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How to improve the Lakefront Trail detour at Navy Pier

After years of anticipation, construction has finally begun on the Navy Pier Flyover. However, the current bike and pedestrian detour around the construction zone is leading to confusion and potentially unsafe conditions for people walking and biking.

The huge numbers of people that use the Lakefront Trail at peak times deserve a safe and easy to use detour throughout the duration of the construction.

When completed, the Flyover will carry people walking and riding bikes up and over the street-level congestion near Navy Pier, the popular tourist destination. Construction is slated to take several years, during which time Lakefront Trail users will be re-routed around the construction site.

Here’s a map of the current detour provided on the project website:

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A bit confusing, wouldn't you say?

We’ve been hearing from many members and supporters with concerns about safety and ease of us for the thousands of people who walk or ride through this corridor everyday. So we went to scope out the situation first hand yesterday and then sent the following comments to CDOT on how they can improve the detour during construction of this exciting project:

Improve map: The detour map provided on www.navypierflyover.com is confusing. Separate routes should be marked for pedestrians and cyclists (ideally with different colors and patterns). This map, along with information about the Flyover, should also be prominently displayed in Jane Addams Park.

Separate modes: Currently the detour consists of pedestrian only routes and shared ped/bike routes. Given the high number of lakefront trail users, we believe separation of modes would be preferable and separate detours should be provided for people walking and riding bikes.

Provide alternate on-street route: In addition to being a popular recreation destination, the Lakefront Trail is also a key bike commuter corridor. More seasoned riders may prefer to take an alternative on-street route rather than ride through the construction zone. CDOT should develop alternative routes that enable seasoned bike commuters to bypass the construction.

Ensure detour meets trail design standards: On the north end of the construction zone, the detour leads users onto a sidewalk that is too narrow and does not meet the Lakefront Trail design standards. We are concerned the heavy volume of mixed traffic may result in an uncomfortable experience for cyclists and pedestrians, and may lead to increased incidence of crashes. Given the long term duration of the project, we recommend this segment be widened to align with existing lakefront trail design standards.

In addition, the detour instructs cyclists to use the north side of Illinois, however this route forces people riding bikes into an unsafe bottleneck at the intersection of Illinois and Streeter Dr. Currently, on part of the segment of Illinois between Lower LSD and Streeter Dr. jersey barriers are being used to create, what appears to be, a temporary on-street path over the fire lane adjacent to Lake Point Tower (LPT). However, this path stops abruptly at a LPT driveway/loading dock and was obstructed by illegally parked cars during our observations. This is not a sufficient accommodation for peak hour volume of bicycle traffic.

Improve signage and markings: In order to clarify the recommended trail routing for through trail traffic as well as people walking or biking to Navy Pier, detour signs should say Lakefront Trail Detour in addition to Bike/Ped Detour. Perhaps spray paint or temporary spray chalk stencils could also complement signage to direct users to the proper route for their specific mode and destination.

In addition to routing signs, at the entry points of detours signs should explain in text or visually the routes for bikes/peds (i.e. Lower LSD closed to bike traffic between Grand and Illinois. Use Streeter Dr. to access southbound trail at Illinois.) Detour warning signs placed in advance of the detour could help alert trail users to the approaching detour and encourage them to be cautious through the construction zone.

If you have identified other issues or have other ideas on how to improve the detour, leave us a note in the comments or shoot me an email at jim@activetrans.org. We’ll be sure your comments and concerns make it to the good people at CDOT working on this exciting project.