Chicago, on Lake Michigan in Illinois, is among the largest cities in the U.S. and our domestic town. It is famed for its bold architecture, with a skyline punctuated by skyscrapers such as the iconic John Hancock Center, standing 1,451-ft, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), and the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower. The city is also renowned for its museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago with its noted Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Not least, Chicago is known for its wind and vibes, producing countless experiences second to none, but unique to it only #ONLY1CHICAGO. We at Dellcy are naturally proud of our city, but do have to concede it can be a challenge to drive in, if you’re not accustomed to it or unaware of the tips and tricks it commands. So before we welcome you please go through our most important tips for driving in Chicago.
Raise your awareness and treat it with calm and pragmatism
Like any large city, Chicago can intimidate a first time visitor or driver, there are many more factors to take into account at all times—street signs, signals, pedestrians, cyclists, and heavy traffic. While streets are well-marked and GPS is reliable in our city, there are still some things you’ll need to know before getting behind the wheel in Chicago. You should always pay attention while driving, in cities you should be even more aware of your surroundings. There are so many moving parts and things going on that you need to be more alert. Don’t let that stress you out, though! Try to stay as calm as possible so that you make good decisions and do not make a mistake or succumb to road rage. As a first time driver please mind the following general pieces of advice:
- No smart phones or hand held electronic devices (According to House Bill 4846, it is illegal to use a hand-held communication device while driving in Illinois. Make sure to load your GPS before driving and use a hands-free device if you need to make a call);
- Mind the grid pattern (Similar to most cities, Chicago is set up on a grid pattern where intersections are generally on right angles and streets run parallel and perpendicular. That should make it quite difficult to get lost in it);
- You can turn right on the red traffic light (When you approach a red light, you’re allowed to make a right turn on red unless there is a sign that specifies otherwise. Be sure to check that no other cars are coming before turning, and watch out for bicycles. There are a lot of bicycle users and paths in Chicago);
- Watch out for one-way streets (The Loop, which is Chicago’s downtown business district, a lot of streets are one-way. Make sure to pay attention to signs that signal one-way streets);
- Rush hour times (Unless you enjoy being stuck in standstill traffic, avoid driving between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., as well as between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. the regular rush hour times of business days of the week when most people are most likely to be commuting);
- Check event and game times (Naturally when there are baseball, football, hockey or other games, concerts, and other events happening in the city, there will be an influx of traffic. Even though you might not be able to completely avoid the extra traffic, you can be aware of what’s going on in the city and steer clear of the areas where the events are taking place);
- Avoid construction zones (Rather than being surprised by a construction zone while you’re driving around the city, make sure to check your navigation or look it up prior to your trip route so as to avoid the unpleasant surprise);
- Prepare to pay a toll while driving on Illinois highways (If you don’t have change or money on hand, you can pay within seven days online. You’ll have to take note of the toll plaza or mile marker number to identify what amount you owe and where you were when you missed the toll. Payments can also be made by mail, but this is not a recommended method as the money will need to be received within the seven-day requirement).
Hunt the parking spots
A classic perv of any great city is its lack of parking. Chicago isn’t too bad but neither too easy to get in this sense. And like any large metropolis it will put you on the hunt. Don’t be surprised when you see someone blocking the road trying to parallel park because you will soon feel coerced to engage in the same when seeing a spot, no matter how unlikely it might be to fit in it. Empty parking spots aren’t easy to find, but it’s not improbable either. To game the city please use the useful apps listed at the bottom of this post – such as SpotHero or Parkwhiz – that should ease and guide your effort. Keep in mind that parking prices per hour are not cheap, and make sure your read and follow the rules of the specific parking meter. It will get harder the closer you are to the downtown or tourist attraction sites. Plan wisely and park close to your location avoiding the crowded area or choose to use any of the public transportation options listed below. Mind the signs nearby in order to avoid a parking ticket. If you see a red Anti-Gridlock Zone sign, that means you aren’t allowed to park there during peak hours. No Stopping or No Standing zone is pretty much self-explanatory, so if you see that sign, be sure you don’t linger there. You can pick up someone or drop them off, but pulling up isn’t allowed, even if you’re sitting in the car. If you park and see a meter, check what type of payment it accepts as well as the free parking time limit, usually an hour or two.
- Parking garages: Grant Park North, Millennium Park, Grand Park South, and Millennium Lakeside garages are convenient for accessing the city between the Chicago River and the lakefront. Discounts are available if you purchase parking vouchers online in advance, and if you get a multi-day pass. Rates vary depending on how long you’ll be parked and what time of day it is.
- Reservation services: Using a parking app or an online reservation service ahead of time is a good way to guarantee you’ll find a space in garages, lots, and spaces throughout the city, near where you need to be. Another benefit is that you will receive a discounted rate. Multi-day and monthly parking is also available through these systems.
- Valet: If you don’t mind spending a bit more cash, valet parking is a great option for hotel guests, restaurant-goers, and theater enthusiasts. Plus, with Chicago weather often making sidewalks a challenge to traverse, you’ll keep your shoes clean and dry.
