Nepotism New Idea for the Viaduct—Make it a Bike Path!
posted by May 23 at 8:36 AMon
At least for a day. While it’s not Bay to Breakers, the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation’s annual Bike the Drive event shows what can happen in a city where things actually get done. This year’s BtD is this Sunday, and I’ll be dragging the Stranger’s Fearless Leader off some barstool in Boy’s Town for the ride.
The history: the CBF does another event, the Boulevard Lakefront Tour, which takes cyclists around Chicago’s historic boulevard system (and is a climate-neutral event!). They used to shut down LSD from for a few miles on the South Side, and then some wild-eyed dreamer said: Hey, why not let us take over all of Lake Shore Drive for a day? Mayor Daley said “Make it so,” and so it was done. In less than a month, the plan was complete and approved. Bike the Drive was a reality a mere six months after it was first proposed.
This is the sixth year of the event, which draws between 15 and 20 thousand participants, from whacked-out Critical Mass types to families with kids on training wheels. I’ve done it each year, always starting in the first rank (soon passed by the hard-core cyclists). It’s an amazing transformation of urban space, to be someplace that formerly was just for cars. The most striking thing is how quiet it is—some boombox-wielding jerks notwithstanding, it’s just the silence. Views of the spectacular Chicago skyline that you normally only get at 50 mph are transformed when travelling 15 mph on a bicycle.
The highlight for me is always the start, when heading northbound into the sun rising on Lake Michigan over Navy Pier. Then the second highlight is the finish, four hours and sixty miles later, when I crack open the beers I’ve been lugging in a mini-cooler in my panniers to carbo-load for my ride home.
Seattle ought to start thinking about arguing about talking about looking at the environmental and social impact on the neighborhoods of maybe actually doing something like this.