Cycle-friendly paths

?Keep cycling west along Augusta Boulevard and you'll catch the Grand Bicycle Trail of Illinois, the longest continuous bike trail in the state.

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Keep cycling west along Augusta Boulevard and you'll catch the Grand Bicycle Trail of Illinois, the longest continuous bike trail in the state. The trail was created in the early 1990s and joins several bike trails in Illinois into one continuous trail. It also goes through River Forest?#34;look for signs on Washington Boulevard or Keystone Avenue.

The trail runs for 500 miles from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River and is marked with bike chevrons and signs through Oak Park and signs in River Forest. Those bike chevrons in the road are shared lane markers, which indicate that bicycles and cars can be in the same lane and should be aware of each other, said the Village of Oak Park's Ellen McKenna.

Although it's part of the street in this part of the state, the bike trail also follows old railroads, historic canals, and "unglaciated hills," near the Fox and Rock rivers and through cities and picturesque small towns, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources website.

If you complete the entire 500 miles and keep a diary of your trip, not only do you get your name on the Department of Natural Resources Illinois webpage and newsletter, you also get a free T-shirt and "will be more appreciative of the diverse landscapes of northern Illinois," according to the site.

For those into more casual bike riding, McKenna recommends East Avenue, which is the best way to go north or south on a bike since it's centrally located and not as crammed with cars as Ridgeland and Oak Park avenues.

Brian Crawford, a member of the Oak Park Cycle Club, says he generally avoids busy streets on bike and prefers to ride one block over?#34;taking Euclid Avenue instead of Oak Park Avenue, for example. "Cycling in Oak Park is about as good as it gets anywhere," he said.

Crawford also recommends the Salt Creek Trail, which starts near the north gate of Brookfield Zoo and is known as "the best biking around;" as well as the Lakefront Trail in Chicago, especially the area south of Grant Park; the Prairie Path, an east/west trail that begins on First Avenue in Maywood and the Chicago River North Branch Trail, which is a 50-mile round trip that passes by the Chicago Botanic Garden on its way to Kenosha. There are also trails through Thatcher Woods. For a complete map of bike trails, call the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation at 312/42-PEDAL.

?#34;Diana Oleszczuk

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