- Meter parking: Prices vary by neighborhood, block by block, and nearly all meters accept credit cards only; you can typically use an app on your cell phone to pay as well. Many neighborhoods have limited parking, with street parking allotted for private residents only. Often, you may have to circle the block, looking for a spot to open up. To avoid your car being towed, read all of the parking signs carefully, with restrictions listed, and look out for “No Parking” paper signs tied to trees and posts due to regular street cleaning.
Use the diverse public transportation system also
As the official Chicago tourism website details, public transport in the city is plenty diverse. In fact Chicago’s Transit Authority (CTA) is nation’s second largest public transportation system, the CTA operates Chicago’s eight ‘L’ train lines and 129 bus routes. You can learn about all the public transportation options following the link: https://www.choosechicago.com/plan-your-trip/getting-around/ Getting around the city should be straightforward as the grid pattern key streets, Madison Street divides the city north and south, while State Street divides it east and west. The State and Madison intersection in downtown Chicago marks the starting point of Chicago’s grid system. Addresses are relative to the distance from this point, with eight blocks to every mile. So, an address of 3600 N. Clark St. means that it is 36 blocks north of Madison Street. Renting a car certainly gives you flexibility and access to transportation exactly when you need it; however, it may not be necessary. Operated by the CTA, the Chicago “L” rapid transit trains are the easiest and often fastest way to get around much of the city. Many travel to the Loop, the central business district, in downtown Chicago, and some of the trains run 24-hours a day. Of course, there are also buses, taxis, rideshares, and bicycle rentals throughout the city.
Chicago specific driving etiquette, customs, and red flags
The capital of Midwest, Chicago, like any other large city, commands a specific driving etiquette and custom. So in order to blend in and not cause any ruffles while driving in Chicago, be sure to follow these general rules:
- Yield for pedestrians. With nearly three million people living, working, and going to school in Chicago, there are many people walking on the streets, through busy intersections, and along the curbs. People are also out hailing taxis or rideshares. Maintain awareness and be safe.
- Drive with intention. When exiting or entering the freeway, be assertive and proactive. You’ll have to turn on your blinker, increase your speed, and tip your car nose into the traffic to keep up with the fast-paced flow. Also, use all three of your mirrors to keep an eye on approaching drivers.
- Watch out for cyclists. Drivers have to share the road and often, without you even noticing, cyclists (motor or pedal) will be weaving in and out of cars, passing along the center line and sneaking up on the shoulder, so be vigilant.
- Use your blinker. This seems to be an obvious suggestion, but it’s really important when you’re driving with lots of cars, bikes, and pedestrians on the road. Also, just because you have your blinker on, doesn’t mean another car will let you in. While driving in Chicago, you may have to be more aggressive than you’re accustomed to.
- Honk nicely, if at all. Unless a long and loud horn honking is explicitly necessary, offer a quick and light “beep beep” to get your point across when needed.
- City buses: Watch out for public transportation exiting and entering the lane to pick up and drop off passengers. Many of these buses are accordion-style—super long and big—and they take up a lot of space as they’re moving around. Change lanes when possible to avoid being stuck behind one of these behemoths.
Not least please be reminded of the following red flags also:
- Alcohol: The number one killer on Chicago highways is alcohol; digital signs on the highway alert you to the number of deaths, which increase as time passes. Blood-alcohol concentration must be lower than .08, and if it’s higher, you may receive hefty fines, jail time, and suspension of your license.
- Winter conditions: Snow, ice, and darker skies are all conditions to contend with on Chicago roads—increase following distance, slow speed, drive with windows fully defrosted and cleared of snow and ice, and make sure you have nonfreezing window washer fluid. Also, brake early and use slow and steady pumping to avoid skidding.
- Aggressive driving: Drivers who are speeding, passing on the shoulder, cutting off other drivers, slamming on the brakes in front of a tailgater, honking, yelling, and exhibiting additional aggressive behaviors may pose a risk. Do not engage the aggressor, leave space for passing, and lock your doors with the windows rolled up.
- Cameras: Many red lights and speed devices have cameras that will ticket you if you disobey traffic laws.
For any seamless and safe car transportation services rely on us
If you’re moving your vehicle to Chicago or anywhere else in the United States we will be at your availability providing you an easy way to use a car transportation service with a fair price and safe delivery. Our advantages are unequivocal:
- Easy to get a quote – you’ll know the price of your shipping even before getting in touch with us;
- Smooth pick up and drop off process done right on time;
- Clear communication process throughout the delivery process.
Make sure to check the Dellcy Tips for Preparing Your Car for Auto Transport as well as the useful Chicago related resources and apps:
Interactive map of public parking facilities in downtown Chicago.
iParkit: Allows you to reserve a guaranteed parking spot.
Millennium Garages: Visit the site for pre-purchase and drive-up rates.
ABM Parking: Find convenient parking lots all around Chicago.
ParkChicago: Allows you to create an account linked to your car’s license plate; then you can enter the zone number on any Chicago street meter car parking sign to pay.
SpotHero: Parking spots across the city accessible from your phone.
ParkWhiz: Find parking, compare prices, and reserve a space from your phone.