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Posts tagged "Lakefront Trail"


Unsafe Construction Zones and Trashed Bike Lanes Are Endangering Cyclists


Cyclist detour around a transit-oriented development construction site on Milwaukee north of Division. Photo: John Greenfield

[Last year the Chicago Reader launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

This has been a summer of discontent for Chicago cyclists.

Most seriously, there were four bike fatalities in the city in the space of about two months, all involving commercial vehicles. Courier Blaine Klingenberg was struck and killed by a tour bus driver on June 15 in the Gold Coast and Divvy rider Virginia Murray was fatally struck by a flatbed truck driver on July 1 in Avondale.

Art student Lisa Kuivinen was also struck and killed by the driver of a flatbed truck in West Town on the morning of August 16. The next evening West Garfield Park resident Francisco “Frank” Cruz was fatally struck in the neighborhood by a cargo van driver who fled the scene and was still at large as of late last week.

Kuivinen’s case drew attention to a problem that may not have been a factor in any of these fatalities, but has the potential to cause additional cycling deaths. That is, construction zones that block sidewalks and bike lanes, terrible pavement conditions caused by utility line work, and illegally parked vehicles blocking bikeways.

On the morning of the crash Kuivinen, 20, had been biking southeast in a green-painted stretch of the Milwaukee Avenue bike lanes in West Town, police said. Near 874 N. Milwaukee, truck driver Antonio Navarro, 37, veered into the bike lane while making a right turn onto southbound Racine Avenue, striking and dragging Kuivinen.

It appears that Navarro was on his way to a transit-oriented developmentconstruction site at 830 N. Milwaukee. The site can be accessed from an alley off of Racine.

Early news reports noted that southeast-bound bike lane is blocked by a fenced-off construction zone for the TOD project, which forces cyclists to merge into the travel lane. However, it appears this wasn’t a factor in the collision, because the blockage is a few hundred feet past the crash site.

Read more…


An Epidemic of Bike Crashes; Bad Trail Design May Have Caused One of Them

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One of several Lakefront Trail intersections in Uptown that are hazardous “mixing bowl” junctions with east-west streets and Lake Shore Drive access ramps. Moreover, confusing signage tells drivers to “Stop” while path users are ordered to “Yield.” A 61-year-old cyclist was critically injured at the Wilson intersection last Tuesday. Photo: Hui Hwa Nam.

It’s been an awful two weeks for bike collisions in northeast Illinois. On Tuesday of last week, a 29-year-old woman was struck and injured on her bicycle at Jackson and Homan, by a police officer who witnesses say ran a red light without using lights or sirens. That Wednesday bike courier Blaine Klingenberg was fatally struck by a tour bus driver at Oak and Michigan, the first Chicago bike fatality of 2016

Last Monday a pedicab operator reportedly had his vehicle struck by a hit-and-run minivan driver at South Water and Michigan, but escaped without injury. Last Tuesday schoolteacher Janice Wendling and her husband Mark were fatally struck while cycling in Morris, Illinois, by one of Janice’s former students.

Also last Tuesday, an SUV driver critically injured a 61-year-old man on a bike at Wilson and the Lakefront Trail. And we’re told that on Thursday a CTA driver struck a bicyclist on Milwaukee just north of the Bloomingdale Trail, causing minor injuries.

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Fallen cyclist Janice Wendling.

There was one piece of good news about local bike crashes on Thursday. We learned that Scott Jacobson, who suffered a broken pelvis and horrific road rash after he was struck by a driver and dragged hundreds of feet on May 2 in Bridgeport, was finally sent home from the hospital.

A route has been proposed for Friday’s Chicago Critical Mass ride that would visit the Klingenberg crash site, as well as the white “ghost bike” memorials for several other fallen cyclists. The map includes a stop at Jacobson’s home in McKinley Park to wish him a fast and full recovery – I’ve been told his family is looking forward to welcoming the riders.

Last Tuesday’s crash in Uptown, which took place at a spot where Wilson and access ramps for Lake Shore Drive converge with the shoreline path, highlights an intersection design and signage problem with the trail. At around 7:20 p.m., the bike rider was heading north on the path and was struck by the eastbound driver as he crossed Wilson, according to police.

The victim was transported to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, police said. DNAinfo reported that one of the man’s wheels was left in the grass near the crash location.

The SUV driver, Liliana Flores, 32, a Park Forest resident, received three traffic citations and was scheduled for a hearing in traffic court on Monday, August 8, according to police.

