Halsted Street, UIC & Stockyards

Cycle Chicago, Road Ride, Halsted Street, UIC & Stockyards

This is one of our two gritty urban rides that show how formerly industrial districts are developing into residential and shopping areas. Starting near downtown, you’ll see railroad yards and boat facilities, abandoned factories and piles of scrap. You’ll also see inviting coffee shops and restaurants, new parks and stunning condominiums.

As you bike, try to get a sense for the potential that lies along these streets and how bicycles could help rebuild these communities. At the same time, watch out for potholes!

Terrain

his ride is flat but not smooth throughout due to potholes, railroad tracks and a couple of bridges surfaced with metal grillwork. Best with a hybrid, comfort, coaster or even mountain bike.

Traffic

Moderate traffic over city streets with an occasional bus passing by. The Stockyards Industrial Park, however, has very little traffic.

Access

Take the Blue Line “L” to UIC-Halsted and bike three blocks south to Hull House at 800 S. Halsted St. Or take the #8 Halsted bus to Hull House. Or take the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Metra Line to Halsted and bike north to Hull House.

By car, park on Halsted Street or in the University of Illinois Chicago parking garage across the street from Hull House.

Food and Drink

There are dozens of cafes, restaurants and shops along the way.

Side Trip

Tour Hull House, explore Greek Town just north of the start point, or stroll through UIC’s burgeoning and increasingly residential campus. Another attraction along the way is Stearns Quarry Park, a new park built around a former mine that opened in 1833. The hill, a former landfill, offers fabulous views of the city.

 

More Details

The ride begins at Jane Addams’ Hull House, opened in 1889. This is the original settlement house of a complex that totaled 13 buildings serving Chicago’s immigrants for decades. Hull House sits on the University of Illinois Chicago campus, which is expanding along with classroom buildings and student residences. UIC is contributing mightily to the growing presence of students in and near the Loop, which by some counts is rapidly becoming the largest “college town” in the country.

After crossing the river, you’re in Bridgeport, a traditional Irish-American enclave, home of five Chicago mayors and heart of the local Democratic Party. The tough neighborhood also produced plenty of union leaders, machine politicians, gangsters - and priests. Note the legendary 11th Ward Democratic headquarters at 3659 S. Halsted St. One thing that gave Bridgeport its character was proximity to the Union Stock Yard, now an industrial park. After the yards opened on Christmas Day 1865, workers would drive cattle along Halsted Street to their fate.

The former swampland quickly became the world’s largest meat processing center, peaking in the 1920s when it slaughtered millions of animals a year, employed 40,000 and covered a square mile with enough pens to hold 100,000 animals. The yards closed in 1972. All that’s left are the Livestock National Bank at Halsted Street and Exchange Avenue and the gate of the former entrance to the yards. The limestone structure was designed by Burnham & Root, and the head over the arch is thought to represent Sherman, a prize-winning bull owned by John Sherman, superintendent of the yards who commissioned the gate.

To the west of the gate, visit the Chicago Firefighters Memorial. It honors 21 firefighters who died in the 1910 Union Stock Yard Fire - the greatest number of American firefighters lost in a building collapse until the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The rest of the ride meanders through streets lined with the frame houses, bungalows and two-flats, corner groceries, taverns and ethnic restaurants, churches, parks and community centers so typical of Chicago’s working class neighborhoods.

Some of the homes have entrances below street level because their owners could not afford to have them lifted when the city raised the streets. The ride passes through some rundown areas but this part of the city is rebounding.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at Hull House, 800 S. Halsted St.
  • 0.8 Pass under bridge, which holds Metra’s Halsted Street Station.
  • 1.3 Careful crossing railroad tracks on Cermak Rd.
  • 1.6 This bridge’s metal surface is bumpy and can be slick when wet. 1.8 Pass under CTA Orange Line and Interstate 55.
  • 1.9 Stearns Quarry Park on right.
  • 3.7 Turn right on Exchange Ave into Stockyards Industrial Park. If gate is closed, go around it on sidewalk.
  • 3.8 Admire Stockyard Gate and Chicago Firefighters Memorial. Continue west on Exchange Ave.
  • 4.0 Turn left on Morgan St.
  • 4.4 Turn right on 45th St (Marina Dr).
  • 4.7 Turn right on Racine Ave.
  • 5.1 Follow Racine Ave north as it curves.
  • 5.3 Careful crossing tracks. If gate is closed, go around it on sidewalk. Bear left toward stop sign.
  • 5.4 Go under bridge and continue north on Racine Ave as it curves.
  • 5.6 Careful crossing tracks. You’re now riding parallel to the infamous Bubbly Creek, which was choked with stockyard waste. Its tree-lined banks are half a block on the left, behind the factories.
  • 6.4 Turn right on 31st St.
  • 6.5 Turn left on Loomis St.
  • 6.9 Pass under Interstate 55 and CTA Orange Line.
  • 7.2 Cross bridge over South Branch of Chicago River. Its metal surface is bumpy and can be slick when wet. Great view of skyline.
  • 7.7 Careful crossing tracks on Cermak Rd.
  • 7.8 More tracks!
  • 8.0 At 18th St and Loomis St, note statue, a gift from the mayor of Mexico City to the people of Pilsen in 1997. Bear right 45 degrees onto Blue Island Ave.
  • 8.5 As you approach UIC, note the many warehouses converted into condominiums.
  • 8.7 Steeple on left is that of Holy Family, the city’s second oldest church. The Great Chicago Fire started near this church and burned north and east all the way to Fullerton Ave.
  • 9.0 Turn right on Roosevelt Rd into heart of UIC’s campus.
  • 9.3 End ride at Halsted St, four blocks south of Hull House, for a beverage or snack at Barbara’s Bookstore on southwest corner.
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    14.779 km / 9.183 mi

    Total Distance

    84 m / 275 ft

    Total Ascent

    84 m / 274 ft

    Total Descent

    183 m / 600 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    Ride Duration: <1 hr
    Fitness Level: Low
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 15.0
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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