What people had to say about using the Lakefront Trail

Active Trans, in partnership with Friends of the Parks and Chicago Area Runners Association, hosted two Friends of the Lakefront Trail Visioning Workshops this month.

The goal of the workshops was to gather input to help shape our advocacy goals for improving the trail.

The meeting hosted 45 attendees at a north side workshop at Margate Park on April 9 and 20 attendees at a south side meeting at Jackson Park on April 18. At each workshop, Active Trans gave a short presentation about the Lakefront Trail, followed by four input activities:

  1. A map soliciting input on Lakefront Trail access (getting to the trail)
  2. A map soliciting input on Lakefront Trail congestion, conflicts and crashes
  3. A map for open comments about the trail
  4. A poster for voting on Lakefront Trail advocacy goals

There was great representation from many neighborhoods, but we’d like to do additional outreach session and gather more input, so we’ll be offering an online survey in the next couple months.

Following is a short summary of the input received. Even if your comment is not captured here, be aware that all comments have been recorded, whether they were gathered in the workshops, on our blog or via email. We greatly appreciate your participation.

Workshop attendees voted for the following top five advocacy goals for the Lakefront Trail (both the north and south side had the same top five):

  1. Create facilities to encourage separation of different types of users (e.g. soft surface trails and boardwalks). Providing parallel paths that would be more attractive to different types of users could better serve their needs while reducing crashes. For example, people strolling on the trail to enjoy the view may prefer a boardwalk closer to the water, while people biking to work may prefer a more direct route further from crowds on the lakefront.
  2. Improve bicycle and pedestrian safety along streets connecting to the trail. Access to the trail includes not only Lake Shore Drive underpasses and overpasses, but also the connections from our neighborhoods. Dangerous intersections or a lack of bikeways on streets can be a barrier to accessing to the Lakefront Trail by foot and bike.
  3. Wayfinding, signage and additional informational improvements along the trail. Better signage could help trail users orient themselves and find the appropriate trail entrance or exit for their destination. Signage could also be used to promote good trail etiquette or help trail users find park services.
  4. Complete gaps in the Lakefront Trail, including connecting to neighboring cities. Gaps in the trail could be filled using new facilities within the street network, such as protected bike lanes, or through new park land (see the Friends of the Parks Last Four Miles plan).
  5. Improve service facilities (bathrooms, drinking fountains, etc.) along the path. Service facilities may have limited seasons or hours of operation and may not meet the needs of many trail users.

Takeaways from input regarding trail access:

  • Streets with lower traffic volume, such as Buena, can provide safer and easier access to the trail with minimal vehicle conflicts.
  • The older underpasses are in poor condition and not ADA accessible; there are problems with flooding; the steep ramps, blind turns and narrow tunnels cause conflicts between bikes and pedestrians and are difficult to navigate with bikes; and the underpasses sometimes connect with the streets at uncontrolled intersections (no stop sign). The older bridges, such as 35th Street, have similar problems to the underpasses, though some offer only stairs and lack ramps altogether.
  • At other access points, trail users access the trail with a street that passes under Lake Shore Drive. At these street-level access points, vehicle traffic coming from Lake Shore Drive ramps can be a hazard and there are often no bike lanes on the street connecting to the trail. People biking to the trail also face confusing connections from the street into the park – often the traffic pattern does not take into account bikes heading into the park, and there’s often no connection for bikes coming off the street.
  • There are a number of gaps in access to the trail, including at Armitage and 41st Street.

Takeaways from input regarding trail congestion, conflicts and crashes:

  • Trail access points also tend to be areas of congestion and conflict between trail users, because there are often many people crossing and turning on and off of the trail. Access points that enter the park east of the trail help to reduce congestion and trail conflicts.
  • Parking lots tend to create conflicts between people biking and walking – pedestrian flow from the parking lot to the lakefront needs to be planned to minimize trail conflicts.
  • Bicycle/pedestrian conflicts and crashes were most common from Oak to Fullerton and around Navy Pier. Other highly congested areas included 31st Street, Addison and from Hollywood to Foster.
  • Conflicts between trail users and vehicles were most commonly reported at Illinois/Grand, Montrose, Wilson, Lawrence and Foster. Additional vehicle conflict points are at the South Shore Cultural Center driveway, the parking lot at 63rd/Hayes, the parking lot north of McCormick Place East, Waldron, Monroe, North Ave., Belmont, and Recreation Drive.

