Bike Winter: Do You Ride or Walk Across Bridge Grates in the Winter?

Webster Avenue Bridge Chicago

Webster Avenue Bridge- Chicago

Among the many architectural wonders in our fair city is the largest collection of movable bridges in the country. The Chicago river winds through the city, dividing into north and south channels and it’s nearly impossible to go very far east or west in the city without having to cross at least one bridge.  Most of these bridges are working examples of trunnion bascule bridges – also know as  drawbridges. The bridges are split in half down the middle  like two arms or leaves that come together.  When raised, the middle of the bridges move vertically up into the air until each leaf is almost completely vertical and there is enough room for boats to pass between the raised sections of each bridge.

In the above picture, Oma is paused on the Webster Avenue bridge, a bascule bridge that was built in 1916, and renovated in 1993. You’ll note that the sidewalk – made of wood – is covered in snow and ice.  The driving surface of the bridge is a metal grate, so it usually doesn’t get too covered with snow as the snow melts and passed through to the water below. However, riding on those gratings can be tricky – you have to watch for holes, and they can get slippery when ice covered.  I wasn’t sure about the surface of the bridge this day, and I wanted to get some pictures so I headed for the wooden walkway.  The walkways are generally not shoveled or plowed though, as you see here, so I walked Oma across.  Do you ride across bridge grates in the winter time?

Webster Avenue Bridge - Chicago

Webster Avenue Bridge (showing the grating) – Chicago

Courtland Avenue Bridge - Chicago

Cortland Street Bridge – Chicago

This is Oma checking out the nighttime scene on the Cortland Street Bridge . Cortland is a popular bike route between the Lincoln Park and Wicker Park neighborhoods.  This bridge was the first bascule bridge built in Chicago, constructed in 1901-1902.  When they renovated it in 2006 though, they locked it down with a big steel beam, so it no longer can be raised up.  Notice in the picture below that the bike lane has been continued with plating over the bridge grating – very helpful to cyclists. This is the only bridge in the city that has this as far as I know. Do you ride over the Cortland bridge in the winter?

Cortland Avenue Bridge - Chicago

Cortland Street Bridge showing bike lane plating – Chicago

Closer to downtown, along another great cross-city bike route (Hubbard/Kinzie) is the Kinzie Street bridge built in 1909. A nice bonus when you cross this bridge is the view of the Kinzie railroad bridge next door.  It is always in the raised up position, which looks kinda impressive.

Kinzie Street Bridge - Chicago

Kinzie Street Bridge-Chicago

Kinzie Street Bridge - Chicago (looking east)

Kinzie Street Bridge – Chicago (looking east)

The picture below was taking from the bridge, looking south down the river towards the Sears , errrr, Willis Tower, with the railroad bridge there on the left of the picture.

Kinzie Street Bridge - Chicago (looking south)

Kinzie Street Bridge – Chicago (looking south)

Do you ride across Chicago’s bridges in the winter on your bike, or you do ride on the walkway or walk your bike?

Note: check out for more information on these and all the Chicago bascule bridges

UPDATE Jan 2013: Since first writing this post, many other bridges in Chicago have been plated or cemented.  Besides Cortland and Wells, the Halsted bridge has been renovated and plated, the Kinzie bridge is now plated as part of the protected bike lane, Randolph got the cement fill, and the Clark Street bridge has had plates added as it is the re-route while the Wells Street bridge is closed. Thank you CDOT!

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