Family biking in Chicago and the surrounding areas is fun, healthy, inexpensive and earth-friendly. You just have to know the rules of the road, and have a few family-friendly destinations in mind.
Step 1: Start small
Air up tires and adjust helmets so they are level to the ground, and won’t move around when your child shakes her head yes or no. To warm up, ride around the block or in a paved park or schoolyard. Try riding to a favorite park that is a little too far to walk. Living in Roscoe Village, one of our favorite destinations is Margaret Donahue Park near School Street and Racine Avenue. Short rides give you a chance to try out your equipment and learn your rider’s limits. Remember that little bikes have little wheels, so no matter how hard your child pedals, it’s harder for them to go as far as you or older siblings. The important thing is just to get out there.
Step 2: Go farther
Your kids are ready to caravan with you on the street only when they can ride in a straight line and will follow all of your verbal instructions. Until then, ride with them in a seat, trailer or cargo bike or stick to off-street trails. Try an out-and-back ride or bring your bikes to a destination via your car or on the train. Google Maps bike directions are easy to use and the City of Chicago publishes maps that show all the bike lanes, paths and recommended streets. View the map online or pick up a free copy at your local bike shop. Bring snacks, water, sunblock, a first aid kit, and a well-charged phone.
River Park, 5100 N. Francisco Ave. (at Foster Ave.) Ride, picnic, swim, splash and swing along the river.
Horner Park, 2741 W. Montrose Ave. (Montrose Ave. & California Ave.) Gentle hills make this a great place to pick up speed to learn balance.
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St. (Fullerton Ave. & Stockton Dr.) Plenty of bike racks and so much to see.
Gompers Park, 4222 W. Foster Ave. (Foster Ave. & Kostner Ave.) Jump on the North Branch Trail, which goes all the way to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.
Promontory Point, 491 S. Shore Dr. (55th St. & the Lake) Some of the best views for miles.
Northerly Island / 12th St. Beach, 1200 S. Linn White Dr. (near Roosevelt Rd. & the Lake) Beautiful picnic and bird-watching spot.
Green Bay Trail, 1200 Wilmette Ave. (East side of Green Bay Rd. at Wilmette Ave.) Tree-lined trail that passes through numerous parks.
The Garden Jumps at Clark Park, 3400 N. Rockwell St. (Melrose & the east side of the River) Dirt jumps and paved path riding for all ages.
The 606 Bloomingdale Trail (between Lawndale Ave. & Ashland Ave.) An elevated path with easy access to parks and restaurants.
Chicago Kidical Mass Neighborhood family rides throughout the city and some suburbs. Meet other families and see different kinds of bikes and carriers. See upcoming events at Facebook.com/ChicagoFamilyBiking.