As I’ve pointed out before, the unorthodox configuration and signage of this Lakefront Trail intersection, and similar junctions at Montrose, Lawrence, and Foster, create a confusing and hazardous situation. Not only do the east-west street, the LSD ramps, and the trail converge in one location, creating a chaotic “mixing bowl” effect, the signs at the intersections are seemingly paradoxical.

Read more…


How Can We Fix the Most Treacherous Part of the Lakefront Trail?


The Oak Street curve was an arctic wasteland last week. Photo: John Greenfield

[The Chicago Reader recently launched a weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership allows Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We syndicate a portion of the column after it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]

Maybe they should call it Dead Man’s Curve. Just southeast of Oak Street Beach, there’s a bend in the Lakefront Trail where it turns south, hugging Lake Shore Drive. As you head downtown, there’s a wall on your right, and the path’s concrete surface slopes down toward the water’s edge, where there’s a sheer drop of several feet into Lake Michigan.

During the winter, this hump of land is pounded by waves. After it snows, the waves turn the path into an arctic wasteland of ice boulders, forcing bike riders to dismount and walk their steeds or detour to Inner Lake Shore Drive. At other times, the surf transforms the trail into an angled skating rink that’s also a serious hazard. The curve is especially dangerous for southbound riders, who often fail to see the slick conditions before they round the blind curve. By then it’s usually too late to hit the brakes.

When such conditions exist, the Chicago Park District, which is responsible for maintaining the bikeway, barricades the curve with sawhorses and sends out alerts on Twitter that the section of lakefront is closed. But bike riders like Joe DeCeault hope a permanent solution can be found to fix the most perilous spot on the 18.5-mile-long trail.

DeCeault, who works as a Web producer for WBEZ, knows all too well what a death trap the ice-glazed incline can be. In February 2012, during his first season of winter biking, he was doing a training ride on a skinny-tired road bike on a particularly windy morning.

Convinced by what he saw farther north that the curve would be ice free, he confidently rounded the bend at a high speed. Then he looked down and saw he was entering a long, slippery stretch. He realized he had to pump his brakes. “As I did, I noticed the wheels start to slide,” he wrote in an e-mail. “My body and bike tilted sideways. Shit!”

DeCeault fell from his bike and landed hard on his side and stomach. “It stung like a b—-,” he recalled. “I grabbed at the ground to halt my journey towards the lake.” He came to a stop, but when he lifted his head, he saw his bike continue to slide towards the edge of the path. “My bike kept going and going and going until—bloop—it dropped off the edge of the concrete and into the lake.”


Screen shot from 2004 footage that showed 18 cyclists falling at Oak Street in the course of a few minutes. NBC Chicago

DeCeault is far from the only local cyclist to crash due to perilous conditions at the Oak Street curve. An NBC Chicago clip from January 2014 showed 18 riders wiping out on black ice at the spot, sometimes two at a time, over the course of a few minutes.

The mayhem resembles something out of a Keystone Cops flick. “There goes another one, down, down, down,” chuckles the cameraman.

The persistence of the problems isn’t so funny. I checked out the path in the middle of last week, a few days after a couple inches of snow had fallen. The Oak Street curve was shellacked with ice and snow, and the trail was barricaded between the beach and the construction site of the Navy Pier Flyover. This $60 million elevated path will soar over Grand Avenue and Illinois Street, eliminating a dangerous trail bottleneck. Much of this stretch was impassable for bike riders, and treacherous for people walking and jogging.

In addition to the flyover, the city recently completed the $31.5 million Fullerton Revetment project, which built 5.8 acres of new lakefront parkland at Fullerton Avenue, and relocated a section of the trail so it’s less exposed to waves.

So are there any plans to fix the Oak Street curve problem in the long term?

Read the rest of the article on the Chicago Reader website.


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

Illinois Bicycle Lawyers - Mike Keating logo

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.


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.

Read more…


Fullerton Project Will Provide Acres of New Parkland, Partial Trail Separation


Looking south at the “bayou” created by the construction of the metal retaining wall. Photo: John Greenfield

Last October, a study was released as part of the North Lake Shore Drive redesign process that found Chicagoans ranked the creation of separate paths for walking and biking on the Lakefront Trail as their top priority for improving the shoreline. That same month, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Park District kicked off the Fullerton Revetment project, a step in the right direction towards that goal.

The initiative is building 5.8 acres of new parkland along the lake, which will allow for the partial separation of pedestrian and bike routes at a spot that’s currently a bottleneck. The main goal of the $31.5 million endeavor, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the city, and the park district, is to replace the crumbling seawall as part of the larger Chicago Shoreline Protection Project, which launched in 2000. Since then, 19 of the 23 segments of that 9.5-mile, $500 million project have been completed, according to city officials.

