Did You Know?

While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

Victory! Separate biking, walking trails coming to lakefront

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Active Trans' efforts to create separate lakefront trails for people on bikes and people on foot has paid off.

This became evident when Mayor Emanuel revealed that the Chicago Park District will pursue the separated trail plan on two of the most congested portions of the Lakefront Trail.

According to the Chicago Tribunethe trail will be widened and split into separate lanes for people on bikes and people on foot between Fullerton Ave. and Ohio St. on the North Side and between 31st St. and 51st St. on the South Side.

Take action today by signing a thank you note to Mayor Emanuel urging him to move forward with these improvements and pursue other trail upgrades.

On WBEZ radio, the mayor said these improvements will occur over a three-year period. He also said three new miles of a crushed stone running/walking path will be added, although he didn’t specify where this would be.

Over the past year, Active Trans has been providing advice and recommendations to the park district on how to ease congestion and conflicts on the trail, with a focus on creating separate trails.

The plans announced by the mayor are among the ideas we’ve recommended for near- and medium-term improvements, and we’re excited about new trail construction in the longer term that could accompany reconstruction of North Lake Shore Dr.

Bike/pedestrian separation and other trail issues have risen to the top of the conversation about the long-term reconstruction of North Lake Shore Dr.

The news came on the heels of the mayor’s exciting announcement Sunday that the city is moving ahead with its next rails to trails project in Pilsen and Little Village.

Creating a continuous, high quality Lakefront Trail has been one of Active Trans’ top priorities since our founding more than 30 years ago.

In 2011, we worked with the Chicago Park District on a study of trail usage that featured the most in-depth trail user counts to date. The study found more than 30,000 people visited the trail daily at the busiest points, and we estimated more than 100,000 used the trail on a typical summer weekend, making it one of the busiest trails in the U.S.

Those counts became the foundation for our 2013 People on the Trail Report with the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) and Friends of the Parks. The report analyzed results from a survey of more than 1,500 trail users, bringing attention to the highest conflict segments of the trail and identifying separation as the top priority for users.

More than 1,700 people signed our 2014 petition to the Chicago Park District in support of separation and we worked with Lakefront Trail crash victim Megan Williams to call for separating the trail at park district budget hearings and in local media.

Read more about Megan's story and Active Trans' history of trail advocacy in the Tribune and watch an interview with Megan and Active Trans on NBC Chicago.

Active Trans cannot fully evaluate the city’s plans as we have yet see them in detail. In particular, the mayor’s announcements to date haven’t mentioned how to create bike/pedestrian separation in congested areas between Oak St. and the Museum Campus.

However, the mayor’s remarks are encouraging, and we will continue to work with the city to ensure leaders effectively implement improvements and continue to upgrade trail infrastructure.

Take action today by signing a thank you note to Mayor Emanuel urging him to move forward with these improvements and pursue other trail upgrades. 

Our People on the Trail report outlines additional strategies to improve the trail experience, including better access to the trail, public education, directional signage, limiting conflicts associated with special events and trail maintenance. 

If you’re a regular user of the Lakefront Trail, Active Trans monitors trail conditions year-round with our @activetransLFT Twitter account and #ChiLFT. The hashtag tracks the many events happening on the trail and generates activity from the growing number of people who use the trail for commuting and other uses.

Stay on top of better biking, walking and transit in the region. Sign up for Active Trans' monthly e-newsletter.