Public perceptions of Chicago's Lakefront Trail point to opportunities for improvement

Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is the busiest trail in the United States, with peak daily usage reaching 30,000 people at key points.

The 18-mile trail mixes together people walking, running, biking and in-line skating for recreation and transportation.

But as any Chicagoan who has visited the trail on a beautiful day knows, its incredible popularity can also lead to heavily congested conditions and even crashes between people on the trail.

Through a unique partnership, the Active Transportation Alliance, Friends of the Parks and the Chicago Area Runners Association today released the findings of a study on public perceptions of Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.

The report, entitled “People on the Trail,” summarizes what trail users think about their trail experience and sets forth principles for a better trail, based on a community outreach process that engaged more than 1,600 trail users. Results from trail user surveys on satisfaction, congestion, conflicts and crashes are detailed in a series of eight maps in the report.

Key recommendations in the report include redesigning lakefront access points to make it safer and easier to access the trail and the lakefront, as well as alleviating trail congestion and reducing crashes by creating new paths to separate higher-speed bike traffic and lower-speed foot traffic.

Download the full People on the Trail report here (PDF).

2013 Chicagoland Bike Map

I haven't been able to ride this winter (hats off to those who didn't let this winter stop them but me, no thanks) but I have been looking at the new bike map.

There's something odd about it. It's out of shape, not drawn to scale. I've never seen a map like it. It has a different scale in the North-South direction than it does in the East-West direction!

The official scale on the map is 1 inch = 1-1/2 miles. And in the North-South direction, that's just how it is. Take any mile and a half distance (say Addison to Lawrence) and measure it and it's an inch. But now measure a similar distance East-West and it's quite different. Take for example Damen to Kedzie. That's also a mile and a half, but on the map it's just under an 1-5/8". Let's call it a ratio of 5 to 8. The same distance on the map going north-south and east-west goes 60% further north-south than a similar map distance east-west.

I've never seen a map drawn this way.

Why? What were the ATA mapmakers thinking?

Bike Map

Actually, I too, erred slightly. The East West map distance for a mile and a half is about 1-3/8", not 1-5/8". But it's still quite noticeable. The ratio is 8 : 11, not 5 :8.. It's still a 37% stretching in the East-West direction.

Komen 10K 8/11/13

Haven't I seen the Komen pinks running against Planned Parenthood two or three times already this year? How can one group get so much time on the path? Komen is an embarrassment. Planned Parenthood is too busy providing health care to women to put on funny clothes and takeover the Lakefront Trail.

Rules of the Path

In my experience, most pedestrians (runners included) seem to treat the path as a sidewalk, while cyclists for the most part treat it as a street. While riding, I've seen (and almost collided with) several pedestrians who simply do not look both ways before they cross or enter the path. I've also been greeted with groups of pedestrians who block an entire lane, and in one case both lanes and both shoulders. Peds are usually oblivious to others on the path. If peds treated the path more like a city street and less like a sidewalk, I suspect we'd have fewer accidents and near-misses.

Many cyclists also commit fouls--particularly those who, without visible warning, stop in their lane without moving to the right side (or off) the path. Doing this on a city street invites a collision, and it's no different on the lakefront path. This sort of stopping obstructs ALL traffic and forces peds and bikes to stop and wait or take their chances with oncoming traffic. I have also found that a slower speed on the bike, particularly in congested areas, and "On your left" go a long way toward making peds aware of my presence in a respectful manner. It still doesn't stop the runner I'm overtaking from doing a U-turn into my path without looking over their shoulder first, however.

"Etiquette" seems to be too soft of a word to describe what's needed--I think it's more a case of "Education," much the same way as children are taught to navigate streets as pedestrians...except instead of "Rules of the Road," we can have "Rules of the Path," until separate ped and bike paths, analogous to the protected bike lanes on city streets, can be built.

Rules Rule!

Could not agree more. I honestly wish they would post simple "rules of the path" signs, number one being Look before you cross. Number two being, Stay to the right.

I also so wish they would paint a line at the Lake Shore Drive south bridge indicating that it is still part of the path with signs to stay right. If there isn't any oncoming traffic I usually end up running in the street to avoid collisions and let the cyclists get in front. I know it will never happen but I wish the running groups would limit participants and stay 2 x 2, I'm a marathoner and I hate competing for space and having to pass the "herds." Finally, I wish stopped cyclists would move completely off the path and not park themselves in the running gravel, after 18 miles it's hard to have to bounce around people.

Rules Rule!

I also really wish they would make and maintain a gravel path alongside the bike path for runners. I always run on the gravel, easier on my legs & feet and keeps me out of the way of cyclists (I also ride). The problem is these gravel paths are inconsistent along the lakefront. Some sections are perfect but some need to be wider and better maintained and in other sections they simple don't exist.

And can we please ban those stupid 4-6 person 4 wheeled bikes and segways? Too wide for an already congested path.
I know, wishful thinking :)

Full Agreement

I'm in full agreement with much of what has already been posted and everything "Rules Rule" has said. I'm both a cyclist and runner and use the lake shore path almost daily. My cycling commute takes me from Foster all the way down to 57th. While the weekday commutes are relatively easy--due to low crowds, the weekends are quite tough. I'd love to ban the large, slow, tourist-geared 4-6 person bikes for just those reasons: they're large, slow, and usually driven by tourists who don't know what they're doing.

