Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Milwaukee Avenue & Elston Avenue
This is one of Chicago's gritty urban rides that show how industrial districts in Chicago are developing into residential and shopping areas. Bikes make up a significant part of Milwaukee Avenue’s new identity. Nowhere in the city (except on the Lakefront) will you see more bikes. By one recent count, one-third of passing vehicles at Milwaukee and North avenues during rush hour were bicycles. This stretch of bike heaven offers not only safety in numbers but inspiration for the potential of urban biking.
Flat as a pancake. A hybrid or comfort bike would be best due to all the potholes.
Lots - the most traffic of any ride in Chicago The entire ride is over marked bike lanes, so it does not require much experience riding on Chicago streets. It does, however, require care and attention all along the way.
Take the CTA Blue Line and bike two blocks southeast to start. Several CTA buses will get you there, in particular #56 Milwaukee, #65 Grand and #8 Halsted.
By car, exit Interstate 90/94 at Ohio, turn right on Des Plaines Street and drive three blocks south.
Food and Drink
An enormous number of eateries and drinking establishments.
Tour and shop Wicker Park, a historically important neighborhood. Or tour Revolution Brewing, a new restaurant, microbrewery and bicycle hangout at 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave., opened by the owner of the Handlebar, the city’s heretofore most popular bicycle bar.
Previously a buffalo path to the Chicago River and then a Native American trail, Milwaukee Avenue has always been a busy thoroughfare. As an angle street, it has provided a shortcut not only for shoppers and workers on their daily rounds but also for ethnic groups on their way out geographically and up economically. Rather than a melting pot, the street has served as a port of entry and witnessed a procession of nationalities, starting with Germans and Scandinavians followed by Poles, Ukrainians, Slovaks and other Slavs, Italians, Eastern European Jews and, most recently, Hispanics.
As a result, this ride passes vestiges of colorful histories. Take your time to shop the goods and sample the foods, from the Little Poland $ Store to storefront taquerias and everything in between. The Poles have dominated the story of Milwaukee Avenue as evidenced along the ride by the Polish American Museum, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Copernicus Center and former “Polish Downtown” at Division Street. You’ll also see several important old theaters, including the Gateway, Portage, Logan and Congress.
Today urban pioneers and young people are increasingly salvaging discarded dwellings and rundown streets along this corridor. Former storehouses, corner taverns and automobile repair shops are morphing into wi-fi cafes, upscale restaurants and, yes, boutique bike shops. This transformation is far from complete and may never end, which only underscores the wonderfully dynamic and eclectic nature of this living, open-air museum.
In addition to being important for national pride, ethnic community and religious identity, the Milwaukee Avenue corridor has also provided jobs to thousands. That’s why this ride includes a spin along the parallel, nearby Elston Avenue, Milwaukee Avenue’s less attractive cousin. Elston Avenue and Goose Island across the Chicago River have been home to heavy industry, tanneries and freight railroad lines.
Before the Kennedy Expressway ripped through the neighborhood, Elston Avenue was the quickest way to drive downtown, and traffic was heavy. Today, traffic is light and the street holds more potential than promise. Still, some planners believe that bicycle lanes and bicyclists will help bring this street back to life by encouraging development on a human scale in harmony with the light industrial and increasingly residential character of the area.
26.916 km / 16.725 mi
65 m / 213 ft
65 m / 215 ft
189 m / 621 ft