The Riverwalk on the west bank of the Chicago River north of Diversey Parkway.
Hopefully Grid Chicago readers aren’t yet tired of reading about stealth bike routes. We did get a good response the posts about “secret” river routes from the Loop to Division St. and Wellington Ave. to Webster St., as well as our roundup of Chainlinkers’ favorite routes.
By the way, here’s a fun video created by James Presley, which I caught at the Bike Winter Film Festival last Sunday. He explores the Loop to Division route from north to south. The background music really creates tension, like he’s defusing a bomb or something.
On Tuesday the weather was so nice that I couldn’t resist going out and photographing another stealth segment from Diversey St. (2800 N.) to Montrose Ave. (4400 N.), connecting three snippets of riverwalk, which reader Bob Kastigar recently reminded me about. I sometimes use this fun, if roundabout, route to commute from Logan Square to the Sulzer Library in Lincoln Square. Here’s a Google map of the route (see it embedded below).
On Tuesday afternoon I started riding this segment at Diversey (2800 N.) and Oakley Ave. (2300 W.) Heading north a block towards the River Walk Townhomes development I came to a path, marked private property, on the west bank of the Chicago River. A mother and her little daughter were throwing breadcrumbs into the water. “We’re feeding the ducks,” the girl said. “Oh, fun,” I replied.
To follow this route, it’s necessary to bear right at the first fork in the path, and then, after about a block on the path, take the next left, heading west. Turn south down a sidewalk and you’ll come to a driveway with a few guest parking spots with a row of old fashioned parking meters. Head west down the driveway to Western Ave. (2400 W.)
I continued straight on the river path a bit to where it dead-ends into the Western Ave. Bridge. There I encountered Rich, a bicycle hobo, barbecuing a large amount of chicken on a small hibachi. It smelled delicious.
Backtracking to the route, I turned north onto the Western sidewalk and crossed the bridge. On the other side of the river an overpass rises above the five-way Western/Belmont/Clybourn intersection. The structure was built in 1960 in response to congestion at the Riverview amusement park, which closed seven years later. Here’s a blurb I wrote on that subject for Time Out Chicago.
Leaving the sidewalk, I took the one-lane service road to the right of the overpass, passed by the Viaduct Theater and turned west on Fletcher St. (3130 N.), through the viaduct, where there’s a homeless encampment. I turned north on Campbell St. (2500 N.), passing by the headquarters for the Tampico Beverage Co. and Beverage Flavors International.
The Fletcher St. viaduct
At Belmont (3200 N.) I got on the sidewalk on the north side of the street and headed west up the Belmont Bridge. Just before the river a ramp leads down to the North Branch Riverwalk. (If you cross to the west bank of the river here, another section of riverwalk leads two blocks north to Roscoe St., a stone’s throw from Hot Doug’s gourmet hotdog stand.) As I rolled down, two teens, probably from nearby Lane Tech High School, were walking hand-in-hand underneath the ramp, where blankets and clothing lay on the ground.
A bit north along the path I came to The Garden, a BMX dirt jump park which was originally a guerilla facility but recently became sanctioned by the Chicago Park District. There are big, steep jumps reinforced with brick in the middle of the park, but even on my heavy cruiser I was able to navigate the gentler bumps on the mostly-flat perimeter path.
At the boat launch for Chicago River Canoe & Kayak, a father and son had caught a 20-pound carp with a fishing rod. Since the river is still heavily polluted, after unhooking and weighing the fish they rolled it back into the river and it swam away. I passed by a soccer field where an Ecuadorian food truck sells ceviche (marinated seafood) and arepas (corn cakes) in the summer.
After half a mile the path ends at Rockwell St. (2600 W.), just south of Addison St. (3600 N.) The Chicago Department of Transportation is planning to eventually build an underbridge connection under Addison to help eliminate this missing link in a future Riverfront Trail.
In the meantime, I headed east on Addison, passing by Lane Tech’s castle-like brick structure. (Another option is to head west on Addison to California Ave., go north a couple of blocks and pick your way through a few path snippets in California Park, on the west side of the river.) Turning north on Campbell St. (2500 W.), I continued past the WGN-TV studios, continuing straight on a sidewalk after the road bended left. At Revere Park, 3900 N., I turned west onto a path around the perimeter of the ball fields, ending at Irving Park Rd. (4000 N.), just east of the river.
The path drops you off right at the Rockwell St. stoplight and crosswalk, so I took that to the north side of Irving Park and rode west on the sidewalk across the river to the southeast corner of Horner Park. There, you can take a network of paths north along the east side of the long, narrow green space, near the west bank of the river – just keep bearing right. I passed by a man-made hill at the north end of the park, a great place to watch the sunset.
The Horner Park hill
When you get to Montrose Ave. (4400 N.) you can head west and follow the signed bike route up Mozart St. (2830 W.) and Manor St. (a SE/NW diagonal) to the start of the North Shore Channel Trail. Instead, I rolled east to Lincoln Square for a reception at the beautiful new east building for the Old Town School of Folk Music, a three-story structure whose facade is adorned with terracotta panels featuring the words for “music” in a dozen or two languages.
On the minus side, the sleek, well-placed bike racks in front of the building, which are shaped like long, skinny rectangles, only accommodate one bike each comfortably and don’t work with mini U-locks. I wish developers would stop trying to re-invent the wheel and just install the standard “inverted U” bike racks the city uses. If they want to be arty they can buy curvy, gleaming stainless-steel inverted Us.
Rockwell El stop
On the way I detoured to the charming little side-street retail district by the CTA’s Rockwell stop (4700N.), including Rockwell’s bar & grill, whose logo features a Brown Line car. Bells rang, gates lowered and an El train zoomed by at ground level, lighting up the now-indigo night.
View Stealth Route III in a larger map
Grid Chicago is a blog about sustainable transportation matters, projects and culture in Chicago and Illinois, by John Greenfield and Steven Vance since June 2011.
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