Sometimes you just need to flee Champaign-Urbana on your bicycle for the flatness that lies beyond. And sometimes wind direction or a specific destination requires heading north or west, which means crossing an interstate or three. Just for fun, I ranked the local overpasses and underpasses from most spandex-wetting down to most comfortable. Your mileage may vary.
18) Bloomington Rd over I-57: To be avoided under any circumstances. There's little or no shoulder, tons of semi truck traffic, and it doesn't get a whole lot better once you cross the bridge, either, especially if you want to go north.
17) Prospect over I-74: Not a fun time, either, but at least the traffic is lower-speed and less truck-heavy. Crossing the interstate here is the least of your troubles, as navigating the bike hell that is North Prospect is much less fun. Ducking onto the bypass behind Meijer and taking that to Olympian is fairly peaceful.
16) Cunningham under I-74: This being Rt. 45, there are plenty of trucks to contend with, but with it being an underpass there's at least some shoulder to bail out onto.
15) Neil over I-74: Sort of the Prospect overpass' less-threatening brother, in that it offers a lot of the same problems, but at what seems to be a lower traffic volume.
14) Market over I-57: Our most-rural junction on this list, the Market crossing is not actually that bad, but riding Market north to get there can be pretty harrowing. I made a navigational error and ended up going south on this stretch of road once around dusk, and a barreling semi passed within a foot of me. Very life-affirming, if you're into that kind of thing.
13) Springfield under I-57: I've only rode west out of town once this way, and it wasn't miserable. Highway 10 has a shoulder for a little ways west of 57, but you're better off turning right or left at your first opportunity.
12) Bradley over I-57: Could be worse, but the shoulder is pretty dangerously cracked and breaking up on both sides of the road. So, if a Kraft truck comes roaring up behind you, you get to make a choice between staying on the white line and hoping the truck gets over enough, or taking your chances with the damaged pavement grabbing your wheel on the shoulder. Good times!
11) Kirby over I-57: Condition of the too-narrow-for-comfort shoulder is the issue here as well, but things are pretty mellow once you get past the interstate. Bonus points for the roundabouts in the McMansion subdivision right before you get to Staley. Sustainable!
10) Windsor over I-57: The pavement's in good shape and there's a bit of a shoulder, so this one really is pretty decent. Plus, you get to check in on the rapid progress of the YMCA construction and whatever else you may have missed since your last visit to Cherry Hills.
9) Mattis over I-74: Much, much improved since they paved the shoulders north of 74 last summer. Now, this crossing is your biggest impediment; it's great that it's a four-lane bridge, but changing lanes is kind of tricky going both directions.
8) High Cross over I-74: It's fairly high-traffic, but enough of a shoulder that it's not too bad.
7) Duncan over I-72: Most of my crossings of this one have been early in the morning, so traffic hasn't been an issue. No complaints about this bridge, although if you're headed north, you still have to cross 74 and 57 after you get done with this one.
6) Perkins over I-74: Crossing is pretty low-traffic and low-speed, plus you can duck east onto a rural road right after the crossing. Staying the course is fun, too, as there's a muslim mosque that purchased an old church building in a sort of edge-of-town suburban neighborhood.
5) Lincoln over I-74: Your go-to route for fleeing Urbana, as you can observe the scrapyard/ grocery warehouse/ garbage transfer station/ concrete plant wonderfulness, and then duck onto old Lincoln and be in the country in a big hurry. This route has the most potential for future loss of bike-friendliness due to any Olympian Drive extension or Lincoln re-routing plans that may come.
4) Mattis over I-57: Crossing the interstate is super-pleasant, especially with the recent shoulder re-paving. But if you're looking to go northwest from here, get ready for a couple of miles of no-shoulder riding on Mattis unless you want to tangle with the gravel on Ford-Harris. Definitely the most-improved crossing in town(s) in the three years I've lived here, though.
3) Oak under I-74: A great way to get from North Lincoln back to Champaign, or to get out of town from Champaign to the northeast. If you're not familiar, from Bradley and Market, go east on Bradley and turn left on Oak, which is your first street after the railroad crossing. Frontage road peacefulness awaits.
2) Market under I-74: If you need to get to North Prospect on a bike from either downtown Champaign or Urbana, this is really the only fairly-comfortable route. The potential for flats exists from plentiful broken glass, but the riding is pretty mellow. Not a great gateway to routes out of town, though, so be aware.
1) Curtis over I-57: I have to give Savoy some props here. Last Sunday, I rode the Prospect off-street trail from Windsor to Curtis, and then the shoulder and off-street path on Curtis all the way to this new, lovely, wide crossing. And once you're across 57, 1300N is about as quiet a road as you'll find leading out of C-U.
Have your experiences been the same or different? There's no point in putting together a ranked list if no one gets upset, so let me have it.