New Configuration at Fullerton and LSD Confounds Peds and Cyclists

Last year the Chicago Department of Transportation reconfigured Fullerton Avenue between Cannon Drive and the lakefront to make it easier for cars to enter southbound Lake Shore Drive, at the expense of pedestrians and bicyclists. To make room for a dedicated right-turn lane and a second on-ramp lane, CDOT eliminated the south sidewalk of Fullerton, which previously served as a safe (just 2 bike crashes and 0 pedestrian crashes from 2005-2011), direct route for people on foot and bikes (since it was a de-facto multiuse path) heading east to the Lakefront Trail.

Walkers and bikers heading to the lake now have the option of crossing to the north side of Fullerton in a crosswalk west of Cannon, walking east across Cannon, and then proceeding east to the beach on the north sidewalk, which has been widened to 20 feet. The wider sidewalk is an improvement over the old 13.5-foot sidewalk on the north side, but it only reclaims about half the space that was taken from pedestrians when the 13.5-foot sidewalk on the south side was eliminated.

New sidewalks at Fullerton/Cannon in Lincoln Park
The northwest corner of Fullerton and Cannon, looking east. All pedestrian and most bicycle traffic is funneled to the north sidewalk of Fullerton, because the south sidewalk was removed east of Cannon.

Alternately, from the southwest corner of Fullerton/Cannon, walkers and bicyclists can proceed east across Cannon and use a very circuitous, ramps-and-underpass route to the north sidewalk. A third option for cyclists is to pedal east in the street, but this is dangerous because there are now two lanes of cars turning south onto LSD. Other changes include the removal of the crosswalk from the eastern leg of Fullerton/Cannon, and the creation of two left-turn lanes for southbound drivers on Cannon turning east onto Fullerton.

The new configuration was designed during the Richard M. Daley administration, back when the city’s complete streets policy consisted of a single sentence. It would fail to meet several of the standards of CDOT’s Complete Streets Chicago design guide, which was released in April.

New sidewalks at Fullerton/Cannon in Lincoln Park
Looking southeast from the northwest corner of Fullerton/Cannon. These people aren't riding legally or safely, but it's quicker to cut the corner than ride up one curb ramp, make a 90 degree turn and exit the other curb ramp toward the Lakefront Trail.

Confusing and counterintuitive

People 12 and older are usually required to bike in the street, but in this case it’s unsafe to pedal east to the lakefront on Fullerton, and cyclists and pedestrians are now expected to use the north sidewalk. There’s a learning curve to figuring out the intended at-grade and underpass routes. During the time it takes to learn the new setup, people will encounter obstacles and break the rules through no fault of their own. They’re walking and biking east on the south sidewalk of Fullerton Avenue to access the Lakefront Trail only to discover that the sidewalk disappears east of Cannon. At that point, I witnessed several people cross Fullerton in the east leg of Fullerton/Cannon, which is unsafe because there is no crosswalk, but much more direct than the ramps-and-tunnel route.

Not enough room for non-motorized traffic

While the north sidewalk of Fullerton is 20-feet-wide where it crosses the canal, which seems to be sufficient for bike and ped traffic, the crosswalk and sidewalks at Fullerton/Cannon are too narrow. Actually, all of the sidewalks that lead to this intersection are too narrow.

New sidewalks at Fullerton/Cannon in Lincoln Park
Wide sidewalk, narrow curb ramp. Looking east towards Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail beyond.

Where Fullerton’s north sidewalk intersects with LSD’s southbound exit ramp, the curb ramps are much narrower than the sidewalk, funneling walkers, joggers and bicyclists into a narrow opening, which increases the potential for conflicts between slow and fast non-motorized traffic.

Everyone wants to use the curb ramps because it’s an easier than stepping off the curb, but everyone on bicycles or with baby strollers needs to use the curb ramp.

New sidewalks at Fullerton/Cannon in Lincoln Park
Sidewalk width on the north side of the bridge: wide. (Looking west.)
New sidewalks at Fullerton/Cannon in Lincoln Park
Sidewalk width west of the bridge, where most people enter the bridge: narrow. (Looking west at the northeast corner of Fullerton/Cannon.)

Cars still on top

In addition to all of the problems outlined above, there’s a fourth way the new intersection/corridor design “improves” the situation for driving.

The design encourages speeding with wide turning radii for drivers entering and exiting Cannon Drive north of Fullerton, and with a well-timed green light for drivers turning from Cannon onto Fullerton towards Lake Shore Drive.

This intersection doesn’t have a leading pedestrian interval, which contributes to the danger of turning drivers not yielding right-of-way to pedestrians – a common danger throughout Chicago. The amount of signal time for pedestrians and cyclists cross is low relative to the amount of non-motorized traffic here.

Some of these problems can still be fixed. For example, the signals can be re-timed with a leading pedestrian interval to let walkers and cyclists start crossing before a right-turning driver cuts them off. CDOT could also add a “pedestrian scramble” signal phase here to increase safety and convenience for people on foot and bikes. Other issues can’t be addressed without reconstructing the road. For example, providing a safe place for people to bike on Fullerton would require reconstructing the roadway to create a curbside bike lane with a bike-only signal at the Lake Shore Drive entrance ramp. The status quo is a completely unsatisfactory.

  • Scotto

    This is such a disappointment.

