Did You Know?
Active Trans’ Our Lakefront campaign aims to make walking and cycling safer and more convenient along our lakefront while increasing access to public transit.
We advocate for making biking, walking and transit improvements the priorities in long-term construction projects – like the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive – while calling for less costly enhancements that could be made now to the improve the experience for all trail users.
Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is one of the busiest trails in the United States, with more than 30,000 people accessing the trail daily at the busiest points and more than 100,000 people using the trail on a typical summer weekend.
With a growing number of users and more public attention on Chicago’s lakefront – particularly during the busy summer months – it’s an ideal time to mobilize trail users to push for biking, walking and transit improvements.
- Safety – Separate pedestrians and cyclists traveling at different speeds wherever possible. Solutions may include enhanced pavement markings and adding a separate path in the most congested areas
- Public Education & Wayfinding – Launch a public education program promoting basic trail etiquette such as suggested speeds, not blocking the path when traveling in groups and staying to the right to allow traffic to pass. Add more signage featuring safety and wayfinding tips
- Access – Improve access points where possible to safely accommodate users of all types and abilities, especially people with disabilities, seniors, children and families. Add lighting and infrastructure to prevent snow and water buildup where needed.
- Events – Establish policies for the number and frequency of events that use segments of the trail. When granting permits to events that will use the path, require production team to add temporary signage for users approaching the event and work with Park District and partners to inform trail users.
- Maintenance – Remove sand, ice and debris from the path as quickly as possible. During construction projects, mark a dedicated pedestrian and bicycle detour and maintain it throughout the construction.
- Completing the Lakefront Trail – Fill the gaps in the Lakefront Trail system to create a continuous trail spanning Chicago’s entire lakefront.
LAKEFRONT TRAIL SEPARATION PROJECT
We’re currently advancing all of these goals in a Lakefront Trail planning process with the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA). Through this partnership we provide advice and recommendations to the park district on how to ease congestion and conflicts on the trail, with a focus on creating separate trails. Lakefront Trail crash victim and Active Trans volunteer Megan Williams has been a key advocate for separation since 2014.
In March 2016 Mayor Emanuel announced the trail will be widened and split into separate lanes for people on bikes and people on foot in two of the most congested segments. We continued to work with the city to ensure leaders effectively implement these improvements and continue to upgrade trail infrastructure.
Work began in August 2016 on the first segment of the Lakefront Trail separation project from 31st to 51st on the South Side. The South Lakefront segment was complete in spring 2017. See a conceptual rendering of the separated trails on the South Lakefront.
In December 2016 Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District announced hedge fund manager Ken Griffin donated $12 million to the city to create separated paths for people biking and people on foot along the full length of Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. According to the park district, the bike trail would be 12 feet wide and made of asphalt. It will be located closest to Lake Shore Drive. The pedestrian trail would be 20 feet wide. It would include 14 feet of asphalt buffered by 6 feet of “soft surface mix” on either side.
The city said Griffin’s donation would allow the park district to complete separation along the full length of the trail by the end of 2018. We worked with the park district and CARA on the plans segment-by-segment. As of December 15, 2018, the former 18-mile combined use trail has been separated into an 18-mile Bike Trail and 18.5-mile Pedestrian Trail.
NORTH LAKE SHORE DRIVE
A project team comprised of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Chicago Park District (CPD) is in the midst of a planning process to rebuild North Lake Shore Drive between Grand and Hollywood Avenues. Launched in 2013, the proposed project involves seven miles of the 8-lane Lake Shore Drive boulevard, including the 12 highway junctions and the surrounding parkland.
Active Trans recognized the once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase access and mobility along the Lakefront and worked with a coalition of 15 organizations to release a civic platform for the project in 2013. Since then we have organized people who bike, walk and ride transit to turn out at public meetings, share ideas and provide input online, and contact their elected officials about the project. Priorities include dedicated transit lanes, enhanced and fully separated biking and walking paths, and safer and easier east-west access to the lakefront.
In early 2018 Active Trans led a coalition of 10 civic and business organizations calling for dedicated transit lanes to boost bus speeds and reliability.
- Standard Trail Design: We advocated for—and the park district adopted—a standard trail design that enhances safety and ease of travel on the trail.
- Diversey Bridge: We helped secure funding for the Lakefront Trail bridge at Diversey Harbor, which relieved a bottleneck in the trail.
- Navy Pier Flyover: We’ve been involved with the Navy Pier Flyover project since meetings for the project began—nearly a decade ago. We provided input on the Flyover’s concept and design, we participated in public meetings with our members and we helped address concerns about the project from nearby residents.
- South Lake Shore Drive Reconstruction: We secured agreement from the city to keep the trail open during construction, which was completed in 2005. We also advocated for trail improvements where construction required trail removal and replacement.
- Routing and Design Input: For many years, Active Trans has provided the park district with input on Lakefront Trail design and routing, giving users a say in how our trail is constructed. Due to our input, major trail routing improvements have been made between Foster Ave. and Hollywood Ave. (currently under construction) and between 31st Street and McCormick Place.
- Maintenance: We advocated for routine trail maintenance and have established a clear channel of communication with the park district to address immediate concerns about trail conditions. We also have worked with the park district to establish standard guidelines for trail access by city vehicles and work crews to avoid trail interruptions.
Chicago Park District Lakefront Trail page
People on the Trail Report (2013)
Chicago Park District Lakefront Trail Counts (2011)
North Lake Shore Drive Platform (2013)
North Lake Shore Drive Project Page: Redefine the Drive
Navy Pier Flyover Project Page
Conditions and Events: @activetransLFT and #ChiLFT on Twitter
If you’re excited by the prospect of helping spread the word about our campaigns to improve biking, walking and public transit in Chicagoland, you should become an Active Trans Ambassador. Get trained, attend events and share your knowledge.
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