Eyes on the Street: Lakefront Trail Separation From 31st to 41st

A new stretch of trail for cyclists, just south of the 35th Street bridge. Photo: John Greenfield
A new stretch of trail for cyclists, just south of the 35th Street bridge. Photo: John Greenfield

Recently on this blog I discussed plans for Lakefront Trail separation between Ohio and Fullerton, work that’s slated to begin later this spring and be completed this summer. This afternoon I took a spin to the South Side to check out the in-progress trail separation project between 31st and 41st, which broke ground last August and is almost done. Another section from 41st to 56th is in design and should be completed in the fall.

An under-construction section near 31st Street Beach. Photo: John Greenfield
An under-construction section near 31st Street Beach. Photo: John Greenfield

In December, the city announced a $12 million donation from hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffith for Lakefront Trail separation. However, separating bike and pedestrian traffic on the stretch from 31st to 41st is a $1.8 million project that was already paid for by Chicago Park District capital funds.

A new, parallel path has been build around the hump of land at Oakwood. Photo: John Greenfield
A new, parallel path has been build around the hump of land at Oakwood. Photo: John Greenfield

The southern half of the Lakefront Trail is generally much less congested during the summer than the path on the North Side, but the area around 31st Street Beach sees plenty of conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists during nice weather. Trail traffic on the stretch south of 31st will likely increase a bit this year, thanks to the beautiful new bike/ped bridge over Lake Shore Drive that opened at 35th last fall. Other planned bridges at 41st and 43rd will likely draw more path users as well.

A new stretch of trail for cyclists, just south of the 35th Street bridge. Photo: John Greenfield
A new stretch of trail just south of the new 35th Street bridge. Photo: John Greenfield

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In general the project is creating pedestrian paths that will have 7-foot-wide paved lanes in each direction, plus 3-foot soft-surface shoulders, and will be located closer to the lake. The bike path will be located closer to the drive (and its noise and pollution) and will feature 6-foot-wide paved lanes but no soft shoulders, which will discourage use by joggers who prefer a lower-impact experience.

Two roads diverge in a (non-yellow) wood. Photo: John Greenfield
Two roads diverge in a yellow wood. Photo: John Greenfield

As you can see from these photos, the new sections of trail are coming along nicely. The big question is whether cyclists and pedestrians will stick to their designated lanes. The park district hopes that good signage will ensure that everyone gets the memo about which trail they should be using.

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