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Gallery: Chicago Critical Mass marks 25 years (or is it 50?) by biking the Ike

Riders on the Eisenhower Expressway, aka “The Ike.” This person had a “Critical Mass: 50 Years” sign on their backpack. Photo: John Greenfield

Friday night drew the largest pandemic-era crowd ever to Chicago's Daley Plaza for the 25th anniversary (or was it the 50th?) of Chicago's monthly Critical Mass bicycle ride, in absolutely lovely weather. My ballpark estimate is that about a thousand people showed up for this installment of the protest-parade-party, which has served as a gateway to bike advocacy volunteering and careers for countess Chicagoans, including myself.

Here's Michael Burton (a longtime friend of mine), who cofounded the monthly rides in 1997 (or was that 1972, as Burton insisted?) with Web designer Jim Redd, discussing the significance of this milestone during an in-the-saddle interview on Wacker Drive last night.

Friday's event featured an unusual strategy for a Chicago Critical Mass ride. Typical the procession heads from the plaza to a destination in a fairly linear fashion. But Friday's route returned to the Picasso sculpture two more times, with circuit visiting the West Loop and the Magnificent Mile before ending at 12th Street Beach. The ride was dedicated to CCM participant, monorail advocate, and erstwhile mayoral candidate Bill Wendt, who died in December 2020 at age 73.

The route map.
The route map. Note that it refers to Daley Plaza as "Delay Plaza."
The route map.

Most notably, the last leg of the ride included an incursion on the Eisenhower Expressway and the Jane Byrne Interchange, the massive "spaghetti-bowl" Interstate exchange west of downtown. (Note that biking on Chicago expressways is illegal and extremely dangerous if attempted solo – kids don't try this at home.) Here's the route the ride took from Betrand Goldberg's iconic River City Apartments to Taylor and Halsted near the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

Image: Google Maps
Image: Google Maps
Image: Google Maps

This was highly symbolic, since an ongoing project to expand the interchange has cost $800 million so far in taxpayer money, but it has little or no direct value for people who don't own cars. So this action was a rare example of many car-free Chicagoans getting to use expensive infrastructure that is largely reserved for car-owners, including a curving access ramp between the Ike and the Dan Ryan Expressway that was rebuilt as part of the expansion.

Here's a travelogue and photo gallery of the anniversary ride. If you took part in the celebration, I hope you had as much fun as I did.

