Sunday, May 26, 2013

2013 Bike The Drive

Today was the 12th annual Bike The Drive event in downtown Chicago.  20,000 bikers signed up for this event where the fifteen miles of Lake Shore Drive between Hollywood Avenue in the north and 57th Street in the south is blocked-off for bikes only.  Bikers were allowed onto the course beginning at 5:30 a.m. this morning.  I parked in the south Grant Park garage, exited the garage on my bike and turned east on Jackson Drive.  I reached Lake Shore Drive just a few minutes after the 5:30 a.m. beginning of the event.  I certainly was not alone on the road but since I was among the earlier starters, there was plenty of room.  Also, the fact that this is not a race and does not feature a mass start, makes for easier riding.

My event participant number

Route map from the event brochure

After a couple of days of cloudy weather here in Chicagoland, today's weather was mostly clear and sunny but temperatures were cool and a breeze made it feel even cooler than the actual temperatures in the low 50's.  This is my third time doing this event.  Pam and I did it with friends in 2010 and 2011 but I was on my own this year.  The event bring out all sorts of bikers.  I saw more than a few tandems and a few riders on classic older bikes.  There were also several bike club groups riding together as well as families.  As I headed north, the taller buildings of downtown gave way to beautiful residential buildings that face Lake Michigan.  The sun rose shortly before 5:30 but I did not feel much heat from its rays.  I had on long biking pants as well as a windbreaker jacket and I was glad I did.  A few hearty or foolish soles had on shorts and t-shirts.  The predicted high temperature for the day was only 66 and it wasn't close to that yet.

I entered the course as it opened a few minutes after sunrise
North of the downtown "Loop" area

Some of Chicago's best beaches lay along our route.  There were already plenty of beach walkers and joggers out.  I noted plenty of race personnel standing along the route keeping an eye on things as well as first aid riders and repair riders ready to assist any bikers.  I did not see any accidents but I did see them loading one person who had evidently had some trouble into a car.  I previous years I had started the event later in the morning along with a crowd of riders.  Starting earlier got me a better parking spot and a less crowded roadway but less favorable weather conditions.

I skipped the rest stop at Bryn Mawr Avenue and went on to Hollywood Avenue after Lake Shore Drive bends west.  I did a u-turn at Hollywood and started back south.  With eight miles or so under my wheels, I was thoroughly warmed up and felt my speed pick up as I made my way south back towards downtown.  At Monroe Street I got off of Lake Shore and headed west to Columbus Drive where I turned south and then got off of Columbus onto Jackson before turning back onto Lake Shore to continue south.  We passed Museum Campus and then Soldier Field before passing beneath part of McCormick Place, the giant convention and exhibition hall.

Southbound back toward the city
Approaching downtown

This ride was made possible by the sponsors and by Active Transportation Alliance but, in a very important way, it was made possible by Daniel H. Burnham (1846 - 1912).  His 1909 Plan of Chicago called for a 20-mile long public park along the city's lakefront.  He was a visionary but certainly not alone.  A quote in a publication by the Canal Commission in 1836 is often incorrectly attributed to Burnham.  It stated that the lakefront should be "... public ground - common to remain forever open, clear and free of any buildings, or other obstruction whatever."  McCormick Place is the only building that violates that edict but many argue that Lake Shore Drive itself violates it.  Some would like to see the Drive itself removed entirely to make the lakefront a truly grand park space.

It doesn't look like Daniel Burnham spent too much time on a bicycle
I know I was moving along at a good pace but the trip seemed really quick this year.  Before too long I was in the neighborhood called Hyde Park.  My mother's family started out in Hyde Park in the 1920's and 1930's so parts of it are familiar to me.  The feature of the area that is probably most familiar to Chicagoans and visitors alike is the Museum of Science and Industry.  It's the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere and is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts building from the World's Columbian Exposition that was held in 1893.  It is one of the few buildings from the Exposition that was built as a permanent structure.  Chicago is known as "The Windy City" and one of the most commonly accepted explanations for that term is that it was used often by a New York City newspaper editor to describe the bragging of Chicago politicians and other boosters as we competed to be designated as the site of the Exposition.  I had stopped along the way to take a few photos and drink some water so I did not feel like I needed the rest stop at the turn around site at the Museum so I was back on my way north for the final leg of my journey in no time at all.

Some of the best views of the city are from northbound Lake Shore Drive
Getting close to the finish
Into the concrete canyons

A few folks come out to this event on bikes that are ill-equipped to handle a 30 mile ride but it is more common to see riders who are themselves not ready for the ride.  I did not see anyone riding in the van labeled "sag vehicle" but more than a few folks looked like they were not there to do the whole ride.  There were designated places to for people to enter and exit the route.

Some of the best views of the city are looking north from Lake Shore drive as you approach downtown and today was a great day to enjoy the views.  I saw several groups of people stopped by the roadside to pose for a photo with the city rising in the background.

I finished my ride before 8:00 and exited the Drive on Monroe to circle Grant Park again before heading to the parking garage.  More than a few folks were entering the riding area via Jackson Drive to begin their rides.  This is where you see the accidents happen when people are going in several directions or pulling over to rest or to try to meet-up with someone.  I saw one close call.  I headed back down into Grant Park Garage to retrieve my car and head home after a great ride.

At the end of the ride