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Chicago Shortcuts: Avoid Traffic, Save Time, Be a City Pro with These Tips

By Mark Konkol | May 15, 2014 5:18am | Updated on May 15, 2014 1:12pm
 Everyone has a secret shortcut to get around the city.
Everyone has a secret shortcut to get around the city.
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DOWNTOWN — One little story about a White Sox parking sign on a North Side light pole certainly got some people talking about Chicago shortcuts.

There are certain kinds of people who consider their shortcuts so sacred that they would rather punch themselves in the face than tell you what route they take to escape traffic on the expressway. I respect those people out of fear, mostly.

Other Chicago drivers blessed with a mental Rolodex of side-street shortcuts secretly believe they are smarter, more in-the-know and probably better-looking than you. They are the kind of people who will share their secret shortcuts for the sole purpose of impressing you with the depth of their Chicago side-street knowledge.

The best of those kinds of people will warn you that the shortcuts they are about to tell you about aren't necessarily shorter and won't always save you much time.

They might even explain what shortcuts do give a driver is the illusion of moving faster than those suckers in stop-and-go traffic, and a feeling that he's smarter, more in-the-know and probably better-looking than them.

And sometimes, when you're stuck in traffic, a little illusion goes a long way.

That said, here are a few good ones:

River North to South Loop (and beyond): If you’re stuck in traffic, do yourself a favor and turn off the GPS, head east and go underground, my friend. Take Lower Michigan Avenue south, make a left on Lower Wacker Drive and turn right on Lower Columbus Drive through Grant Park to avoid random backups on Michigan Avenue and Lake Shore Drive.

Downtown to the Bridgeport Hipster Triangle (to avoid White Sox traffic on game day): Take Lower Wacker to west on Harrison to south (left) on Canal Street and turn right (west) on 31st Street to Morgan.

Far North Side to Wrigley Field on game day: Far North Siders with common sense will tell you that you should never, ever take Clark Street through Rogers Park and Andersonville to a Cubs game. Instead, take Ashland south and go east (right) on Belle Plaine (one block north of Irving Park) and cut through the neighborhood to Clark Street.

West Rogers Park to Lake Shore Drive: When Peterson and Ridge are backed up, head south on Ravenswood and turn left (east) on Foster to LSD.

 Everyone has a shortcut to beat traffic in the city.
Everyone has a shortcut to beat traffic in the city.
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Far North Side to O’Hare Airport: Every cab driver worth his salt knows it’s best to take Devon west, turn left (south) on Nagle to the Kennedy and then on to the airport.

Far South Side to Midway: Taking the Dan Ryan to the Stevenson is always a traffic crapshoot. When in doubt, take 87th Street west, turn right (north) on Cicero to the airport.

Southeast Side to Downtown: Stony Island is always your best bet. But if you’re already stuck on the Dan Ryan, get off and take State Street or King Drive and head north.

Downtown to Wicker Park: Both In Wicker Park and East Village, Milwaukee and Division are often packed with a dangerous mix of drivers, bikers and pedestrians. So take Kinzie, turn right (north) on Milwaukee, turn left (west) on Augusta to right (north) on Damen. Heading north on Wood and Hoyne are good options, too.

Inbound Edens to outbound Kennedy: Exit the Edens at Cicero, go west (right) on Foster to the Kennedy.

River North taverns to West Loop restaurants: Head west on Kinzie past Des Plaines (where the street is a bit pothole-pocked and seems like an alley), go left (south) on Morgan to your favorite joint on Fulton Market or Randolph Street.

Expressway alternatives: These should be on every commuter’s shortcut list:

Take Elston to avoid the Kennedy.
Take Ogden to avoid the Eisenhower.
Take Archer to avoid the Stevenson.
Take Ashland or Stony Island to avoid the Dan Ryan.

Fastest way to Superdawg from the east: Take Devon through the Cook County Forest Preserve between Milwaukee Avenue and Edgebrook.

Mount Greenwood to Hyde Park: When traffic is backed up on I-57 and the Dan Ryan, consider heading north on Pulaski (or Kedzie), take a right and head northeast on Columbus Avenue, turn left (north) on Western and right (east) on 55th Street.

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