Take a Virtual Ride on the New Section of the Lakefront Trail at Fullerton

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A new section of the Lakefront Trail north of Fullerton has been open since November, but the second half of the path south of the street debuted last week. The path sits on 5.8 acres of brand-new parkland that was created via infill as part of the $31.5 million Chicago Department of Transportation and Chicago Park District project. The main goal of the project was to repair the area’s crumbling seawall.

One benefit of the initiative is that it creates 600 feet soft-surface pedestrian path south of Fullerton, in addition to the paved multiuse path, which provides a bit of mode separation – something that many trail users have been asking for. The paved path is also moved further east from the off- and on-ramps for Lake Shore Drive at Fullerton, which helps make that location less chaotic.

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A skyline view from the new parkland. Photo: John Greenfield

Workers will continue to landscape the new land until next summer, so everything but the path is still fenced off. But you can already enjoy breathtaking new views of the skyline from the terra nova.

During construction, a temporary paved path detour existed south of Fullerton, on high ground close to the highway, but this has been ripped up and turned into the soft-surface trail. In the past, one of the big issues south of Fullerton is that the multiuse path sits very close to the lake and tends to get flooded and iced over during the cold months. It looks like the project hasn’t addressed that problem, but we’ll have to see what happens later this winter.

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Hopefully, this part of the path won’t be glazed with ice later in the winter. Photo: John Greenfield

But that’s a relatively minor quibble. It’s great that we’ll have acres of new parkland to enjoy come summer. If you take a spin on the new trail, let us know what you think.

This post is made possible by a grant from the Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago, Illinois law firm committed to representing pedestrians and cyclists. The content is Streetsblog Chicago’s own, and Keating Law Offices neither endorses the content nor exercises any editorial control.

  • JacobEPeters

    Any ideas for how to better spread the word that it is better for runners knees if they run on the gravel and padded portions of trails rather than on the asphalt and concrete portions? It is amazing how many people run on the hard surface, which not only causes path congestion, but is bad for their knees. I have pointed this out to a few runners in the past, but half the time a get expletives in response.

    How can soft surface running be better championed to runners who aren’t involved in advocacy?

  • Jeff H

    Thank you so much for caring for my well being! I’m sorry if I’m in your way, but I’m going to stay on the hard surface (far to the right, of course). You train for and adapt to whatever surface you plan to race on, and I’m not running any races on gravel anytime soon. Plus there is no good evidence that running on a softer surface leads to fewer injuries. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/health/nutrition/19best.htm

    Be a good path user, share and be courteous, expect the same from others. And keep your comments and concerns about the health of my fellow runners on the path to yourself.

  • BlueFairlane

    My ankles gave out long before my knees.

  • I have already used it about a dozen times for my commute. It’s a huge improvement over the previous situation. The trouble spot where water used to inundate the trail is actually gone, and I think the two very brief stretches where there is still water next to the trail may not pose much of a problem, certainly not the way it used to be. The path itself is nice, wide and smooth; will be great when the fences come down, as it is somewhat tricky to see who comes around the curve.

  • JacobEPeters

    I am always courteous of other users, I had just thought that the reason for the delineation between surfaces was for running since that was how it has been explained to me at every public meeting. I always offer helpful information to other trail users so that people are more educated, more information (like the info you just provided) is better for all trail users to better share the space. I never point the soft surface out to those who are walking in the center of multipurpose paths, because I was under the impression that it was only the constant hard impacts from running that were detrimental on hard surfaces.

    Why the push from CARA for the soft surface paths then? Is it just to provide options for runners who are not training? Or is it more like how some cyclists hate bike lanes & never use them, while others don’t feel comfortable unless there is a slow protected lane?

  • I too have noticed that most runners seem to prefer the harder surfaces. I don’t believe that long term it makes no difference as Jeff H suggests with his non-working link to the New York Times. My other guess is that the study he would like to cite is narrowly defined in such a way as to be inconclusive.

    I agree that it is a shame more walkers and runners don’t use the gravel side paths. But lets face it the Lake Front Path is multi-use and not a real bike route intended for commuters. For that we need a dedicated portion of Lake Shore Drive.

    But one approach that would improve things on the Lakefront Multi-use Path would be for walkers and joggers to walk/jog on the other side facing the wheeled traffic, just as recommended for walkers on automobile streets without sidewalks. Then they would see approaching bikers and make micro-adjustments. The bikers would benefit as well, knowing that the walker sees them coming. A win-win with Less anxiety for both walkers/joggers and bikers.

  • Anne A

    Looks like a great new addition to the lakefront. I hope to ride it soon.

    I’m not sure that walking on the opposite side would be beneficial in such a tight space. If walkers and runners stay to the right and listen to what’s around them, and cyclists in congested areas don’t ride at a pace that’s dangerous to walkers and runners, we can all share the path better. Most important for all categories – let’s NOT move in wide groups that block the path (one of my biggest gripes with walkers and runners). For dog walkers, please keep ’em on short leashes when on the path, for the safety of everyone else. This is SHARED space.

  • Jeff H

    Correct link: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/health/nutrition/19best.html – Not a study itself, just an article saying that there is a lack of studies and no evidence to suggest that surface directly relates to injury. Running injuries are complicated, many factors contribute to them. It is from 2011, so maybe there is something more recent out there.

    I like that the gravel paths are there, some people certainly prefer them. They just aren’t for me and a lot of other runners who predominately run road races. Another problem with them is drainage. So far so good along the Fullerton section, but on other areas of the path, you get a lot of puddles. This is unsafe because it forces people to move back and forth from the shoulder to the path. Yes, they should be looking over their shoulder before doing this, but unfortunately some don’t.

  • If everyone did the right thing we would have no problems with anything.

    When there aren’t a lot of walkers I always walk facing the bike traffic. I can tell you is really is much better especially in tight spaces.

    The new park looks nice to me as well.

  • I get that a runner would want to train on the same material they expect to run. At least enough to prepare the body for that surface. But I would also think that preserving the long term condition of the body would also be important enough to not run on the harder surfaces any more than needed.

    My guess is that because there is more resistance when running on gravel and grass that runners gravitate to the easier feeling surface. But it seems ironic that perhaps the harder to run on surface would likely build strength and toughness better. I prepare for long trail hiking and purposely walk on uneven and slanted surfaces to strengthen my ankles etc.

    If the walkers who don’t check over their shoulder were walking facing the wheeled traffic then they would suffer less surprise. And since they tend to not pay attention then if a culture of walking facing wheeled traffic existed they would do that without thinking as well.

  • Thomas L.

    Being both a runner and a cyclist on these multi-use trails, I can tell you that runners are treated as second-class citizens here in terms of the design. Take a look at the space allotted to runners on this new section and you will see it is the usual narrow gravel rut that seems to be added as an afterthought. When it rains, this “path” is generally underwater and when it snows it is never cleared. Many cities have separate paths for runners and cyclists, but that option is rarely considered in Chicago.

  • Rose Lynch

    As a 35 year runner on the trail I can say that, for my own safety, I much prefer running in the “gravel” part of the trail or as I call if affectionately, “the ditch.”
    Unfortunately, after inclement weather, the ditch is often flooded and in many parts it is just too narrow to run in so, in these two situations I dread, i have to take my life in my hands and dare to hop out onto that nice smooth surface next to me, stopping to check traffic first, lest I be cratered by a speeding cyclist.

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