Sad Trombone: Lightfoot says the Lakefront Trail is still closed

Photo: John Greenfield
Photo: John Greenfield

There was some discussion on Twitter this morning, led by person running the Twitter account for Bike Lane Uprising, on whether the city might have quietly opened the Lakefront Trail for essential travel yesterday, when the previous executive order closing the shoreline expired and Phase 3 of Chicago’s reopening plan started.

The new health order for Phase 3 states that “all Chicago parks, beaches, walking, running and cycling paths, trails and other recreational facilities on and adjacent to the Lakefront, including those on the west side of Lakeshore Drive, and the Chicago Riverwalk and the Bloomingdale Trail, remain closed. No person shall be present at any time on any property described in this Section 5… except for: emergency access by first responders, and Essential Travel.”

(One odd thing about that is that WTTW reported yesterday, apparently accurately, that the Riverwalk has reopened for exercise walking, running, and biking from 5 to 10 a.m., as well as “passive use” [presumably leisurely walking or hanging out in one spot] from 5 a.m. to 9 PM.)

Illinois’ original Stay at Home order classified walking, running, and biking for exercise as essential activities, and certainly using those modes to go get supplies or head to work is essential travel. There were also rumors circulating that the police have stopped parking at the main street entrances to the lakefront to enforce the ban because, after all, they’ve had more important things to do lately. So that raised the question of whether there’s any wiggle room in the general lakefront prohibition.

So this morning Streetsblog tweeted about the subject and emailed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office, the police department, the health department, and the park district whether it’s legal to use the lakefront and/or the Lakefront Trail right now. They didn’t have an immediate answer.

At a 1 p.m. mayoral press conference, WTTW’s Heather Cherone asked if the expiration of the original order closing the lakefront meant that the restrictions on using the shoreline were now lifted.

“No,” said Lightfoot. “We are fine-tuning the last few I’s and T’s on a new order but the lakefront remains closed.”

In late May the mayor said that the Lakefront Trail would be opened “later in Phase 3,” according to Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman.

Meanwhile, there has been plenty of advocacy to reopen the trail, at least for essential commutes. A petition launched by essential worker Kyle Lucas in April has more than 1,575 signatures. A similar effort by University of Chicago public policy student Steven Spinello in May has over 720 supporters. In late May, the Chicago Area Running Association’s proposal to reopen the path for morning use quickly racked up 2,000-plus signatures. And at the end of the month Uptown alderman James Cappleman voiced support for reopening the trail “in a phased and planned way.”

So if you haven’t signed any of those petitions yet, consider doing so, and keep your fingers crossed that it won’t be long until we’re legally able to use the shoreline path for essential commutes, as well as to enjoy lake breezes during a leisurely stroll, jog, or roll.

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