Shoreline - Fullerton Rendered Plan 2-20-14

A plan view of the project.

The Fullerton initiative includes widening the strip of parkland along the Lakefront Trail by as much as several hundred feet via infill, creating a brand-new hump of land that’s sure to be a hit with sunbathers. The work will also pave the way for the renovation of the Theater on the Lake, a former tuberculosis sanatorium that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to turn into a year-round destination for arts and culture.

Infill and revetment construction is slated for completion by November 30, and landscaping should be done by summer of 2016. Yesterday, CDOT engineer Carlene Walsh, the Fullerton project manager, and Steven Miskowicz from the R.M. Chin and Associates, which is overseeing construction, led a tour of the worksite. The general contractor is Walsh Construction – no relation to Ms. Walsh.


Installing the corrugated metal pilings for the metal enclosure. Photo: John Greenfield

Right now, the area that will be the new land resembles a tropical lagoon. Workers are driving corrugated steel pilings as much as 45 feet into the lakebed to create a wavy wall of metal that will hold the infill in place, similar to what was recently done to create new land for the Chicago Riverwalk extension. A causeway of rock and gravel has been built to provide access for the heavy equipment used to install the metal enclosure.

The resulting “bayou,” currently occupied by water that’s a milky turquoise due to sediment, will be filled in with 80,000 cubic yards of rocks and sand. The rocks include special “armor stone” that will be shipped in from Wisconsin, but the sand will be dredged from the lake floor southeast of North Avenue Beach’s hook-shaped pier, starting in about a month. Read more…


#1 North Lake Shore Drive Request: Separate Bike, Pedestrian Trails

Chicago's Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive

The current configuration of the Lakefront Trail at Fullerton rings a narrow path with dangerously low bollards, right next to a popular trail entrance and major attractions like Theater on the Lake and volleyball courts. Photo: Michelle Stenzel

This week, the Redefine the Drive study team listed the most requested improvements (PDF) that Chicagoans want to see as part of the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive. By far the most popular is also among the easiest and least expensive ways to improve safety: creating separate paths for bicyclists and pedestrians on the overcrowded Lakefront Trail.

Creating two paths would allow families to enjoy the scenery at a meandering child’s pace. It would result in fewer close calls and fewer “blame game” articles. Runners, like Mayor Rahm Emanuel, wouldn’t have to be startled by “on your left” anymore.

Theater on the Lake project

A park improvement will add new park space at Fullerton. The current shoreline is shown in red. Image: CDOT

One small step towards having more lakefront trail options advanced on Monday, when Emanuel and transportation commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld broke ground on a rebuilt shoreline revetment at Fullerton Avenue. By 2016, the $31.5 million project will create nearly six new acres of park space south of Theater on the Lake, along with two through paths.

A new shoreline path for wanderers will hug the shoreline, while a path for through travel will run further from shore. People entering the park from the end of Fullerton Avenue will have several paths to choose from, replacing the current “big mixing bowl” setup that routes trail travelers through crowds of people entering or leaving the park.

The Chicago Park District made similar changes two years ago at 31st Street Beach, by moving the Lakefront Trail underneath the main path that visitors use to walk into the beach and park area. Between there and the 43rd Street beach, the Park District also added new paths that better accommodate users moving at different speeds and reduce congestion along the main trail.


Streeterville Residents Redefine Their Own Bit of Lake Shore Drive

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A plan view shows a green shoreline between Navy Pier and North Avenue, in place of the current concrete. Image: VOA Associates via DNA Info

John Krause isn’t the only north lakefront resident who realizes that the Illinois Department of Transportation’s “Redefine The Drive” reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive is a chance to reinvent how the city meets the shore and the street.

In a bid to add more green space in Streeterville, a high-rise downtown neighborhood with with just a few parks, residents commissioned local architecture firm VOA Associates to redesign the area’s lakefront. The proposal has been in the works since 2006, according to DNAinfo, and was revealed at a public meeting last month.

The proposal substantially widens the shoreline park, expands Oak Street and Ohio Street Beaches, and submerges Lake Shore Drive below parkland at both Chicago Avenue and Oak Street. VOA’s plan is backed by the Lakefront Improvement Committee, the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, and Friends of the Parks.

The Chicago and Illinois Departments of Transportation are currently studying North Lake Shore Drive and adjacent areas from Navy Pier north to Hollywood Avenue. The study has since issued a purpose & need statement, listing the goals of the project, and has now proceeded to solicit solutions from residents to fix those issues.

The proposal from Krause, an independent architect, covers the entire north lakefront and proposes to add substantially more park space and improved mobility for transit, bicycling, and walking. VOA’s design, however, considers the stretch of lakeshore alongside the Streeterville neighborhood, and changes little about how the corridor serves bicycles, buses, or automobiles.

