Lane of Lower LSD converted to protected bike/ped path, carmageddon doesn’t ensue

The temporary protected bike/ped path on Lower LSD. Photo: John Greenfield
The temporary protected bike/ped path on Lower LSD. Photo: John Greenfield

Yesterday the Chicago Department of Transportation opened the temporary protected path for bicyclists and pedestrians on Lower Lake Shore Drive to provide a detour for Lakefront Trail users while the final phase of the $64 million Navy Pier Flyover bike/ped bridge. The temporary path replaced an excess lane of Lower LSD, something Streetsblog’s Steven Vance proposed doing way back in 2012 as a much cheaper, faster alternative to the flyover, which has been under construction since 2014 and is slated for completion this spring.

I suspect a major reason why Steven’s idea was a non-starter was that city officials were afraid of a political backlash if they permanently took that space away from drivers. But, surprise, surprise, thanks to the magic of traffic evaporation — the phenomenon that when you take away space for drivers, demand tends to go away as well — the lane closure seems to be having no discernible effect on car traffic.

The protected bike/ped path on Lower LSD. Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

The new 9-foot-wide path seemed to be working just fine for people on foot and bikes when I dropped by during Monday’s evening rush. But if you take a spin on it and continue north on the existing section of the flyover, use caution on the section of the Lakefront Trail between Ohio Street Beach and the Oak Street curve — it’s got all kinds of nasty pavement breaks due to extreme wave action last month.

The cantilevered structure will eventually pass through the bridge houses. Photo: John Greenfield
The cantilevered structure will eventually pass through the bridge houses. Photo: John Greenfield

The current phase of the flyover project involves retrofitting the existing LSD bridge with a cantilever structure on the east side of the span that will allow for widening the trail to eliminate the existing bottlenecks. The work includes punching holes for the path through the 1930’s-era limestone bridge houses. The project also involves structural and mechanical repairs to the movable bascule bridge.

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