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Take a Virtual Bike Ride on the Riverwalk From Lake Street to the Lake

"The Jetty," seen from Upper Wacker Drive, features fishing piers and floating gardens. Photo: John Greenfield

The Chicago Riverwalk extension might not have gotten built if it didn’t function as a car-free transportation corridor as well as a space for recreation. The project was funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act program, which provided a $98 million loan. The project also received $10 million in state funding.

So while the riverwalk isn’t the most direct or efficient way to get from Point A to Point on foot or by bike, it is a potentially useful, not to mention scenic, car-free route that now runs 1.3 miles from Lake Street and Wacker Drive to Lake Michigan. Due to the many zigzags is the path as it winds around the bridge houses, as well as heavy pedestrian traffic in nice weather, cycling the whole route will require caution and patience, as you can see from the video embedded in this post. But I expect it will become a fairly popular way to walk from the West Loop commuter rail stations to offices along Wacker and North Michigan Avenue.

The Merchandise Mart, seen from the riverwalk's new "public lawn" at Lake Street. Photo: John Greenfield

On Saturday, October 22, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, an Illinoisan who was instrumental in lining up the TIFIA loan, and other officials officially opened the last section of the riverwalk between Lake and LaSalle Street. To celebrate the new amenity, the city hosted a day of free live music, face painting, balloon artists and Halloween processions.

Lola Donahue looks none-too-crabby as she hangs out in the (ironically dry) "Water Plaza" with her Corgis, dressed like a lobster and an octopus. Photo: John Greenfield

The three new sections, or “rooms,” of the Riverwalk include:

    • The Water Plaza: A water play area for children and their families at the river’s edge. (From LaSalle to Wells.)
    • The Jetty: A series of piers and floating wetland gardens with interactive learning about the ecology of the river, including opportunities for fishing and identifying native plants. (From Wells to Franklin.)
    • The Riverbank: A (yet-to-open) wheelchair-friendly ramp and new marine edge that creates access to Lake Street and features a public lawn at the confluence of the Main, North, and South branches of the river. The ramp will provide an accessible route from lower to upper Wacker and Lake Street. (From Franklin to Lake.)

Have you had a chance to stroll or ride the new riverwalk sections yet? Let us know what you think in the comments section.

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