Streeterville residents, though, seem more excited to have the Drive redefined than IDOT. Howard Melton, an attorney and Streeterville resident, facilitated the May meeting where VOA presented their design to residents. As reported by Lizzie Schiffman in DNAinfo, he said the whole project could be completed in four or five years:

[Melton] said if approved, the three-phase plan would renovate Lake Shore Park in the next two to three years, complete the lakeshore buildout around 2016 or 2017, and complete the entire project in four or five years.

While it could be possible to do it in that time if the project were approved today and independent of the North Lake Shore Drive study, CDOT and IDOT have a rather different timetable. They expect to select a preferred alternative in 2016, then receive environmental and design approval four years from now, and start construction afterwards.

VOA’s plan proposes to soften the lake’s waves by constructing a barrier island — like those called for in Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, which resulted only in the near south side’s Northerly Island. VOA’s overall design, however, focuses more on building green space than on rebuilding the multi-modal transportation corridor that runs through the park. Both VOA and Krause propose to build several acres of new park space atop a buried Drive near Oak Street Beach.

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A sketch shows how Lake Shore Drive would be buried near Oak and Michigan. Image: VOA Associates via DNA Info

South of Oak Street, VOA’s proposal widens the angled, paved-over shoreline south of Oak into a swath of green space and a broad access point at Chicago Avenue, flowing over another tunnel and meeting the existing Lake Shore Park tucked behind the Museum of Contemporary Art.

One detail that VOA’s proposal doesn’t address is where and how the Lakefront Trail would be routed around Oak Street. This part of the path is unusable for several days in the winter, because waves crash and freeze on the pavement.

VOA’s pro bono work for Streeterville community groups is one example of what could result from Krause’s suggestion of a design competition that could bring big new ideas to the table. Krause also wants Redefine the Drive to engage design professionals, which could raise new possibilities during what will likely be a once-in-75-years chance to redesign of one of the city’s signature parks and transportation corridors.

VOA did not respond to our requests for more proposal details.


Architect Urges Big-Picture, Design Thinking For North Lake Shore Drive

Redefine the Drive May_boulevard detail section

Krause suggests dipping Lake Shore Drive below ground at interchanges, with the Inner Drive and a new light rail line staying at street level. Image: John Krause

Local architect John Krause sees the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive, one of Chicago’s most scenic locations, as a chance to think big — not just about the road, but also about parks, transit, trails, the shoreline, and the future of the city alongside it. The Illinois Department of Transportation isn’t used to thinking like that, though, and so Krause sees its “Redefine the Drive” project as a process “that looks and feels suboptimal.”

IDOT is currently in the study phase of a decade-long project that will recreate both the boulevard and access to Lincoln Park. It will be years until IDOT has a refined design, so as a first step IDOT must identify what, exactly, they want to do — what they call a Purpose and Needs Statement for the project. Krause is on one of the project task forces, and helped bring to light that IDOT’s original objectives focused on personal vehicle congestion and traffic issues, and was blind to the road’s effects upon parks, the Lakefront Trail, and citywide mobility.

Krause has crafted an alternative vision – one of two, the other by VOA Associates – to redesign the Drive [PDF]. He created it to start a broader conversation about not just how to rebuild a road, but instead to create a legacy project for Chicago that could reimagine both how people move along the lakefront, as well as the lakefront itself.

The way the system is set up, the design team can’t discuss the project with the public, engineering firms are afraid to get involved for fear of being conflicted out of the future project, and the amateur general public is invited to give our unqualified opinions [at public meetings].

“It’s a shame,” he says, “that there isn’t more public engagement of talented designers in this important process.” He adds that a competition, similar to one hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation to solicit designs for Central Loop BRT stations, “might be a way to get Chicago’s professional designers involved.”

IDOT’s study approach started off by lamenting the delays and congestion drivers experienced, Krause says, and so was “propagating a [highway] status quo…that has been discredited for a long time. Great design often emerges through collaboration among people with complementary skills and viewpoints. In this case, maybe civil engineers, transit planners, urbanists, park designers,” and others could work together, rather than letting IDOT’s highway engineers run the show.

A recent example of how IDOT has not looked outside its professional silo occurred at a recent task force meeting. As Krause describes it, “lots of people are pushing for a dedicated transit lane, but no one from the CTA is allowed to offer any guidance or encouragement. To be fair, I know that CTA and CDOT are struggling with IDOT behind closed doors, but whatever is said there has no impact on either the general public or the city’s design professionals.”