We also received a number of intriguing suggestions from the open comments, such as turning a lane of Lake Shore Drive into an additional trail to relieve current trail congestion, installing solar powered trail lighting to reduce energy costs, promoting trail etiquette, and tapping Chicago’s new Open311 project to help trail users report trail maintenance issues to the Park District from their smart phone.

Stay tuned as we refine our advocacy objectives and develop new Friends of the Lakefront Trail initiatives building on your feedback!

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I have a major beef with

I have a major beef with bikers on the path - when there are races which have permits for the lakefront path, bikers DO NOT have right of way - it gives bikers a very bad reputation to barge through a race yelling at runners who have every right to expect right of way while they compete. You can't honestly expect sympathy for other biking issues with this kind of behavior (along with sidewalk riding, which has gotten even worse this year I've noticed).


I saw some Park District vehicles out this morning (5/8/12) trying to blow away wet sand that had eroded onto the bike path during the recent rains. After eight years of commuting on the path, I'm accustomed to seeing some of the more useless and ineffective things they do, as well as the things they fail altogether to do. But I'm surprised to see the District actually creating or permitting a hazard, such as the one being constructed at the south end of Belmont Harbor. It's right at the bike path's busy and already dangerous intersection with the grade level underpass that goes under Lake Shore Drive between Barry Street and Briar Place.

What appears to be a concession stand is being constructed on the east side of the bike path. It's a frame structure about the size of a garage, and there are some picnic tables to the east of it. The problem is that the building is being located such that the southwest corner of it looks to be only about 14 inches from the edge of the path's asphalt, just at the edge of the path's crushed gravel shoulder.

That's hazard enough, but at least three walls of the building have windows which, it appears, will slide open. I'm guessing that each window will be available to the concessionaire to serve customers -- who will doubtless line up onto the path.

I've heard other riders say they'll be looking for an alternative route to avoid this intersection. This seems to be more than a mere disregard for the safety of users of the path; it's almost as if someone at the District is actually trying to create or permit a hazardous condition.

Creating more blind spots

I agree this garage-sized concession stand could not have been located at a more dangerous location (well maybe at the foot of the pedestrian bridge near North Ave). Besides the customers lining up onto the path, the building itself creates blind spots for cyclists coming both north and south along the path who will not be able to see pedestrians stepping out onto the path until it is too late. The building should have been located farther from the path and closer to the lake, like on the other side of where they set up the tables. Many people will be injured this summer due to the location of this structure.

Lake Front Signage

Thousands of tourisit every year walk towards the lake from the downtown hotels and wonder how to cross Lake Shore Drive to get access to the lake front path.

The underpasses at Chicago Avenue and Oak Street are the best kept secrets in Chicago. We need signage that directs people to the underpasses along with large signs that span the entrances to the underpasses at least 20 feet in the air.

Over the past 10 years I have watched hundreds of people trying to cross Lake Shore Drive. A couple of people have been hit.
I saw a group of people who were dragging luggage get stuck in the middle of the drive. It took them 30 minutes to cross.

The area I'm talking about is between Oak Street and Chicago Avenue.

Improve the signage so tourists can find their way more safely to the lake front.

Year Round trail use

The summary of comments was very interesting. The users had many good ideas for connecting the trail to the surrounding neighborhoods, and reducing conflict when the trail is very congested.

My comment when I participated in the Margate workshop was about use when the weather is colder and the trail is less crowded.

The trail is shut down along the Oak Street curve for far too many days in winter. A barrier between the trail and the water's edge along the Oak Street curve could protect the trail from the waves that create a sheet of ice in winter, so that the trail would be no more icy at Oak Street than it is at Fullerton.

The trail is an important transportation link, and keeping it open is as important as keeping an automobile highway open.

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