North Shore Channel Trail – first encounter

I did write that Chicago was bicycling heaven compared to Singapore. But the suburbs are most definitely not. Biking heavens, that is. Decided to try the North Shore Channel Trail today, which entailed riding from the south side all the way to where the lakefront path meets Lawrence, then riding inland to the start of the Channel Trail. Not a pleasant ride inland. Lawrence has a bike lane after the junction with Western, but the parts before that have heavy and aggressive traffic, and one section was being torn up prior to re-tarring, forcing me to take a detour. Much relieved to reach the start of the trail, so I could let my mind think about something else besides how to keep out of the way of charging metal boxes.

Trail was a disappointment though. First part was quite promising; shaded path through quiet neighbourhood, zebra crossings where it intersected with roads, well-maintained path. Then at one point one had to make a U-turn to continue on the path, which switched to the other side of the river at that point. I was confused for a moment because I couldn’t imagine why one would have to U-turn to cross the river. Turns out that the only bridge that crosses the river at that point is a traffic bridge. There is no bridge for the trail itself. So one has to join the metal boxes again, for about 20m, before getting back on the trail.

The trail deteriorates after that point. First a section consisting of concrete slabs with plenty of cracks on and between them, some of them wide enough to catch a tire between them if one is not careful. Bumpy ride as well. As we head further north on (roughly) the boundary between Evanston and Skokie, the path changes back to tar, but now there are traffic junctions every 200m or so. Huge traffic junctions. My momentum never gets to its optimum level; after a while I just gave up trying and let myself take a relaxed pace, because it’s frustrating to find your best pace and then have to brake 30 seconds later to wait at a traffic junction. One cyclist who was behind me for a while preferred not to stop completely at junctions, but instead did small circles on the sidewalk until we could cross.

Does not help that the cars at those junctions seem to drive more aggressively than city drivers do. One driver blasted his horn to high heavens at the car ahead of him just because the latter was not proceeding as quickly as the former would have liked.

Another fulfilled suburban stereotype: there really are no sidewalks there! There was the trail on one side of the road, so walking to places is still in principle possible, but nothing at all on the other side.

Didn’t get to the end of the trail in the end, due to being bored by monotonous scenery and depressing traffic junctions. On the way back, got off Lawrence just after Western, frustrated by heavy traffic, and turned south into Wilson, which was much better and also led straight to the lakefront trail.

10 Responses to “North Shore Channel Trail – first encounter”

  1. 1 sean lynch July 12, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Try the North Branch trail.

    The Southern end starts in the forest preserve at Devon and Milwaukee. Elston avenue has a bike lane and will take you within half a mile of the Devon and Milwaukee intersection.

    Check the Chicago bike map here:

    A close up of the southern end of the North Branch Trail is here:

    The trail extends North for about 14 miles through forest preserves. There are several street level traffic crossings and several bridged crossings. Be prepared to share the trail with other cyclists on weekends.

    If you leave early in the morning you can visit the Chicago Botanic Gardens at the North end of the trail for a few hours before returning home.

    For a real workout you can follow Lake Cook Road east a few miles and pick up the Green Bay Road bike trail North into Wisconsin:

  2. 2 Brendan Finucane August 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for the info about the North Branch Trail! I’m looking for some longer scenic rides in the Chicago area and this looks perfect.

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