  • mhls

    The video does a good job of showing the issues here. Dangerous crossings. High traffic speeds. Hi turn volumes. Etc.

    I still can’t believe this was implemented.

    The one “improvement” I predict is a fence at that corner to keep people from
    crossing the eastern leg of the intersection.

  • Then we’ve got another Randolph/Michigan situation. Pedestrians don’t need fences, they need access.

  • Oh boy, I’m always happy to draw attention to Chicago’s Dumbest Intersection:

    Hopefully Commissioner Klein is going to pull a Queen’s Landing on this soon and restore the missing crosswalk. I’ll provide an update soon.

  • Jin Nam

    I hope they try the pedestrian scramble here, if nothing else happens.

  • It would be really cool if they did The Bold Scramble there, with an ABC signal pattern, rather than the less ped-friendly (though still awesome) ABABC pattern currently in effect with the State/Jackson scramble:

  • Jin Nam

    When the pedestrians were interviewed by the local news who were “scrambling”, a smile on everyone’s face. They liked to loved it. =)

  • mhls

    I agree, CDOT should not install a fence, but the intersection design (5 lanes and generous radii) will make it difficult and costly to correct this mistake. Hence, the possibility that CDOT compounds the error.

  • Anonymous

    I played beach volleyball at the north end of North Ave Beach (ie between Fullerton and the ped bridge) last summer. I’d get off the bus at Stockton (151 or 156) which puts you on the south side of Fullerton. There *was* fence at the SE corner due to the construction. When the signals hit wrong, lots of people walking on the south side, myself included, would cross Cannon anyway and stand next to the fence at the SE corner waiting for the signal to cross Fullerton. ie, to get from SW to NE, you have to cross two ways, if you have the signal to cross Cannon first, most people are going to take it, especially when there isn’t all that much traffic coming north out of the zoo lot there.

    I’m glad I’m playing on the south end this summer, won’t need to deal with this mess nearly as often.

  • Anonymous

    The stupid thing about this whole project is that the main time traffic is high enough to warrant this design (the double turn lanes from SB Cannon to EB Fullerton to SB LSD) is morning rush hour, when LSD is usually so crowded there’s nowhere for the cars to all go. I’d guess that all this has done is shorten the lines on Cannon without speeding anyone up at all.

  • I wonder if there’s any possibility of CDOT installing a crosswalk at the east leg of the Fullerton/Cannon intersection. Steven’s video shows that there are currently plenty of people crossing there now, even though it’s risky to cross without a marked crosswalk.

    It reminds me of the situation at North/Damen/Milwaukee. Yesterday at evening rush hour I saw a crowd of maybe 20 people who had likely just left the blue Line’s Damen stop, jaywalking together from the southwest corner, north across the intersection, in order to continue north on Damen. This is much more direct than taking the proscribed crosswalk route, which require crossing the street twice and walking significantly out of the way, but it’s unsafe because there’s no direct crosswalk.

    Something really needs to be done at North/Damen/Milwaukee to prioritize pedestrian traffic. CDOT needs to safely accommodate the routes that pedestrians are actually taking, instead of the ones that traffic engineers would like them to take.

  • Elliott Mason

    The other thing the double on-ramp at Fullerton has provably done is massively increased the travel time from Hollywood to the Loop via LSD — because so many more cars are coming on in an enormous lump that even if it was flowing reasonably well (say, smooth but 20mph) before Fullerton, it stops up dead from merge-itis and general overstuffedness.

  • We’ve been living with this arrangement now for six months in Lincoln Park, and all my prior complaints about the rebuild, most of which you cover here, remain. At a big picture level, what has been done here is to extend Lake Shore Drive’s car-centered influence further west. Instead of sending a clear message to drivers that they are not yet on LSD until they hit the on-ramp, this intersection gives them a “running start”. Will the next intersection west be sacrificed? That intersection, Stockton and Fullerton, is also missing a crosswalk. So at Stockton, pedestrians can’t cross safely on the east side, and at Cannon, they can’t cross safely on the west side. In the mean time, motor vehicles are allowed to turn right, left and go straight at both intersections, and now have been given an extra lane at the expense of a well-used sidewalk/multi-use trail. Which mode of transport are we encouraging here? This is all in very center of popular cultural attractions like the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool. Addressing the problems — at least some of them — could involve big fixes, medium fixes, or small fixes.

  • Yes, we covered this other sucky aspect of the rehab earlier this year:

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure that’s really the case because the 2 lanes merge to 1 on the onramp, so in rush hour the same amount of traffic gets on, it just moves some of the backed up traffic closer to the onramp instead of backing quite so far up Cannon and Stockton and Fullerton. LSD backed up at Fullerton long before this work was done.

  • Anonymous

    You’d think they could time the lights to make it work with the east leg crosswalk, since it used to work just fine before the construction.

  • Anonymous

    The contrast I would draw here is that unlike Michigan/Randolph, where there is plenty of stuff on both the SW and SE corners, there isn’t much on the SE corner of Fullerton/Cannon, just the path between the zoo lot and the lagoon, which just doesn’t seem to get all that much use.

    My guess is that most of the people crossing on that east leg do so because they’re on the south side of Fullerton going to the lake, cross the south leg first and then are stuck.

  • Ted King

    Re : “the proscribed crosswalk
    I think you meant prescribed.


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