Cycle Chicago, Road Ride, Biking the Boulevards
This is a challenging yet extremely enjoyable ride. The challenging part is dealing with traffic because about half of the ride is on city streets that don’t have bike lanes, although they are designated as bike routes. Some of these streets have heavy traffic, so the best time to take this ride would be on the weekend. The enjoyable part is seeing scores of parks, statues, historical sites, landscaping gems and architectural wonders along the way.
Our ride starts at the Monument to the Great Northern Migration and ends near the Illinois Centennial Monument in Logan Square. Between these two monuments you’ll see the Rainbow/PUSH headquarters, the Center for Green Technology and the infamous Cook County Jail. You’ll bike by the former homes of an incredible cast of characters, from Ida B. Wells to the Marx Brothers. And you’ll see Chicago’s oldest “L” station at Garfield on the CTA’s Green Line as well as the Fountain of Time, a provocative sculpture by Lorado Taft. Yes, this ride really packs it in!
The parks connected by the boulevards are remarkable themselves. Washington Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City. Douglas Park was laid out by William Le Baron Jenney, considered to be the father of the skyscraper. Sherman Park’s fieldhouse was designed by Daniel Burnham and is one of the first fieldhouses in the world. Garfield Park’s fieldhouse has a gold dome. And from 1928 to 1946, Humboldt Park sported a popular velodrome that was used for six-day races, among other things.
The 28-mile Boulevard System is one way Chicago has tried to live up to its motto, Urbs in Horto, which was adopted in 1837 and means “city in a garden.” The system was envisioned as a crescent with each tip connecting to the lake, but the northern leg along Diversey Parkway was never built. Nevertheless, the Boulevard System is a great asset to the city. WTTW Channel 11 and Geoffrey Baer rightly selected it as one of Chicago’s most important features. And the Boulevard Lakefront Tour has long been one of the Active Transportation Alliance’s most popular annual rides. Come see why.
Some quiet roads through city parks but mostly city streets with a number of cars and potholes.
Despite some traffic congestion, most of this ride is along pleasant streets. About half of these streets have designated bike lanes; the others have “bike route” signs.
Take the CTA Red Line to Chinatown; bike four blocks south and four blocks east to the start.
By car, exit Lake Shore Drive at 31st Street and drive west to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Turn right and drive to 26th Street. On-street parking is available in the area.
Food and Drink
Innumerable restaurants and convenience stores along the way, in particular in Logan Square near the finish.
There are so many options! Visit one of Chicago’s most overlooked museums, the DuSable Museum of African-American History, four miles into the ride. Also right along the way is the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory 19 miles in. Once given up for dead, the building was renovated in the 1990s. Today the conservatory is one of the city’s most lively, attractive flower and horticultural centers.
38.213 km / 23.744 mi
88 m / 288 ft
89 m / 291 ft
186 m / 609 ft