The ride assembles under the Picasso in Daley Plaza. Photo: John Greenfield
The ride assembles under the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza. Photo: John Greenfield
The ride assembles under the Picasso in Daley Plaza. Photo: John Greenfield
The view from the Picasso. Photo: John Greenfield
The view from the Picasso. Photo: John Greenfield
The view from the Picasso. Photo: John Greenfield
Riders circle the statue before departure. Photo: John Greenfield
Riders circle the statue before departure. Photo: John Greenfield
Riders circle the statue before departure. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading north from the plaza up Dearborn Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading north from the plaza up Dearborn Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading north from the plaza up Dearborn Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading west on Wacker Drive. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading west on Wacker Drive. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading west on Wacker Drive. Photo: John Greenfield
Rat Patrol chopper bike gang member Y Ly Coyote rides through the Metra commuter rail viaduct on Randolph Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Rat Patrol chopper bike gang member Yly ("Wiley") Coyote rides through the Metra commuter rail viaduct on Randolph Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Rat Patrol chopper bike gang member Y Ly Coyote rides through the Metra commuter rail viaduct on Randolph Street. Photo: John Greenfield
The Deadline publisher (and sometime Streetsblog Chicago proofreader) Elizabeth Tieri "corks" an impatient recycling truck driver on Clinton Street as "Acemann," who runs an unofficial Chicago Critical Mass Twitter account, rides by. Photo: John Greenfield
The Deadline publisher (and sometime Streetsblog Chicago proofreader) Elizabeth Tieri "corks" an impatient dumptruck driver on Clinton Street as "Ace Mann," who runs an unofficial Chicago Critical Mass Twitter account, rides by in a "Where's Waldo?" outfit. Photo: John Greenfield
The Deadline publisher (and sometime Streetsblog Chicago proofreader) Elizabeth Tieri "corks" an impatient recycling truck driver on Clinton Street as "Acemann," who runs an unofficial Chicago Critical Mass Twitter account, rides by. Photo: John Greenfield
After passing by Daley Plaza again, the ride goes by the old Marshal Fields Building on State Street. Photo: John Greenfield
After passing by Daley Plaza again, the ride goes by the old Marshall Field's Building on State Street. Photo: John Greenfield
After passing by Daley Plaza again, the ride goes by the old Marshal Fields Building on State Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Riders cross the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue into the Magnificent Mile, where bystanders cheered them on. Photo: John Greenfield
Riders cross the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue into the Magnificent Mile, where bystanders cheered them on. Photo: John Greenfield
Riders cross the DuSable Bridge on Michigan Avenue into the Magnificent Mile, where bystanders cheered them on. Photo: John Greenfield
Riding west on Grand Avenue in River North. Photo: John Greenfield
Riding west on Grand Avenue in River North. Photo: John Greenfield
Riding west on Grand Avenue in River North. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading back into the Loop on State Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading back into the Loop on State Street. Photo: John Greenfield
Heading back into the Loop on State Street. Photo: John Greenfield
After riding into the South Loop, the Mass rolls down the hill at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street back towards downtown. Photo: John Greenfield
After riding into the South Loop, the Mass rolls down the hill at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street back towards downtown. Photo: John Greenfield
After riding into the South Loop, the Mass rolls down the hill at Roosevelt Road and Clark Street back towards downtown. Photo: John Greenfield
After turning west on Ida B. Wells Drive, the ride climbs the feeder ramp to the Eisenhower Expressway and pedals towards and through the old main post office. Again, don't try doing this by yourself – it's illegal and dangerous. Photo: John Greenfield
After turning west on Ida B. Wells Drive, the ride climbs the feeder ramp to the Eisenhower Expressway and pedals towards and through the old main post office. Again, don't attempt doing this by yourself – it would be extremely dangerous for a single bike rider exposed to high-speed traffic. Photo: John Greenfield
After turning west on Ida B. Wells Drive, the ride climbs the feeder ramp to the Eisenhower Expressway and pedals towards and through the old main post office. Again, don't try doing this by yourself – it's illegal and dangerous. Photo: John Greenfield
Riding on the recently rebuilt ramp that curves from the Ike to the Ryan. Photo: John Greenfield
Riding on the recently rebuilt ramp that curves from the Ike to the Ryan. Photo: John Greenfield
Riding on the recently rebuilt ramp that curves from the Ike to the Ryan. Photo: John Greenfield
View of the Sears Tower from the curving ramp. Photo: John Greenfield
View of the Sears Tower from the curving ramp. Photo: John Greenfield
View of the Sears Tower from the curving ramp. Photo: John Greenfield
Exciting the expressway system on an off-ramp north of Taylor Street. A rider's sign, left over from Chicago's World Naked Bike Ride last June, reads "Less Gas, More Ass." Photo: John Greenfield
Exiting the expressway system on an off-ramp north of Taylor Street. A rider's sign, left over from Chicago's World Naked Bike Ride last June, reads "Less Gas, More Ass." Photo: John Greenfield
Exciting the expressway system on an off-ramp north of Taylor Street. A rider's sign, left over from Chicago's World Naked Bike Ride last June, reads "Less Gas, More Ass." Photo: John Greenfield
The ride passes through the Illinois Medical District. Photo: John Greenfield
The ride passes through the Illinois Medical District. Photo: John Greenfield
The ride passes through the Illinois Medical District. Photo: John Greenfield
Riding back downtown from 12th Street Beach. Photo: Michael Burton
Riding back downtown from 12th Street Beach. Photo: Michael Burton
Riding back downtown from 12th Street Beach. Photo: Michael Burton

View more photos from the ride here.

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