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Eyes on the Street: Lakefront Trail Separation between Montrose and Ardmore

The new bike trail (with an access lane for pedestrians) crosses Simonds Drive south of Foster. Photo: John Greenfield

Uptown has become a hotbed for bikeway controversies. The Chicago Department of Transportation recently completed sidewalk bike lanes inside the Lawrence and Wilson viaducts under Lake Shore Drive, a project that has been widely decried as a strategy to prevent homeless people from seeking shelter in the underpasses. And in May some Uptown residents voiced concerns that the planned creation of separate paths for cyclists and pedestrians on the Lakefront Trail in the neighborhood would raise the risk of crashes due to the proximity of the new bikes-only path to picnicking grounds, soccer fields, and a playground.

The new bike route (blue) and the pedestrian route (red), between Montrose and Ardmore. Image: Google Maps
The new bike route (blue) and the pedestrian route (red), between Montrose and Ardmore. Image: Google Maps
The new bike route (blue) and the pedestrian route (red), between Montrose and Ardmore. Image: Google Maps

The trail separation project is nearly completed between Montrose and Ardmore, so I recently dropped by to snap some photos of the new configuration. Cyclists are detoured from the existing Lakefront Trail to a new route east of Cricket Hill, which adds a half mile to the trip, but the tradeoff is more distance from LSD noise and exhaust, and some nice views of Lake Michigan.

The Montrose underpass. Photo: John Greenfield
The Montrose underpass. Photo: John Greenfield
The Montrose underpass. Photo: John Greenfield

To facilitate driving to Montrose Beach, at Montrose Avenue both cyclists and pedestrians are diverted from the old at-grade street crossing to an existing underpass about a block east. The section of path that previously crossed the avenue has been torn out, but I observed several trail users ignoring the "Sidewalk Closed" sign to make the direct crossing, and north of Montrose there's a "desire line," a path worn in the grass where people are traveling to avoid the detour to the underpass.

Many people are still choosing to take the direct at-grade route across Montrose, rather than detouring about a block east to the underpass. Photo: John Greenfield
Many people are still choosing to take the direct at-grade route across Montrose, rather than detouring about a block east to the underpass. Photo: John Greenfield
Many people are still choosing to take the direct at-grade route across Montrose, rather than detouring about a block east to the underpass. Photo: John Greenfield

Once you pass through the Montrose underpass, north of the avenue there's a split in the trail, with one path heading to the left for trail users who want to continue west on Montrose, as well as for northbound pedestrians -- this access path meets up with the old section of Lakefront Trail near Lake Shore Drive. Northbound cyclists take the path on the right, which takes them east of Cricket Hill.

IMG_0989
The Wilson underpass. Photo: John Greenfield
The Wilson underpass. Photo: John Greenfield

As cyclists approach Wilson Avenue, they have the option of taking an existing park path that heads west, connecting with the controversial LSD viaduct bike lanes. Northbound riders continue through another existing underpass below Wilson.

Crossing Lawrence on the new trail. Photo: John Greenfield
Crossing Lawrence on the new trail. Photo: John Greenfield
Crossing Lawrence on the new trail. Photo: John Greenfield

Two blocks north, the new path crosses Lawrence at street level, and westbound riders are supposed take the street and the Lawrence viaduct bike lanes to head towards the Uptown entertainment district, which includes landmarks like the Aragon Ballroom, the Riviera Theater, and the Green Mill jazz club.

The new trail section runs by a playground north of Lawrence. Does anyone know why these runners are tethered together? Photo: John Greenfield
The new trail section runs by a playground north of Lawrence. Does anyone know why these runners are tethered together? Photo: John Greenfield
The new trail section runs by a playground north of Lawrence. Does anyone know why these runners are tethered together? Photo: John Greenfield

Next is the contested area of the trail, where residents argue that bike traffic poses a hazard to children and adults who need to cross from parking areas to recreation spots. However, they're also required to cross Simonds Drive and/or a large parking lot to get to their destinations, which is arguably a more hazardous endeavor.

The pedestrian path by Foster Beach. Photo: John Greenfield
The pedestrian path by Foster Beach. Photo: John Greenfield
The pedestrian path by Foster Beach. Photo: John Greenfield

The new bike path curves west at Foster Avenue, crossing the pedestrian route, and then cyclists proceed north to the end of the trail at Ardmore via the existing path. At Foster Beach people on foot use a concrete beachside walkway, and originally the trail separation proposal called for creating a new pedestrian path close to Osterman Beach. However, that plan has been scrapped, possibly in response to public input and/or a desire to save green space and trees, and instead the existing trail north of Foster Beach is being widened to 20 feet to allow for separate-but-side-by-side bike and pedestrian routes.

Have you traveled the new sections between Montrose and Ardmore yet? If so, let us know what you think in the comments section.

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