Biking with Kids in Chicago

The old saying “It’s just like riding a bike” has become even more true as cities across the US have started to embrace biking as not only a form of exercise and entertainment but as a valid form of transportation. Chicago has been a pioneering city for this endeavor and today you can enjoy the fruit of their labor by biking through expertly paved paths and bike lines across the city. In this guide, we’ll explore the best family-friendly bike rentals and routes that will make biking with kids in Chicago a breeze. Whether you’re a local or visiting the Windy City, get ready to pedal through a mix of urban landscapes, lakefront trails, breathtaking parks, and iconic landmarks.

Why Chicago is Perfect for Family Bike Adventures

kids on bikes during Chicago summer camp program

Chicago is the perfect city to bike with family, you’ll see young families breezing their way down the Lakefront Trail with toddlers strapped to the back of bikes, in their own little trailers, and when they’re old enough, blazing along on their own bike. Chicago’s biking history started all the way back in the sixties when the infrastructure for bikes became a city-wide initiative. Bike racks to lock up one’s bike were implemented all over the city, and in recent years we have seen the expansion of bike lanes in streets and most notably the addition of a bike path that is separate from the pedestrian bath along the Lakefront Trail. These trails not only make the city more bikeable, but they are adorned with parks and attractions for families of all ages. Playgrounds litter the Lakefront Trail, art installments decorate the pathway, and beaches galore line the 18 miles that stretch along the coast of Lake Michigan.

Choosing the Right Bike Rentals for Your Family

You can find bike rentals across the city. Most notable is the divvy bike stations run by Lyft. These are the most affordable options for daily rentals across the city and come with the added bonus of their docking stations. You’ll never have to worry about locking your bike up, you can simply dock it and walk away. These are only suitable for riders able to ride an adult-sized bike however and their convenience of use comes with a steep price. The quality of the bikes and maintenance is not the same as those bikes which are regularly seen by a shop mechanic and not stored out in all the elements.

North of Downtown located by the Clocktower Cafe you can find Lakeshore Bike. Conveniently located right along the Lakefront Trail they service bikes for any level of riding and boast quick service times with friendly and helpful staff. They are an invaluable resource if you find yourself with a flat tire north of the downtown shops. They have rentals for an hour’s use, four hours, or 8 hours. They accept walk-in rentals but recommend you reach out ahead of time to ensure they have the right bikes for your specific needs.

We of course can’t let this blog post go without mentioning our rental service at Bobby’s Bike Hike. We carry a selection of mountain bikes, road bikes, comfort cruiser bikes, and children’s bikes. We also have in-house different rentals for children of all ages from trailers to mounts. Not to mention we also carry e-bikes so if your knees are past the hard cycling days or you’re simply looking for an easier cruise, we can cater to all levels of biking ability. We also offer a discount on rentals to those guests who come on one of our highly-rated tours of Chicago making us a one-stop destination for all your Chicago tourism needs!

When choosing your rentals it is important that you size the bike to the needs of your group participants. Child mounts are not suitable for children above forty pounds and will require you to upgrade to a trailer or their own bike. Having the right size bike is not only for comfort but also for safety. Biking through city centers requires the ability to stop and start with the flow of traffic and being able to comfortably set your feet on the pavement is a requirement. This is the part where I state the obvious but it is also extremely important to wear a helmet when riding, especially through urban centers. Helmets protect your brain which stores your personality! Ideally, you never need your helmet, but boy when you do you’ll be glad to have said yes to safety. We truly believe that you do look hotter in a helmet.

Kid-Friendly Bike Trails in Chicago

chicago bike the drive memorial weekend - man riding a bike with a double tagalong attached

  1. Lakefront Trail
  2. Navy Pier
  3. Lincoln Park

When choosing a route for your family, the most kid-friendly pathway is going to be along the Lakefront Trail. In 2017 we completed the addition of a bike pathway that separates the pedestrians from the cyclists. This 18-mile paved trail features beaches, parks, art, and even locations to grab a bite to eat along the way. Pathway etiquette is to cycle one by one and to pass on the left. Always be sure to alert other bikers when you’re passing by giving them a polite “on your left” as you cruise on by. The most obvious benefit of this trail is the stunning views of Lake Michigan. There is not a single bad view along the way.

