The lessons your parents drilled into you as a youngster are still vital today: Watch your step, look both ways before crossing, and mind your head! Following are some practical strategies to traversing downtown Chicago. And at rush hour, when life seems to speed up to an almost frenetic pace, this takes on extra significance, especially for the novice.
· Look both ways before crossing; people sometimes drive the wrong way on one-way streets.
· Another good reason to look both ways before crossing the street is the bicycle lanes. And here’s a trick that is even catching seasoned Chicagoans off guard: on one-way streets, bicycle lanes are two-way, making it really crucial to look both ways.
· Luckily, in Chicago pedestrians have the right of way—even so, some rude drivers act as if they’re gunning for you. Stay within the crosswalks.
· Beware busses: they come barreling down the street too close to the curb, so stand a safe distance from the street while waiting to cross. And Heaven help you if you’re in the street while a bus is coming at you; a bus driver with a bad attitude can be extremely intimidating.
· If you’re wearing shoes with soft or thin soles, the bumpy curb ramps for the blind at most intersections are uncomfortable to sensitive feet.
· If it has rained and you see a wet part near the curb, don’t walk or stand there. It’s simply scientific: the sidewalk got splashed and so will you when the next cab comes zooming past.
· Skyscrapers with their floor to ceiling windows need cleaning. Beware walking beneath window washers. One sign is if the sidewalk ahead looks polka-dotted with large droplets and it’s not raining.
· If you’re adverse to large bugs hanging around, you may want to plan your trip to Chicago in the cooler seasons or before late summer. Otherwise, these eyesores can blight your view from the John Hancock and Willis Tower observatories (the higher you go, the bigger the bugs), to the River Walk, at the harbor, or from a restaurant with an otherwise magnificent view. Also be alert when walking under scaffolding, though the worse place for them is in the tunnels that run under Lake Shore Drive to and from the lakefront. For this, a hat is suggested.
· Although you want to look up and admire the architecture and sculptures, also look down: even in a place as nice as Chicago, there are areas of cracked sidewalks and high curbs; and unfortunately, there’s also pet urine and runoff from leaky garbage bins.
· Avoid portions of the walkway containing obvious amounts of pigeon poop, and certainly don’t stand there for any length of time. Especially under train tracks, while innocently waiting to cross the street, you could be standing under a pigeon’s favorite poop perch!
· Beware the grates around decorative trees: at best, they are places dogs like to go; at worst, they can cause serious slips, trips and falls, especially when wet.
· Some subway grates are infamous for blowing up ladies’ skirts. I’ll let you discover those on your own, just for fun.
One last tip: Unfortunately, along with the glitz and glamour of the city comes who-knows-what on the bottom of your footwear. It would no doubt be wise to shed your shoes right inside the doorway to your home and even wipe them down and disinfect them. Then kick up your feet, pat yourself on the back for navigating the city like a pro after reading my last four articles, enjoy the memories, and come back again soon! Chicago is lovely and has much to offer in every season!