#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.

  • Fred

    So the ideal solution is an additional southbound bypass to the west of the hill. That eliminates any traffic from ever having to cross traffic from the other direction.

  • skyrefuge

    Yeah, though then the two bypasses would have to be signed (and actually used) as one-ways. Otherwise it would make things even worse. And practically, it might be a bit difficult to route a western bypass around the hill (which is there to catch the 47th St. ped/bike bridge over NB LSD).

  • Fred

    I suppose the other solution would be to eliminate the hill paths (or just 1 of them) and create a single intersection with path at ground level.

  • Annie F. Adams

    With the current configuration I don’t recommend Traffic on your left (2-up runners, families walking side-by-side, cyclists, dog owners with leashed dogs and so forth) they move at a varied speeds and widths as does the oncoming traffic on your right. So if I am riding 2-up chatting with my niece on Divvies one of will have to cross over the yellow line in order to get around the folks on our left, but hopefully folks on our right are not trying also to pass. I think the 2-way varied speeds and width and types of traffics makes riding 2-up unsafe. I have done it. But I am a very experienced rider and only do it when the path is near empty.

  • Annie F. Adams

    That all said. This is why I want a dedicated “chat” lane on InnerLSD. (In addition to keeping and improving the recreational path on NLSD.)

    I would LOVE to ride bikes and chat! I think it would be transformative for this city! I am tempted to make it into an art project. It would be pure art to see people safely biking and chatting!

  • This is effectively what the plan described above already does.

  • Another great option if you don’t mind loops and repeating scenery is any of the large cemeteries: very well-paved streets, few cars, some shade.

  • Right now there is too little pavement for the total throughput regardless of its mixed nature. More path width is needed to handle demand.

    At that point, it makes more sense to separate out strolling tourists/dog walkers/etc who meander and make lots of stops from people who DON’T.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Agreed. & good bird watching! But I can’t bike in some cemeteries. Also doesn’t get me to work. It is pretty simple. We need more space on NLSD devoted to moving people via light rail, bikes, walking, running. Not (yes count them) 12 lanes at Oak Street devoted to car traffic and buses stuck in that car traffic.

  • Perrofelix

    Amen. I used to bike commute from Rogers Park to the loop every day. It has come a vital commute artery for many people, who can’t afford to dawdle along for 9 miles without being late for work or late for coming back home. Make it too slow for cyclists and you put those people back in their cars or on the overcrowded trains. Make it more convenient and more cyclists will use it. I have no problem with using a marked-off, physically separated part of LSD itself if designed properly, rather than the LFT.

  • Annie F. Adams

    Thanks for your comment. The NLSD committee members kept asking me “would people really NOT want to bike on the lakefront?” I kept reassuring them YES we only commute there because it is away from cars and allows continuous movement like cars have on LSD.

    I also think this is unique to folks commuting from Evanston and far Northside neighborhoods. We know it is often faster to bike than take a CTA train or bus. So we bike.

    Additionally if room cannot be found on the paved section of InnerLSD there is plenty of room and existing paths on the West/non-lake side of LSD in Lincoln Park that can be converted to a Bike HWY. Best solution might be a combination of both areas. Another advantage is the Bike HYW & Light Rail would be closer by about 1 mile to where people live. So they could hop on it and run errands or get kids to/fro school faster.

    I also think the Bike HYW on weekend mornings could be used for training from 5-7 AM for triathletes. Chicago could then host an IronMan and make gazillions like we currently do with the marathon. Triathlons are expensive and if people knew they had a dedicated time and space to train, they might not do it at other times it would tire’em out!