Largest organized ride in Illinois, Fifth Third Bike the Drive returns Sept. 5

Largest organized ride in Illinois, Fifth Third Bike the Drive returns Sept. 5

  • Riders of all ages and sizes can enjoy the wide open nature of Lake Shore Drive when bikes take over on the Fifth Third Bike the Drive on Sunday, Sept 5.

    Riders of all ages and sizes can enjoy the wide open nature of Lake Shore Drive when bikes take over on the Fifth Third Bike the Drive on Sunday, Sept 5. Courtesy of Active Transportation Alliance

 
By Ralph Banasiak
Along For The Ride
Posted6/9/2021 12:24 PM

Fifth Third Bike the Drive, the largest organized bike ride in Illinois, is back!

Boasting upward of 20,000 participants, the Fifth Third Bike the Drive launches bright and early Sunday, Sept. 5, capturing Chicago's lakefront with a rolling fleet of two-wheeled, three-wheeled and, yes, even one-wheeled bicycles.

 
Thousands of Chicagoland cyclists converge on a traffic-free Lake Shore Drive for Active Transportation Alliance's annual fundraiser. Canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Fifth Third Bike the Drive returns Sunday, Sept. 5.
Thousands of Chicagoland cyclists converge on a traffic-free Lake Shore Drive for Active Transportation Alliance's annual fundraiser. Canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Fifth Third Bike the Drive returns Sunday, Sept. 5. - Courtesy of Active Transportation Alliance

Canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown, the Active Transportation Alliance's (Active Trans) annual fundraiser brings together the entire spectrum of cycling enthusiasts -- families towing sleepy toddlers, recreational riders snapping sunrise selfies, and road bikers checking off one more bucket list item. And all for a good cause.

"After such a difficult year, this is a great moment for Chicago, when so many people can safely experience the utter joy of biking with 20,000-plus of their neighbors on Lakeshore Drive," said Amy Rynell, executive director of Active Transportation Alliance activetrans.org).

"Even better, participants can feel proud that they're supporting efforts to make walking, biking and transit safe and easy options for getting around Chicagoland."

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Lakefront cruise like no other

Imagine the adrenaline-rush of riders spread across four lanes, add bizarro Mardi Gras-like costumes, a cool Lake Michigan breeze, then multiply by thousands. That comes close to the exhilaration of cycling in a huge biking mass, an experience the rookie rider can hardly imagine.

First started in 2002, this lakefront cruise is unique. For five hours, all motorized vehicles are swept off Lake Shore Drive. Cyclists are free to ride across the entire roadway, with slower traffic generally on the right, less casual bikers on the left.

Held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend since 2004, the ride was canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020 and moved to Labor Day weekend this year. But it will offer the same 30-mile route that riders have come to enjoy since 2002.

Riders wanting to tackle the full route can sign up for the 30-mile challenge during registration. The event includes a festival with booths from 8 a.m. to noon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Starting near the Grant Park band shell at Columbus Drive, riders can opt for the loop south to the Museum of Science and Industry at 57th Street, or north to the beautiful mosaic mural at the Bryn Mawr Avenue underpass.

Looking south along vehicle-free Lake Shore Drive, bike riders claim the lakefront during a previous Fifth Third Bike the Drive.
Looking south along vehicle-free Lake Shore Drive, bike riders claim the lakefront during a previous Fifth Third Bike the Drive. - Courtesy of the Active Transportation Alliance

Some riders do both loops, covering all 30 miles. Others snap plenty of skyline and Lake Michigan photos along the way, savoring their chance to snag otherwise hard to get shots.

Register for the event at 53bikethedrive.org. Early bird pricing for adults begins at $48 and youths are always $18.

The course opens at 5:30 a.m., and by 9:45 a.m. Chicago's finest are rolling down Lake Shore Drive sweeping any stragglers onto the lake shore path so motorized traffic can resume. Participants are encouraged to begin riding by 7 a.m. to enjoy as much car-free riding as possible.

This year's ride sponsor, Fifth Third Bank, is the third major sponsor of the ride, following MB Financial (2010-18) and Bank of America prior to 2010.

"Fifth Third Bank is excited to bring people together and reintroduce them to one of the best experiences in the region -- one that we were so sad to miss in 2020," said Mark Hoppe, region president of Fifth Third Bank-Chicago.

"This is just one of the many shared events and commitments we continue to support. We love building community, and we love supporting a highly effective organization like Active Trans that's creating a healthier, safer region with better transportation options," said Hoppe.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at alongfortheridemail@gmail.com.

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