A major boon of traveling via the lakefront is that it can take you directly to both the iconic Millennium Park as well as the more family-friendly Navy Pier. You can not bike along the pier proper but it has a large parking area for bikes where you can lock your bike up and take a stroll along the pier. Refresh yourself with a lemonade, grab a drink at Harry Caray’s, or try our famous Rainbow Ice Cream cone. This is the perfect treat you reward yourself for a day of cycling.

Another great option is to bike through Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park is the Chicago Parks District’s largest park in the city spanning from Ohio Street all the way to Hollywood Avenue stretching a whopping seven miles! Throughout the park, you’ll find shared pathways for both pedestrians and cyclists alike. Since these are shared pathways, be sure to give pedestrians the right of way and practice your best defensive biking.

Lincoln Park is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo, a free family-friendly terrestrial adventure for all ages. It also boasts the Chicago Botanical Gardens, a free assortment of flora and fauna with some species of plants dating all the way back to Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the Columbian Exposition of 1893. If this doesn’t strike your fancy, then head over to the Chicago History Museum or the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Once you’re done observing nature’s wonders, head over to the North Pond Sanctuary where you can grab some grub to keep your cyclists fed and full of energy for your bike back.

Additional Parks & Fun Trail Considerations

Some other popular destinations for your family to take a trip and see something new are below. These can be a little out of the way from the above recommendations, but are popular trails amongst locals for kid-friendly biking!

  1. Grant Park
    Grant Park is a popular destination for families looking to enjoy a day of biking. Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, this expansive urban park offers a variety of scenic routes and attractions that make it perfect for cycling enthusiasts of all ages.
  2. Taylor Trail
    The Taylor Trail is a fantastic destination for families looking to enjoy a biking adventure with their kids. Located in the heart of a beautiful countryside, this trail offers stunning views and a safe environment for children to explore the great outdoors. Stretching over 10 miles, the Taylor Trail provides an enjoyable and manageable distance for young bikers.
  3. Green Bay Trail
    The Green Bay Trail, located in the northern suburbs of Chicago, is a picturesque biking route that offers a perfect opportunity for families to enjoy outdoor activities together. Stretching over 9 miles, the Green Bay Trail runs through several suburban towns including Highland Park, Glencoe, and Winnetka.
  4.  Morgan Park
    Morgan Park is a beautiful neighborhood located on the far south side of Chicago, known for its serene atmosphere and outdoor recreational activities. The neighborhood boasts several parks and green spaces where families can ride their bikes. With its well-maintained, paved trails and scenic routes, Morgan Park provides the perfect backdrop for an enjoyable biking experience.

Safety Tips for Biking with Kids in Chicago

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, always be sure to put safety first and insist on looking hotter in a helmet. We would also recommend wearing high-visible vests, especially if you’re biking at dusk or night, to be sure other pedestrians or cars can see you coming. If you plan on doing any night riding you also will need to be equipped with bike lights. Be sure to ask your rental provider if they have bike lights to rent because you should never bike at night without lights.

There are universal signals when riding a bike, just like driving a car, you’ll want to signal others of your intentions.

  • To turn right, raise your left hand to a 90-degree angle and make a fist
  • To turn left, simply extend your left arm out to the left
  • To stop, turn your arm down at a 90-degree angle

If you’re unsure of biking etiquette be sure to research the ins and outs of bike signaling to be sure your family has a fun and safe ride.

Chicago is one of the most bikeable cities in the US. With our multiple pathways, bike lanes, and bike racks you’ll be sure to find a route that suits your needs. Biking around the city is a great way to feel like a local and get to see the city from a different vantage point. Whether you’re a seasoned biker or a novice there is a route that will wow and stun you allowing you to access all that this great city has to offer.