Improving the Lakefront Trail has been one of Active Trans’ top priorities since our founding more than 30 years ago
CHICAGO, IL — After many years of advocating to create separate lakefront trails for people on bikes and people on foot, Mayor Emanuel has revealed that the Chicago Park District will do just that on two of the most congested portions of the Lakefront Trail.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the trail will be widened and split into separate lanes for bikes and people on foot between Fullerton and Ohio Street on the North Side and between 31st Street and 51st Street on the South Side.
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 during the interview.
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 that Active Trans has 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 Drive. Bike/Pedestrian separation and other trail issues have risen to the top of the conversation about the long-term reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive.
“One of the most common concerns we hear about is congestion on the Lakefront Trail, and many people say they avoid the trail all together on summer weekends because it is so crowded,” said Active Trans Executive Director Ron Burke. “With tens of thousands of people moving at very different speeds crammed into a narrow trail, the summer Lakefront Trail experience can be hectic and prone to conflicts and crashes.”
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, 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 accessed 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 trail 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.
Active Trans cannot fully evaluate the city’s plans as we have yet see them in detail, but we’re optimistic and will continue to work with the city to ensure leaders effectively implement these improvements and continue to upgrade trail infrastructure.
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.
The Active Transportation Alliance is a non-profit, member-based advocacy organization that works to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun that we will achieve a significant shift from environmentally harmful, sedentary travel to clean, active travel. The organization builds a movement around active transportation, encourages physical activity, increases safety and builds a world-class transportation network. Formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, the Active Transportation Alliance is supported by more than 7,000 members and 1,000 volunteers.
For more information about the Active Transportation Alliance, visit www.activetrans.org or call 312.427.3325.