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Chicago Park District and Active Trans release new report on Lakefront Trail usage

The Chicago Park District and Active Trans today released the findings of a new study of Lakefront Trail usage.

Chicagoans know how well utilized the Lakefront Trail is and what an asset it is to our city, but until now, we have been lacking concrete data to demonstrate just how many people depend on the trail for transportation and recreation.

This report represents the most in-depth user count to date along Chicago’s Lakefront Trail and demonstrates the importance of investing in this extraordinary city asset.

“The Lakefront Trail counts show incredible demand for quality places to walk and bike in Chicago,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance. “The trail is a unique gem that makes Chicago a truly world-class city, but we need to invest in its future if we want it to continue serving residents’ needs.”

“The lakefront trail is popular for both commuting and recreating,” said Michael P. Kelly, Chicago Park District interim general superintendent and CEO. “We’re excited to share the findings with our partners at Active Transportation Alliance that will aid in long-term improvements to this heavily utilized trail.”

Based on the count data, the following estimates were made: The study found that at the busiest points along the trail, nearly 30,000 people used the trail daily. In addition to counting users at some of the busiest points along the trail, counts were also tallied at about half of the trail’s 50 access points.

Among the access points that were counted, more than 70,000 people accessed the trail on a typical summer weekend during the day and more than 60,000 accessed the trail on a typical summer weekday.

Overall, 70 percent of people who accessed the trail were pedestrians, 29 percent were on bikes and 1 percent were other users. Based on peak bicycling times, the study found that the Lakefront Trail is used as a primary route for workforce bicycle commuters. The share of bicycles on the trail is highest during typical weekday commute times.

The report recommends a variety of long-term improvements in specific locations along the trail that will increase trail user safety and improve access in the decades to come:

  • Upgrading to the trail design standard (including drainage and lighting) in places that do not currently meet the standard.
  • In collaboration with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), designing intuitive underpasses and overpasses that create fewer conflict points between beach/park users and trail users, and reduce congestion in heavily trafficked areas along the trail.
  • Partnering with CDOT to improve on-street accessibility and increase safety at intersections near the trail.
  • Offering intuitive design that separates different types of trail users, such as a boardwalk at Oak Street Beach.
  • Additional bicycle parking should be created at beaches and playing fields.
  • Constructing the Navy Pier Flyover.

Active Trans is encouraged by the Chicago Park District’s work and commitment to improving the Lakefront Trail experience and safety. The Park District is already following some of the recommendations in the report, including installing lighting between Fullerton and Diversey and improving access at 35th Street with a new bridge.

And as CDOT begins the North Lake Shore Drive Reconstruction project, Active Trans will be looking for additional opportunities to improve trail access and conditions as part of that project.

Click here to download the full Lakefront Trail usage study.