Top 5 reasons why driving in Chicago sucks


Traffic? You’re soaking in it.

So, for the first year that I lived in the city, I barely drove at all. I literally would go for weeks without so much as looking at my car.  I bought a mere four tanks of gas for the first twelve months that I lived in Chicago.

However, since I’ve been needing to get to work on time in the mornings for the last few months, I’ve been doing a fair bit of driving, between home in Rogers Park, and work in the West Loop, a commute of about 10 miles.

Now, anyone that knows me well knows that I’m a pretty safe driver.  My philosophy is that it’s more important to arrive safe, in one piece, with no damage to your car, than it is to arrive exactly “on time”.  Consequently, I follow the speed limit (generally), use my turn signals when changing lanes, and I like to do my best to be courteous to others on the road.  In exchange for these little things, the universe has generally tended to be good to me.  I’ve never been in an accident that was my fault.  I’ve gotten a ticket or two before, but you could count them all on one hand.  I’ve never killed anyone.

But I have to say, driving in Chicago is really, really a pain in my ass.  I’m sure it’s the same in every bigger city.  Here’s why:

5. The traffic.

Ok, I know, everyone hates the traffic.  There’s not much that can be done about it.  More people = more cars = more traffic.  It’s unavoidable, but I hate it still.  I mean, it can take me as much as an hour to drive 10 miles in the city.  That’s just ridiculous.

4. Bicycles.

Hey hipster, I know you’re in a rush to get to Whole Foods to pick up some tempeh for your girlfriend’s vegan potluck stich-and-bitch, but that fixed-gear ten-speed you’re riding counts as a VEHICLE.  That means you’re obligated to follow the same laws as every other vehicle.  Which means stopping at stop signs.  Which means not zooming in between cars which may well start moving on you unexpectedly.  Which means signalling when you intend to turn.  Oh, or does your zero-carbon-footprint entitle you to act like you’re the only person on the road? (Edit — this goes for you motorcycle jerks too.)

3. Parking.

So, if you have an Illinois plate and you want to park in the city, you have to buy a city parking permit.  Which authorizes you to park … well, nowhere, actually.  Anywhere you’d want to park requires you to pay.  Now, ok, fair enough, the money benefits the city, right?  Nope.  Actually that parking money goes to a private corporation.  None of it goes to the city.  Unless of course you’re parked illegally, in which case the “Department of Revenue” (oh, the delicious honesty) will ticket you.  Because you didn’t pay the corporation.  Three tickets and it’s the boot.

2. Big-ass trucks.

A week or so ago, I was driving my normal route home, when I discovered that traffic was extremely snarled in an unusual way.  After meandering for about 25 minutes to make it a mile, I saw why.  Some idiot had driven his 18-wheeler under the Loyola Red Line stop without taking into account the clearance for the trailer, and had peeled back the top of the trailer like the lid of a sardine can.

This is why we have truck routes, people.  This is why trucks are prohibited on many roads.  If you don’t know where the truck routes are, YOU’RE NOT QUALIFIED TO DRIVE A FREAKING TRUCK.

1. Taxis.

Seriously, taxi drivers, I hate you.  You are the worst.  Literally, the worst.  Your driving is like a fart on an elevator.  It stinks up the whole place, and latches on to your clothes, so the stink is still around even after you’re gone.  Taxi drivers are such terrible, terrible drivers, that they make MY driving worse, simply by being on the same road as me.

I’ve seen taxi drivers make an illegal u-turn on a one-way street.  I’ve seen them drive over medians so they wouldn’t have to turn around at the end of the block.  I’ve seen taxi drivers break every traffic law you care to name.  And they’re jackasses about it.  They routinely cut off others for no good reason, tailgate, stop short, you name it.

I’m seriously thinking about filing a FOIA request to find out how many accidents in a given month involved taxis, versus how many were simply private individuals.  I’m willing to bet that taxis are the single greatest cause of fender benders in the city.  By a wide, wide margin.

And tell me, who are they constantly talking to on their bluetooth headset?  Is the life of a taxi driver so incredible they all have to narrate it constantly to some mysterious third party?

Wanna raise money for the city?  Just deploy some cops downtown between 4:30pm and 6:30pm on weekdays, with the sole point of ticketing asshole taxi drivers casually breaking the law.  Revenue problem fixed.  You’re welcome.

10 thoughts on “Top 5 reasons why driving in Chicago sucks”

  1. Not to be persnickity but if a bike is a fixie it only has one speed, not 10. Also, if you’re only 10 miles from your job, why not ride your bike?

  2. My least favorite group of Chicago drivers: the create-a-laners. This breed of asshole decides it’s perfectly fine to turn the bike and / or bus lane into their own personal passing lane. This way, they can pick off bikers AND make you slam on your brakes when they cut you off as they run out of room in their imaginary lane.

    You can add this to your list of taxi driver offenses above ; )

  3. Chrissy – for one, I don’t own a bike (easily fixed, sure.) For another, my job is a jacket-and-tie sort of thing, so I’d end up having to tote along a full change of clothes. Ultimately, probably more trouble than suffering LSD traffic twice a day.

  4. Ian – Spoken like a true non-cyclist. I have to bring a full change of clothes to work every day, but I still ride my bike. And drivers don’t treat us like ‘real vehicles’ so why should we act like them?

  5. Bryan,

    I’m glad that you’re willing to put up with the hassles of riding a bike to your place of employment everyday. I’m not. After all, bikes are practically useless in chicago from november through may. So you end up taking the bus or train. And if you’re going to do that anyhow, why not just take the bus/train all the time? You wouldn’t need the change of clothes.

    As to why you should act like your bike is a real vehicle — beside the fact that it’s the law, you might consider that riding like a jackass is much more likely to get you killed than riding like a civilized person. Of course, i’m sure you’re a perfectly safe cyclist. Consider my comments directed to all the OTHER bikers that aren’t so safe.

  6. Ian,

    You and I could not agree more about why driving in Chicago sucks. You nailed everything on my list. However, there is one more entity I may add to this matter; The walkers that seem to think they are “invincible.” You know what I am trying to express. These individuals love to walk right in front of you, even though they do not have the right away. Then you have the right turn where you sit and watch these people cross the road distracted by their phones and other devices, not giving one thought about the vehicle that is trying to make that turn possibly to attend work for the day. Driving in Chicago will be the death of me. No, not by an accident. Rather, it will be the stress related symptoms. I do love this City though!

  7. Driving in Chicago sucks. But the transit is so piss-poor compared to cities like NYC, that there’s no choice for too many of us.

    As much as I hate driving, it still usually beats waiting 20 minutes in the middle of January on some outdoor train platform.

  8. Dan – The mass transit system in Manhattan is entirely underground. The outdoor train platforms you are thinking of are in Long Island and New Jersey. Even then, no one waits 20 minutes for a train to arrive. See in the NY Metro area, we have these things called ‘posted schedules’ – so say a train is scheduled to arrive at 12:20pm, it arrives at 12:20pm – thus negating the need to arrive at the platform 20 minutes and waiting for said scheduled train. Again, this only applies to Long Island and NJ – not NYC. If you are ‘usually’ waiting 20 minutes for a train, then you clearly lack time managment skills (and overall intelligence).

  9. Driving in Chicago sucks, for the reason that all the drivers are in a big hurry to God knows where. They approach the RED light at a speed of 40mph, no really. If I slow down when fairly close to the red light, I get honked at. This has happened more than once so I consider this a pattern. I hate this.

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