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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

New Idea for the Viaduct—Make it a Bike Path!

posted by on May 23 at 8:36 AM

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.

RSS icon Comments


Are you already drunk, Harry Carey? What's the big difference between Mayors Daley & Nickels? Oh, about 150 pounds.

Greg Nickels has publicly admitted that's he's afraid to ride a bike in Seattle. He does not give one shit about making Seattle a bicycle-friendly town, despite his bloated lip service.

One of the first phases of the Bicycle Master Plan (Stone Way) has already been severely altered because 3 or 4 small businesses did not want to lose four blocks of a precious, lightly-traveled lane to bicyclists.

But at least six days each summer the city throws us a bone and shuts down a two-mile stretch of Lake Washington Blvd. Gee, thanks.

Posted by DOUG. | May 23, 2007 9:42 AM

Ahem, some people already DO ride the viaduct.

Posted by DFWTH | May 23, 2007 9:55 AM

With no lights and dark clothing. Geniuses.

Posted by Fnarf | May 23, 2007 10:03 AM

I think that's a great idea. I would ride in it for sure.

Portland has the Bridge Pedal every August. You get to bike over the bridges in downtown Portland (you can choose between crossing 6, 8 or 10 bridges). It's a really fun event that brings out cyclists of all ages and skills from hardcore racers to kids just learning to ride.

Posted by cuyahoga | May 23, 2007 10:31 AM

Funny how Bike the Drive and IML are on the same weekend...

Posted by Boomer in NYC | May 23, 2007 10:52 AM

The people have been voting on this issue with their wallets for years, which is why more of them own cars than bikes. If people really wanted to bike everywhere, they'd stop driving. Pretty simple stuff right there.

Posted by Jason Josephes | May 23, 2007 10:53 AM

Let's have a Seattle Cycling Century -- run a route of up to 100 miles, going north and south and north and south, etc., using the Viaduct and I 5, their bridges over the Ship Canal (great views!), plus the waterfront paths along Lake Washington and routes along Puget Sound (Golden Gardens, Magnolia Boulevard, Myrtle Smith, Alki, Lincoln Park).
Make it a charity benefit for cancer research and support. And a dmeonstration of the possibilities of cycling.

Let folks ride 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 mile routes. Add it on to the SeaFair weekend stuff. We close down freeways for the Blue Angels, why not for ourselves, on cycles, at least for one day. We have a beautiful City, this would be one of the prettiest 100 mile bike rides in the world, it would promote tourism plus local community and neighborhood involvement, and it would say we want Seattle to move in this Century toward healthy, non-polluting transportation.

Posted by Cleve | May 23, 2007 11:09 AM

Every second weekend of the sumemr Lake Washington Blvd, between Mt Baker Beach and Seward Park is closed to motorized traffic.

Posted by boydmain | May 23, 2007 11:15 AM

They already do some sort of charity walk on the viaduct every year.

Posted by Gomez | May 23, 2007 11:16 AM

The charity run/walk is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure; held this June 16. Viaduct shuts down for a few hours but everyone drives down to the Quest field to run on it.

Posted by Harris | May 23, 2007 11:53 AM

let's just move to portland instead.

Posted by chas | May 23, 2007 9:49 PM

" In less than a month, the plan was complete and approved."

HAHAHAHA. No government plan has ever taken only a month in Seattle, unless it has been to shut something down. People here only get excited when it comes to preserving the status quo.

Posted by Angry Andrew | May 24, 2007 1:17 AM

I had a dream a few weeks ago that I worked on The Office and Michael Scott took us all to Seattle to go rollerblading on the Viaduct, which was free of cars. It was pretty cool.

Posted by Sarah | May 25, 2007 7:20 AM

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