Smile Politely

Ask Politely #27

Census statistics show that Champaign-Urbana has more bicyclists than the average American town. Urbana ranks third in Illinois (and first in towns of over 1,000 people) with 4.61 percent of the population commuting by bicycle. Champaign isn’t far behind with 2.31 percent, slightly behind Carbondale. The U.S. average is right around one percent.

There is also a thriving bicycle culture in C-U. Prairie Cycle Club, and The Bike Project co-op serve as resources and advocates for cyclists. Critical Mass, bike polo and chariot and alley cat races are frequent and well-attended. There are also several good established and unofficial bike shops around town which serve the community.

Biking around campus and in the old parts of Champaign and Urbana is possible and often enjoyable. Much of the motor traffic seems to be used to being around bicycles and often give them the benefit of the doubt at four-way stops. As you may have noticed, it’s pretty flat around here, which makes it less challenging for novice cyclists to get around.

On the other hand, the outlying areas of both cities were not planned with bikes in mind, especially north of I-74. The trail system — despite the contribution of the new bike lanes along First Street — is disorganized and frustrating to navigate, especially in Campustown. Many of the secondary streets are poorly-maintained and filled with potholes.

So, does the good outweigh the bad? Do the smiles and waves from motorists outnumber the honks and fingers in your experience? How bike-friendly is Champaign-Urbana?

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