Suburbanites can participate in the Bike Commuter Challenge, too
Last September, I wrote a blog post on the challenges I would face if I participated in Chicago Car-Free Day.
I make a traditional suburb-to-city commute by driving to a Metra station, taking Metra downtown, and walking from Union Station to MPC. The most challenging part of that commute is the two-and-a-half miles from my house in Elk Grove Village to the Medinah Metra Station.
This year, I decided to participate in our Bike Commuter Challenge. As I mentioned in last year’s blog post, the community I live in, Elk Grove Village, is very bicycle friendly. There are posted bike lanes and designated bike trails. Sidewalks have curb cuts, and the Village and Alexian Brothers Hospital has been sponsoring the Tour of Elk Grove bicycle race in August for several years. However, getting to the Metra station requires crossing corporate and county boundaries, which poses challenges.
So on Wednesday morning, I rode my bike one mile from my house in Elk Grove Village to Park Boulevard and Pierce Road in Itasca, where I caught Pace Route 616 to the Itasca Metra Station. I put my bike on the bike rack, and parked it in the bike rack at the station. I reversed this route in the evening. So it is doable, even in the ‘ burbs.
Here are some observations I made, and challenges I encountered on this trip:
Elk Grove Village is bicycle friendly, so it is relatively easy to bike there. Crossing Devon Avenue at Park Boulevard is a bit of a challenge. There is a traffic light, but no pedestrian signals or crosswalks.
The intersection of Pierce and Park is located in the Hamilton Lakes Business Park. There are no Pace bus stop signs at the intersection of Pierce and Park, so you have to know what the bus route is and where it should stop. This could be confusing for an infrequent user.
Travel time from Pierce and Park to the Itasca Metra Station was about 10 minutes. The bike rack at the station was in close proximity to the bus stop, and I noticed several commuters rode bikes to the Metra Station. The Village of Itasca encourages biking. And Wednesday’s weather was perfect for bike riding.
I put my “work gear” in a messenger bag. Since I don’t have a basket on my bike, it was the easiest way to transport my work “stuff.”
Evening connections in Itasca were tight, due to a train that ran a few minutes behind schedule. Posted timetables said I should have had seven minutes from the time I alighted the train in Itasca to catching the bus. In reality, it was more like three minutes, and I’m not sure if the Pace bus would have waited if the train had been delayed longer. And when I told the Pace driver that I wanted to get off at Pierce and Park, she told me that she didn’t know where that was. I told her I was familiar with the area, and she said “ring the bell when you want to get off.”
Would I do it again? I might, especially if the weather is good, as it was on Wednesday, and it’s a day that I can travel light to the office.
Part of the challenge was to see if I could do it, if I could make all of my connections. It does work.
One final thought: Many people bike in my neighborhood, especially because I live within walking distance to the Busse Woods bike trail. But I’m guessing I’m the only person who made a commute to the train station from my neighborhood that day.