A new kind of traffic struck Lake Shore Drive during rush hour Sunday morning as thousands of bikers took to the streets for Chicago’s annual Bike the Drive.
Nearly 20,000 professional and leisurely riders pedaled around scenic Lake Shore Drive in a 30-mile round-trip course Sunday while raising money for the Active Transportation Alliance.
“Every year I’m just always surprised by like how many people, how many different types of people, are just out and really enjoying the day,” said Ethan Spotts from the Active Transportation Alliance.
Proceeds from the event, sponsored by MB Financial Bank, will fund projects to make biking and transportation safer in the Chicagoland area and provide opportunities for economical transportation.
From buffered and barrier-lined bike lanes to bike share programs, funds raised from Bike the Drive are being put to use across the city, and the projects are making history.
Beyond the 31 miles of buffered and barrier-protected bike lanes, Spotts said the city’s protected lane along Dearborn Street makes Chicago the first major city in the U.S. to have a protected bike lane through a major central business district.
“We’re stepping up,” he said. “Chicago’s going to be number one.”
Recently, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to roll out a new bike sharing program this June, offering 4,000 three-speed cruisers at kiosks at Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center and various downtown CTA stations.
The bikes debuted at the event Sunday, with many receiving their inaugural rides along LSD.
Emanuel has shown consistent support for bikers in Chicago after implementing new bike lanes and supporting the bike share program, and Potts said the Mayor and his crew deserve an “A” for their efforts.
But not everyone is as happy with the road changes.
Some drivers fear the new lane configurations are too congested and confusing and could lead to more accidents.
But according to Active Trans, the number of people biking to work has doubled in the last five years and is proof that cycling’s popularity is growing in Chicago, if 20,000 bikers taking over Lake Shore Drive wasn’t convincing enough.
And Bikers agree that the event meets the needs of the city, offering opportunities for experienced riders and leisure coasting with family and friend.
“What’s better than a ride and not a race that everybody can enjoy?” said Karen Pearlman, chief financial officer with MB Financial Bank.
Even members of the NBC Chicago team grabbed their wheels and joined in for the event.
“I’m always reporting on it or mentioning it but I’ve always been jealous of the people that are out here doing it,” said NBC Chicago’s Anthony Ponce, who experienced the event for the first time Sunday.
Ponce was joined by Mike Adamle, a veteran of the event for over a decade.
But despite the difference in their years of participation, the NBC Chicago crew took the trip together.
“A station that rides together, glides together,” said Adamle.