if you have not been commuting for awhile.

So, I offered to ride with her and I planned her a new route with mostly residential streets and only one real scary section. Early on, our route was on 183rd Street for a block until Western Avenue. She rode it like a pro both there and back.
Then we continued on Western south, riding through residential areas and largely following the Electric Metra line until we hit Kedzie.

After about a block on Kedzie, the street turns into Olympian Way with a bike lane! Bike lanes are extremely rare in the south suburbs and I think I shocked Ashley with how excited I was to ride on a bike lane. We discussed whether to cross the street when the bike path switches sides of the street at a bridge or to continue on the road and then we were in another residential area before hopping on the trail.

Was the first route I gave her “wrong?” No, but, the second route was definitely “right.” What good is a route if the person does not feel comfortable riding it? Being able to revise a route to suit a particular riders needs and riding a route with a rider are just two of the great benefits of signing up for Footprints. Visit http://www.activetrans.org/footprints for more info and to sign up.