Krause says Redefine the Drive needs to redefine the entire lakefront as well. It “needs some real headline attractions… new features that would show up on a tourist brochure of things to do in Chicago.” Or, more importantly, he says, “things that would get the mayor and Friends of the Parks to stand up to IDOT” and get them to do something other than “business as usual” highway-paving.

As an example of what broader thinking could bring to the Redefine the Drive process, Krause has illustrated his own conceptual idea of what the North Lake Shore Drive study area could become. His proposal divides the area, which reaches from Grand Avenue at Navy Pier on the south up to Hollywood Avenue on the north, into four sections.

One principal component of Krause’s scheme is a light rail transit route down the center of the Drive, which would help meet the mobility needs of nearly 70,000 people each weekday. Stops would be spaced every 1/4 to 1/2 mile, including stops at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, and Edgewater Sports Campus. Throughout his scheme, Krause suggests dipping the Drive below each interchange, removing the elevated bridges that block views towards the lake. The rail line would continue at grade, so that trains will align with bus stops and sidewalks at ground level.

Read more…


Small Steps for IDOT Add Up to Giant Leap for North Lake Shore Drive

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Move over, cars: There’s a new top priority along North Lake Shore Drive. Photo: Roman Boed, via Flickr

IDOT’s revisions to the newly updated North Lake Shore Drive “Purpose and Needs Statement,” an opening salvo that sets the tone for the long process of rebuilding the Drive, might not quite be on the same scale as landing on the moon. However, a few seemingly minor text edits signal a huge shift in how the agency will treat active transportation in the upcoming reconstruction. A comparison between the April draft statement [PDF] and the May draft [PDF] reveals substantial changes to what IDOT lists as the project’s priorities.

The first major change is in the opening “Project Purpose” section. In the original document, “improve mobility for automobiles” was the first priority listed, with “buses and non-motorized modes of travel” lumped together afterwards. Looking over the new P&N, “improve safety” has moved to the top of the list, followed by “improve mobility for non-motorized modes of travel,” and then finally “buses and automobiles.” While this may look like a small difference, the statement illustrates the proper road user hierarchy — the safety of pedestrians and bicycles should come first, trailed by the need to move many buses and cars quickly. Similar changes have been made in other sections of the document.

In the original draft, the “Improve Safety for All Users” section had named vehicular safety first, with a small section afterwards about improving safety for “Non-Motorized Modes of Travel.” This time around, the two have been switched. Sadly, no new data or examples of major problem areas were added, whereas the vehicular section did see additional detail added.

Read more…


The Lakefront Trail Really Is Open All Day, All Night

Fog at Fullerton

Bicyclists can and should feel free to enjoy the Lakefront Trail’s beauty 24 hours a day. Photo: Jennifer Davis

Have you ever been hassled by Chicago police officers while bicycling on the Lakefront Trail after parks officially close at 11 PM? You’re not alone. Sebastian Huydts, who bicycles for most of his transportation needs, has been stopped twice this year — most recently on May 13, at about 11:15 p.m. “They actually told me to stop with a bright light and asked why I was there,” Huydts recently told Streetsblog. The police insisted that the park is closed after 11 p.m., telling Huydts “that you cannot use the path after that time, and that it wasn’t safe anyways.”

The Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile path used by tens of thousands of bicyclists on warmer days, and by many as a key commuting route throughout the year.

Huydts said that the officers weren’t unfriendly, and that he wasn’t mistreated. He countered the police, saying that riding home among drunk drivers on Kinzie Street would be far less safe. The officers asked for his destination (Montrose Avenue), and after talking amongst themselves, they “told me I was good to go — but should exit as soon as I could.”

The police officer on duty when I called the news affairs office said that he would look into what the rule is, and also how many bicyclists the department has warned, issued citations to, or given a contact card to.

The Chicago Park District, which owns and maintains the Lakefront Trail, said that the path is open at all times. Spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said flatly that “the trail is open for ingress/egress after regular hours.” The Chicago Department of Transportation deferred to the Park District for a response.

Maxey-Faulkner’s answer that the path is open is in keeping with Park District code [PDF], which states that nobody can be in a park between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., “except that persons and vehicles may pass through such parks without stopping, on the more direct walk or driveway leading from their point of entrance to the exit nearest to their point of destination.” This code appears to extend to trails through other large parks throughout the city.

Others have previously reported instances where a police vehicle parked squarely across the path, with the attending police officer ordering bicyclists to immediately exit the trail. Active Transportation Alliance said in 2010 that they would like to see better awareness of the overnight trail use policy. This policy should be conspicuously posted along the path, and communicated to the police units who patrol the trail.