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Did You Know?

Half of school children walked or biked to school in 1969, but only 13 percent were doing it in 2009.

Advancing a vision for a trail on the South Branch

Turning the Chicago River into an attractive destination with healthy transportation options is an important goal of Active Trans’ Chicago River Trail campaign.

To achieve the vision of a continuous 27-mile trail that all Chicagoans can enjoy, it’s essential that we clean up the environment, ensure housing is affordable, and create safe and easy access to the river.

One area that presents an opportunity to carry out this vision is the South Branch of the Chicago River. This 3-mile stretch begins at Ping Tom Park and runs south to Western Avenue and includes Bridgeport, Pilsen, McKinley Park and Brighton Park.

To get the ball rolling, we’ve started working on a project, the South Branch Framework, that will help develop a community vision for using the river, including a trail, access points, walking conditions, park space, and arts and culture programs.

Recently, Active Trans led a walk audit training at the Eleanor Street Boathouse in Bridgeport. Thirty people participated and broke into small groups that walked different routes around Park 571 (pictured), evaluating the walking conditions along streets, intersections, and blocks.

Many groups identified similar challenges to walking in Bridgeport. Most of the sidewalks need maintenance and repair. Several groups noted that wide street design encourages drivers to speed and limits the width of sidewalks. For example, the sidewalk on Archer from Lock Street to the CTA’s Ashland Orange Line stop is too narrow and next to four lanes of fast moving traffic, creating a dangerous pedestrian experience.

Our project partners are Metropolitan Planning Council, Friends of the Chicago River, Cannon Design, SmithGroupJJR, and the South Branch Park Advisory Council. Over the next six months, we’ll host a variety of activities for neighborhood residents and stakeholders.

So where is the project headed next and how can you get involved?

  • Our community partners will lead walk audits to identify the best connections between neighborhoods and the river and how they can be improved. Active Trans will collect this information and develop recommendations for improving walking conditions; they will be presented to the city and we’ll advocate for these improvements over the long-term.
  • Do you live in Bridgeport, Pilsen, Brighton Park or McKinley Park? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please click here to take a short online survey.
  • Friends of the Chicago River will lead paddling outings on on May 19, May 26, June 7, and June 12. Please contact John Quail, jquail@chicagoriver.org, to sign up and with questions.
  • The South Branch Park Advisory Council will host its Summer Party on June 2nd with opportunities for fun riverfront activities.

Stay tuned for more opportunities to participate in this project. Click here to sign up for Chicago River Trail updates.