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Going postal: Lakefront Trail users rejoice over Chicago Park District installing bollards at Belmont

People who walk and bike are thrilled by the new initiative to keep drivers off the shoreline path. So how about making this a citywide strategy to protect pedestrians and cyclists from drivers?

The new bollards on the Lakefront Trail at Belmont Avenue, looking north. Photo: John Greenfield

The transit agency held public meetings in Uptown and Edgewater.
The post is sponsored by the Active Transportation Alliance.

Chicago's issues with unauthorized people driving on the Lakefront Trail – accidentally or not – are well-documented.

For example, there was that time in June 2022 when path users were shocked to see dozens of motorists detouring onto the pedestrian and bike trail to avoid a crash site on DuSable Lake Shore Drive at 47th Street.

There was more outrage in September 2023, when it became common for drivers to endanger people on foot and bicycles while illegally driving on paths at Hyde Park's Promontory Point, and then parking on the grassy parkland.

As you can see from the following posts, problems with unauthorized motorists on the Lakefront Trail are also common on the North Lakefront.

And here's an example from August 2022, of a driver accidentally entering the Lakefront Trail at Belmont Avenue, realizing their mistake, and then backtracking to Belmont again.

But I'm pleased to report that there's a light at the end of the DLSD tunnel. Earlier this month the Chicago Park District, which manages the trail, added bright yellow steel bollards to the edge of the path at Belmont. As you can see from the 700-plus "likes" on my post below, people really appreciate it when the authorities use durable metal barriers to force motorists to drive safely, rather than flimsy plastic flexi-posts that merely suggest that they do.

Park system spokesperson Michele Lemmons confirmed that the posts were installed to help prevent wayward drivers from using the path to access the Belmont Harbor parking lots. "The Park District has installed steel bollards at Belmont and the Lakefront Trail, northbound near the exit ramp to prevent [motorists] from jumping the trail and south near the harbor parking where pedestrians and bikers cross [drivers] entering the lot." 

Belmont Harbor and its parking lots, with the bollards location shown in orange. Image: Google Maps

Local alder Bennett Lawson (44th) applauded the barrier installation. "The Lakefront Trail is one of our ward's and our city's most incredible resources, and it’s crucial that pedestrians and cyclists can safely enjoy it," he told Streetsblog. "I’m thrilled the Park District installed bollards at Belmont to prevent from accidentally entering the trail and keep people safe." 

Another view of the Belmont Bollards, looking south. Photo: John Greenfield

All right, Chicago Park District and Chicago Department of Transportation, I'm sure you get the message. It's way past time time for our city to start regularly installing sturdy steel barriers to keep drivers from injuring or killing pedestrians and bike riders – not just to prevent "crash-and-grab" burglaries on the Magnificent Mile.

Shortly before publication of this post, Lemmons told Streetsblog, "The District will be installing bollards at other locations as well. Good on them, and let's keep our fingers crossed that this helps keep more drivers off the trail!

Update 6/23/24, 1:30 PM: The evening after this article was published, Hyde Park resident and Streetsblog contributor Steven Lucy posted a photo of new bollards the Chicago Park District installed on a bike-ped path directly west of the 55th Street underpass to Promontory Point.

Steven also shared an earlier tweet by Abby Klionsky showing more bollards installed on a path northwest of the underpass.

Here's a rough approximation of where the new bollards are located, shown with yellow stoplight icons. View an interactive map here.

Image: Google Maps

Hopefully these new installations will discourage unauthorized motorists from driving through the underpass, endangering pedestrians and bike riders, and then parking on the grass, damaging parkland.

I realize that taking the bus, walking, or biking to the Point may not be practical for everyone. However, the above image shows that there's a large, public parking lot just southwest of the underpass.

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