Saturday, May 30, 2015

How to safely ride to the Bloomingdale Trail

by Michelle Stenzel

We’re very excited for the June 6th opening of the Bloomingdale Trail. This new 2.7-mile long elevated trail and the adjacent 606 park system will be a great asset to the neighborhoods it runs through, providing new green space as well as a low-stress transportation route between Bucktown/Wicker Park and Logan Square/Humboldt Park.
Taken from the Bloomingdale Trail website.

Here’s a map of the Bloomingdale Trail's access points:

Taken from the 606 website.

What’s particularly exciting to us is that the easternmost part of the trail is very close to Lincoln Park! For people living in the area of Armitage and Racine, the Walsh Park access point (in yellow on the map above) is less than one mile away. Even for people living in Lincoln Park’s northeast corner, near Diversey and Lake Shore Drive, the distance is less than three miles, a mere 20-minute bike ride. We know many Lincoln Park residents and visitors will want to visit the Bloomingdale Trail regularly, so the question is, which mode of transportation will you use to get there? You’re not going to drive, are you?  (More -->)

We’d like to encourage you to ride your bike to get to the Bloomingdale Trail. Not only is it only a short distance, once you arrive, you don't have to worry about parking, and you'll have your bike to enjoy the full 5.4-mile trail loop.

We’ve made a map of the best route to take on bike to the Bloomingdale Trail from the Lakefront Trail and Lincoln Park. We’ve color-coded the sections to give you an idea of how relaxed vs. stressed you’ll feel on various segments. Dark green is safest, red is “don’t go there”.
Color key: 
Dark green = Safest/Best/Comfortable for all people riding bikes from age 8 to 80.
Lighter Green = Comfortable conditions for many people riding bikes.
Yellow = Somewhat stressful conditions for many people riding bikes.
Red = Unacceptable conditions for riding a bike for most people. 
And here’s the map of our suggested bike route to take from Lincoln Park and the Lakefront Trail to the Bloomingdale Trail:
Our suggested bike route map to get to the Bloomingdale Trail/606 from Lincoln Park and the Lakefront Trail.
We included the location of Divvy stations along the route in case you're on a Divvy and want to stop along the way. 
The good news is that there are no red segments! The bad news is that there’s a little too much yellow. Armitage Avenue is generally a pretty good bike route to take due to its traditional-style bike lanes through Lincoln Park.

Armitage Avenue has traditional-style bike lanes through most of Lincoln Park. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Unfortunately, the Armitage bike lanes disappear at major intersections as well as under the Armitage L stop, and on Racine. 

The Armitage Avenue bike lanes disappear under the L stop. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
For those stretches, a person riding a bike is given no choice but to merge with the motor vehicle traffic. However, those are very brief segments.

Cortland Street through the Finkl Steel area would generally be marked as yellow on the map due to high motor vehicle traffic volumes and faded-to-nothing bike lane markings, but given that the Cortland bridge will be closed to motorized traffic from June 1, 2015 to November 1, 2015 for repairs, it might actually be better marked as lighter green, so we’ve given it a hybrid marking. 
Two Divvy bike riders make their way westward on Cortland, through the former Finkl Steet site.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
With no way for cars, trucks and SUVs to get over the river for the next five months, drivers will have little reason to take Cortland, which will cut down traffic and increase bicycling comfort immensely. Fortunately, there will always be one sidewalk open during the repair period, so you can just hop off your bike to walk it a few yards across the bridge if there are pedestrians present.
The Cortland Street bridge will be closed to motor vehicle traffic for five months of 2015, but one sidewalk will always remain open for non-motorized users. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
The least-comfortable part of the route to the Bloomingdale is on Cortland Street at the triple-threat confluence of Ashland Avenue, the Metra train tracks and 90-94 expressway. 

The view on Cortland headed under the Metra and 90/94 viaducts, at Ashland Avenue. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)

The two overhead viaducts from the Metra and 90/94 make it dark and foreboding, and the high-speed, high-volumes of north-south motor vehicle traffic on Ashland also feels threatening. 
Bicyclists navigate their way through the Cortland/Ashland intersection. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Fortunately 1/ this yellow part of the route is a relatively short segment that you can traverse within a few minutes, and 2/ if you get uncomfortable, there is a sidewalk all the way from Elston to the west side of the 90-94 viaduct that you can ride on (slowly of course!). 

Immediately on the other side of 90/94, you’re suddenly in a leafy, quiet part of Bucktown, and Cortland feels like a quiet neighborhood street once again. 
Cortland Street west of Ashland is a comfortable, low-stress route for bicyclists. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
A quick left turn onto Marshfield and a short pedal later, and you’ve arrived at Walsh Park, and an access point to get on the Bloomingdale Trail. 

Well, wouldn't you know it: After composing this entire post, I saw that the Bloomingdale Trail folks have a brand new tool you can use to find your nearest access point (What's my closest access point?) and when you enter the address of North Boulevard and Lake Shore Drive and search for a bicycle route, it generates the following map:

Suggested bicycle route to the closest Bloomingdale Trail access point from the Lakefront Trail, per the finder tool
from the Trail's website.

Looks pretty familiar, doesn't it? The only significant difference is that this map directs you to ride on Clark Street from Eugenie to Armitage, and we advise strongly against that. Clark Street in this stretch is a four-lane street with very fast-moving cars and buses, and no bike lanes of any kind. Therefore, until this segment is upgraded as is planned under Streets for Cycling 2020, we recommend you avoid Clark and Stockton, and just ride on the paths through the park instead.

We hope you find our map and photos useful, and enjoy the ride!


  1. Excellent post! I like the step-by-step photos and directions. Glad you found our access point locator -- it's using Google Maps bicycling directions under the hood, which may not always be up-to-date with local conditions, so glad you were able to highlight the Clark Street caveat.

    1. Thanks for reading, Paul! The access point locator is great. May I suggest you consider making the default answer to "How do you want to get there?" either by walking, bicycle or transit? Little choices like that help to change people's ways of thinking and acting. (I'm sure the Bloomingdale neighbors would prefer fewer people driving and parking, too!) -- M.S.

    2. Great suggestion, we just updated the site!

  2. I rode across the Cortland bridge yesterday afternoon and this morning. It was downright peaceful. There were joggers, and it was so quiet I could hear birds chirping. I'm guessing it'll be less enjoyable when the heavy machinery is operating. But for now, it's a relatively enjoyable stretch of road for pedestrians and bikers.

    1. Joe, That's great to hear. I'm planning to check it out soon. Thanks for the update. -- MS