A Great Bike Route to/from the Chicago Lakefront & A Secret Garden

As I rode the long way to work last week as one of my entries for the LGRAB Summer Games I headed over to the Chicago Lakefront trail. This meant of course, that at some point I would have to exit the trail downtown in order to get to work. Since my last two jobs have been in offices in the West Loop just a little south of Randolph Street,  I’m an old-hand at this route. As I rode by DuSable Harbor though, I thought about my the first exit route I used when I started riding to work along the lake – the exit underneath Randolph Street, right by the Columbia Yacht Club .

Lakefront trail turnaround and exit under Randolph Street

Lakefront trail turnaround and exit under Randolph Street

Randolph Street turnaround/DuSable Harbor and Columbia Yacht Club

Randolph Street turnaround/DuSable Harbor and Columbia Yacht Club

Yes, that big old German boat is the Columbia Yacht Club. All the original woodwork in the main staircase and dining room and lobbies are intact, and the club bar has an outdoor patio right on the front of the boat. If you ever wondered what that boat was doing there alongside the lakefront, now you know.

Anyway, as I said, I used to exit the lakefront here and ride up underneath Randolph Street, past the private buses waiting to ferry commuters back and forth from the Aon Building or the Blue Cross Blue Shield building to the train stations, then up the ramp right into the middle of the rush-hour traffic. Look between the cabs in the picture below, where the blue car is coming u p the ramp to merge into traffic – that’s where I would be riding. It was generally an adrenaline-generating sort of experience.

Randolph Street viaduct with merging traffic
As exciting as it was,  I didn’t really feel like fighting that traffic merge craziness every morning.However,  I didn’t want to just exit at Monroe street and ride west  that street was not a much better option traffic-wise. One morning though, as I crossed Monroe street at the Chicago Yacht Club/Monroe Harbor entrance, I  immediately turned right after crossing Lake Shore Drive and rode up the sidewalk.  They had just opened  the Millennium Park Bike Station,  and there were signs pointing to it up the sidewalk, so I thought the sidewalk must go somewhere.

Monroe Harbor Entrance and Lake Shore Drive Crossing

Monroe Harbor Entrance and Lake Shore Drive Crossing

Up the sidwalk north of Monroe Street

Up the sidewalk north of Monroe Street – that’s Lake Shore Drive on the right

Riding up the sidewalk put me on the eastern edge of Randolph Street – across from Lakeshore East.

Randolph Street & Lakeshore East

Randolph Street & Lakeshore East

There’s not a lot of traffic at this end, and more importantly, you can ride across the street to the bike lane. Once in the bike lane you can easily  head down Randolph Street towards Michigan Avenue , without having to merge into and through traffic.  Dealing with the turning buses and taxis at Randolph and Michigan still takes an alert rider, but it’s much easier than coming up the ram through the middle of traffic. There’s another bonus to this route as well – the Cancer Survivors Plaza. It’s a beautiful, peaceful memorial garden right in the heart of the city that I don’t think many people know about. There are benches in the garden where you can sit for a bit and relax, while gazing at the lovely flowers or out towards Lake Shore Drive to the Field Museum.  It’s a wonderful place to sit and reflect.

Cancer Survivors Plaza - Chicago

Cancer Survivors Plaza – Chicago

Cancer Survivors Plaza Gazebo - Chicago

Cancer Survivors Plaza Gazebo – Chicago

Cancer Survivors Plaza Garden - Chicago

Cancer Survivors Plaza Garden – Chicago

Of course from here, there’ s no where to go but back down Randolph Street towards the Loop, but at least you get a few moments of solitude before you begin your day.

Randolph Street looking west towards Michigan Avenue

Randolph Street looking west towards Michigan Avenue

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  • http://letsgorideabike.com/blog Dottie

    That’s funny. The first route you described, coming straight up Randolph street, is the route I took on the first day I ever rode my bike to work (I used to work at the Prudential building). The trip was horrifying and I got terribly confused and lost under there. Every day after that, I took the Montrose Harbor exit, took the first right up the sidewalk and rode through the back of Grant Park and up the little hill to the MP Cycle Center, where I parked my bike. Most definitely a much nicer route!