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Latest Crash Highlights Need for Guardrails Along Lakefront Trail

The crash site as it appeared early this morning. Photo: Andrew Berg

Sadly, last night a speeding driver was critically injured when he crashed a car into a pole along Lake Shore Drive in Hyde Park, according to police. Not only does this collision represent senseless destruction of health and property, it also underscores the necessity of installing guardrails along the highway to protect innocent people using the Lakefront Trail.

Police said that the driver, a man in his 20s, was speeding north in a Dodge Charger around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night when he careened off the drive and struck a light pole near 54th Street, the Sun-Times reported. The driver was taken to Stroger Hospital in critical condition and his passengers, two men in their 20s, were transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in fair condition.

The crash site as it appeared last night. Photo: Justin Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times
The crash site as it appeared last night. Photo: Justin Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times
The crash site as it appeared last night. Photo: Justin Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times

At around 7 a.m. today Streetsblog Chicago reader Andrew Berg encountered debris from crash while he was biking on the trail. While the crushed vehicle had been towed away, debris from the car and some of the victims’ clothing was still strewn across the path.

On this section of the trail, only a few dozen feet from the highway, there’s no guardrail. Last fall the Chicago Park District began work on a new bike-only path even closer to the drive on this stretch as part of its current project to separate cyclists and pedestrians along most of the 18.5-mile facility. The new trail isn’t easy to see in Berg’s photos due to snow. While the vehicle itself was halted by the pole, and fortunately this collision didn’t take place during peak trail use hours or season, if circumstances had been slightly different more people could easily have been injured or even killed.

Active Transportation Alliance members raised this issue last fall, alarmed by how close some of the new bike paths run to the eight-lane, high-speed roadway. They noted that there had been two recent cases of motorists leaving the drive and crashing near the trail.

A new bike-only path along the drive near Fullerton, photographed last summer. Photo: John Greenfield
A new bike-only path along the drive near Fullerton with no guardrails. Photo: John Greenfield

After discussing the subject with Active Trans and the Chicago Area Runners Association as well as concerned residents, park district officials said their goal was to install guardrails wherever a paths lies within 30 feet of the drive. The park district then began talks with the Chicago and Illinois transportation departments about strategies to pay for and install the safety infrastructure. Illinois Department of Transportation spokespeople told me today that they hadn’t heard any updates on the project but will try to provide more info next week.

Berg says he wants to see action on this matter before someone on the trail gets struck. "The best part about the Lakefront Trail is that it's car-free and you don't have to worry about being killed by a motorist, unlike everywhere else in the city. Sadly, with the new separated path right next to the roadway and no guardrail, that's no longer true."

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