I also agree that as a runner, it'd be nice if the gravel side paths were widened and consistently maintained. I prefer running on the limestone because it keeps me out of the way and is easier on the joints; however, the path often is strewn with sticks, narrows, gets muddy or pooled with water or just disappears altogether.

Finally, it'd be great if there were a way to increase safety. The number of people who walk in wide groups, blocking the entire path, the number who stop in the middle of the path, who cross without looking or who don't pay attention to the center line all make cycling as well as running a bit dangerous... and are just annoying.

Regardless, the lake shore path is one of the reasons I love this city so much--so even with all these wishes of mine--it still suits me quite well.

Da Path

As a frequent user of this path, what's really missing is common courtesy and, often, common sense. Common Sense - I don't think banning ear buds for runners is a good or fair idea. What will we ban next? Yellow running shoes? I say this b/c folks talking & walking on their cell phone or texting are just as likely to be distracted, wonder aimlessly into lane/path traffic and get hit. I am never in favor of cyclists wearing earbuds. In some states is against the law. Cyclists need to be able to see & hear traffic on paths and roadways. Common sense includes looking before passing someone, staying to the right based on your mode - walk, run, inline, bike - of transportation. Common courtesy includes - saying on your left on a bike, looking over your shoulder before suddenly stopping or changing lanes, walking to the right and not littering. I think there should be a maximum speed limit posted on the path between 9AM & 7PM. It can be done using lighted speed limit signs so that changes can be made - up or down - in more heavily or less congested areas. The choke points on the maps are obvious. Max speed 5mph at choke points will discourage riders on faster road bikes from visiting those areas during a busy weekend or festival. A posted speed limit is not a God given right - This is a SHARED / MULTI - USE path. Thanks for making the LFP safe for all.

ear buds- on your left

Banning use of Ear Buds - if we are banning them, because they are a distraction, we should ban all distractions, like passengers in a car, use of radios in cars, running or wakking with friend, for all are distractions, and using the same logic it would mean that the deaf could not drive, walk nor ride a bike for they too can not hear traffic.

As far as giving notice, on your left, that in most cases I agree it is a nice common courtesy, but, if you give this notice to a group of 2 or more young girls or novices cyclist they will look over their left shoulders and step to the left every time.

Common sense and common

Common sense and common courtesy - that says it all. Unfortunately, you cannot legislate nor ensure either, and that goes for people interacting anywhere. I'm a cyclist and when I see a runner running in the exact middle of the path, as if they need the center line to guide them, I think "does this person have no common sense/courtesy?" -- and then I realize what a stupid question that is. Usually I will slow down to crawl, and just nicely say "hey, could you move to the right?" -- and a few times have gotten "oh, sorry" (liar), and a few times gotten flipped off. As Ron White says "you can't fix stupid".

African American participation

How does this lakefront trail include the participation of lower income Africna American youth currently living on the south lakefront region of Chicago?

Virtually,

Harold L. Lucas

www.bviconline.info

1-773-819-2055

Harold - The Lakefront Trail

Harold - The Lakefront Trail is a Chicago Park District facility open to all Chicagoans for free. We think it's a great asset for reacreation and transportation for people of all income levels on both the north and south sides. The city recently added a protected bike lane on 31st Street to make it safer and easier to connect to the Lakefront Trail from Bronzeville. We'd love to see more bicycle and pedestrian improvements like this to make the trail more accessible to residents.

Lee Crandell, Active Trans

Event Alerts

Chicago ALERTS is designed for neighborhoods, not trails and does not seem to be effective at warning trail users of closures. Can we set something up on any of the participating organizations sites to alert lake fron trail users of events that will restrict or close off the bike path: Air and Water show, charity runs, triathalons, and ESPECIALLY dangerous wave conditions? Ideally- I would love to be able to receive a "push alert" for my sections of the trail when this occurs? I think it would go a long way toward getting some of the more intense users to consider alternatives for those particular days that would benefit them as well as the event. Thanks!

Lakefront Trail Condition Updates

Cynthia -- Active Trans currently shares this kind of information though our Lakefront Trail Condition Updates. You can follow it via Twitter @activetransLFT or get updates via text on your phone. Learn more here: http://www.activetrans.org/lakefronttrailconditions

LF Trail

Definitely need to get the walkers/runner/rollerbladers their own lane, especially since a lot of them are wearing ear buds and can't hear you when you are ringing your bell or announcing that you are "On the left". Sometimes as THEY are trying to pass someone, they'll drift over to the left, I'll be forced to jump suddenly into the opposing lane without warning if I don't have enough time to brake. Almost hit a girl last week right after crossing the bridge at Diversey harbor. She was wearing ear buds and off in la-la land and then just decided to cross the trail. When I say I almost hit her, I mean I stopped literally INCHES from her after jamming on the brakes.

Yes, the wearing of ear-buds

Yes, the wearing of ear-buds by pedestrians, cyclists, and others was one of the points I found missing from the "Etiquette" section of the report. It should be strongly discouraged. I personally would not be opposed to police confiscation of ear-buds by path users and requiring them to make a trip to the station to recover them. Ok, that may be excessive but Something has to be done to increase the perception that ear-buds on the path are definitely uncool.

The report was somewhat repetitive and obvious in points but I consider it a nice first step. It is nice to see that someone is acting on the idea that total anarchy on the path isn't working.

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