Bike the Drive 2010: Chicago Closes Highway for Cyclists

Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if cities were built to support bicycles, rather than cars? For five hours every year, Chicagoans experience this utopia during Bike the Drive.

Bike the Drive is an annual event organized by the Active Transportation Alliance, during which the city closes the main scenic highway through the city, Lake Shore Drive, to motor traffic and opens it up for cyclists. Nearly 20,000 bicyclists participate!  The huge turn-out demonstrates how hungry people are for cycling, if only they could feel safe on the streets.

Lake Shore Drive via Bike

Lake Shore Drive via Bike

The massive number of participants is amazing, and also the diversity of participants. Sure, there are lots of roadies and daily bike commuters, but also thousands of families with children, middle-aged suburbanites and elderly couples. I imagine a lot of people dust off their old bikes specifically for this event. Hopefully, the ride will remind many of how much fun it is to ride a bike and inspire them to continue to ride.

I rode a total of 50 miles - this dress was airy and hid my padded bike shorts

Greg at the south end of the route, Museum of Science and Industry

Riding companions Dean and Elizabeth

After the ride participants enjoyed a festival in Grant Park, complete with a pancake breakfast and live music.

Grant Park Festival

Grant Park Festival

Again, I must emphasize that this event demonstrates how many people would love to ride bikes more often, if only they felt safe doing so in the road.  The following videos convey more than words can say.  The first video is from last year; the second is from this year. The endless flow of bicycles in both was consistent along the entire route.

For another video of biking the Drive, see here via Steve Vance.

Read Elizabeth’s (pictured above) report at Bike Commuters.

This is totally going down as my group ride for the Summer Games :)

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23 thoughts on “Bike the Drive 2010: Chicago Closes Highway for Cyclists

  1. Anne Hawley says:

    That looks like so much fun! I’ve never done a group ride, but I would on a wide, carless highway like that.

    Nice video. And I love that you had on padded bike shorts under a pretty dress. What a great idea.

  2. I love the pic of fabulously-dressed Dottie in the midst of a sea of sweats-shorts-n-helmet riders! I wish we did something like this in Miami.

  3. Lucas says:

    wow… looks amazing; and the weather looks like it was just spectacular! Here’s hoping that more people begin to see biking as a viable source of transport than “just a hobby” because of events like this!

  4. Marion says:

    Want to see how a city without cars looks like?

  5. Geonz says:

    I heard that Best Buy had a crew out on E-bikes, too.

  6. E A says:

    Best Buy riders WERE there riding their e-bikes. :-)

  7. Kit Cat says:

    I did it too! It was custom ordered picture perfect weather. I wish I would have known that you would be there, I would have loved to actually meet you!!!

    Question for you Dottie – how do you secure your bike? What sort of locking device do you use on your bike for work or at a very public place like downtown Chicago. All I have is a cable bike chain that I bought at Target last year. Any recommendations?

  8. Ed L. says:

    Love Bike the Drive, and the wife and I had made plans to participate on a rented tandem. But a new dog and some freaked out cats resulted in a last-minute decision to cancel. Looks like we missed a great time.

  9. Dave says:

    Portland has a number of events during the summer in different neighborhoods 9they call them Sunday Parkways) where they close off a 5-6 mile loop of roads to automobile traffic (usually between a couple of parks), and they have events in the parks, street vendors, and people are able to just walk, ride or sit in the middle of the streets. We have this same kind of turnout, it ends up being a huge community event for each neighborhood, and it really shows as well how much people would love their streets to be more accessible as public space.

  10. I wanted to go this year, but I lost track of when it was coming up. Next year! Looks like a great event for cycling in the city!

    • E A says:

      Put it on your calendar — Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. :-)

      (after the Ride of Silence – 3rd Wednesday evening in May)

  11. Sigh, I wish they did this in Boston! They do close off a portion of our equivalent Memorial Drive every Sunday in summer, but it is a very small portion. I would *love* to do a 50-mile ride!

  12. ms. elle says:

    Looks like a blast! One of these years… :)

  13. […] although what his helmet has to do why he got hit is beyond me. Chicago turns Lake Shore Drive over to bikes for a day, or five hours, anyway. Can drivers and cyclists co-exist in the City of Brotherly Love? […]

  14. Art Vandalay says:

    This was my second Bike The Drive Ride. It has replaced the L.A.T.E Ride as my favorite.

    For those unfamiliar with Chicago, the Lake Shore Drive (LSD) is not just a road. On a good day it’s an eight lane, white-knuckled driving experience undertaken only by the over-caffeinated and the suicidal. The LSD is like cough syrup – you take it only when necessary and always under protest. No doubt every city has something like it.

    But for a small window in time (just 4 hours on one single day out of the entire year) the Bike The Drive Ride converts the LSD into an eight lane bicycling Ferris wheel. Participation evokes an unbridled child-like enthusiasm from even the crustiest of cyclists. It’s an event that ranks up there with drawing your name in the wet cement, skating on fresh ice or kissing a girl (or boy) for the first time.

    The LSD bisects two visual treats like the soft creamy filling of a duplex sandwich cookie. The east is the vanilla wafer where the sun slowly crawls out of Lake Michigan painting everything in pastels. The west is the chocolate wafer offering a breathtaking 15 mile panoramic of lakefront architecture. No cars and no fear.

    Then again the L.A.T.E Ride is no slouch either and about a month away.

  15. games says:

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  16. bongobike says:

    Looks like a nice ride, but I wish you wouldn’t have to register, wear a number, etc. Why not just have the city close the roads and let anyone/everyone ride and be done with it, like the ciclovias in Colombia?

    Here in Austin, TX such a massive road closure to let cyclists take over the streets for a ride would be tantamount to communism, ha! Texans are too much in love with their Suburbans. :(

  17. E A says:

    We do have such a free event in Chicago and it’s been gaining momentum these past couple of years – called Open Streets ! Bike the Drive is a fundraiser for our local advocacy group so they can continue to work hard for even more Open Streets events. :-)

  18. Jami says:

    I was a volunteer for this event and had a good time.

    Did we pass each other when you were going South and I was going North by McCormick Place?

    I think it was you, someone called out my name and it looked like you!

    The weather was gorgeous and I did up my helmet to try to be just as sunny as the day.

    Thanks for attending!

  19. Dottie says:

    Yes, that was me! Your balloons make you easy to spot :)

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