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I had strong suspicions during construction and today I verified them.  I live where the lake and river meet and the River Walk literally starts in my backyard.  I use it frequently to get from my house to State Street where it ends (or rather ended) and a ramp takes you up to Wacker Drive and the city.  Because the regulations for navigation and existing bridges on the Chicago River constrain the width of the path -- can't do anything about that -- I was skeptical about bicycle use when they announced the extension plans.  I followed the construction and noticed that there appeared to be no on/off ramps.  Finally I discovered one at LaSalle Street (to be finished in about a month).  

My tour today may not be typical since it's about the first nice weekend day of the year, and there was a Memorial Day parade downtown, but I literally had to walk my bike the entire way.  Commercial and tourist traffic easily clog the narrow paths.  I wish they could of engineered a bikeway lane, but I guess the width constraints couldn't accommodate it.

"Stay to the right, pass on the left," sounds more like a political slogan than an aid to navigation on crowded paths.  I am sure I, along with many others, will enjoy the path, but not as a bicyclist.

I'm curious what others think.  Am I being too harsh with unrealistic expectations?

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It might be called the River WALK for a reason.....

I think you're both correct.  Trying to become the Bike Friendly City doesn't mean that every venue has to accommodate bicycles.  I'm still happy the River Walk is being extended and is popular.

Interesting question. I moved to a new office at Clark/Wacker a few months ago and a buddy turned me on to this route. I commute on the LFP and normally would take Grand over to Clark.  The River Walk is quite pleasant but as the weather has warmed up there a good number of runners, walkers, and tourists on it, even at 7- 8 am.  As much as I enjoy it, I've come to the conclusion you did that it's just not designed for us cyclists and it's not fair to make people look around for bikes at that hour of the am.  They've created bike lanes for us and we should use them.

Do I wish they would create a bike lane next to the river? Yes.  Till then, it's the city streets.

I was concerned about this too.  Unlike most cyclists I need to use the river walk to get to my office.  I will be commuting with my 4yo this summer and will not take her on city streets (or I minimize them as much as possible).  We exit at State and Wacker which allows me to bike only 2 blocks to her daycare.  Last year I discovered the river walk and it permitted me to keep biking. 

Now I'll just hope the Washington/Madison BRT will provide a safer way to get her to school.  Until then I'll be slowly making my way along the river path.

I had just assumed that this would be bikeable, especially considering one of the vendor listed is WanderBikes. Wonder if the fact that it was opening day for the improvements also added to the traffic brought in by the nice weather and the parade.

There are three bike-related vendors on the riverwalk (including giant surreys!), so between those and private bikes and Divvy bikes connecting easily from the Lakefront Trail, expect to see bikes on the riverwalk. Hopefully people on wheels will ride slowly and respectfully around pedestrians, just like they do for the most part when things get really crowded on the LFT near Navy Pier and Oak Street Beach.


I was at the riverwalk on Saturday, which was opening day and beautiful weather, so it was very crowded. However, I think that it will remain so for much of the time from May through October, given that the plan is to have five restaurants, three boat cruises, kayak rentals, water taxi dock, private boat docking and fishing there.

I've been away from Chicago the last month and even in late April I found it too crowded to bike safely in the am.  I saw groups of pedestrians walking together and I just don't get the sense they assumed bikers would be around (as opposed to LFP).  I really had to go quite slow to avoid them.

I too am apprehensive about the increased foot traffic with the expansion, especially in its opening weeks. Many tourists seemingly are already not accustomed to watching out for cyclists on the Riverwalk pre-expansion. The Riverwalk is a crucial leg of my daily commute to work. I wish they had factored in a bike path with the expansion. Hopefully I won't have to reconstruct a new commute as I currently love taking the Riverwalk, especially in the morning! 

I'm waiting for the river 'flyover' to be built. That's going to be a real gauntlet of gawkers and lollygags.

They've added "slow down" and "dismount" signs along the Riverfront path.  I'll admit I'm annoyed because this has been a bike option for years and rather than attempting to make it accessible to both pedestrians and cyclists they are turning to the more profitable tourist market.  I already bike slowly and just want signs for the pedestrians to know bikes also share the path.

If they don't want bikes on the path they should remove it from the bike map as an off-street trail.  But then Rahm wouldn't have as many miles of bike paths to tout. 

Haha! It'll be interesting to see the surrey riders dismount and walk their machines....

I ride it every single weekday, from the lakefront to Dearborn, for months.  Usually there's just a few others riding, among hundreds of tourists on foot.  I wouldn't have even consider it had Google Maps not suggested it.

It's a nice slow segment at beginning/end of an otherwise pretty fast eight mile commute.  Just gotta be real patient.  Most of the pedestrian's appear to not speak English, so buying a classic ring-ring bike bell made a big difference.  Just recently they started widening with a gravel edge, but they also added flintstone mobiles.  Even so, I've never had to dismount, nor seen anyone else do so.


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