Active Trans' Our Lakefront campaign aims to make walking and cycling safer and more convenient along our lakefront while increasing access to public transit.
We advocate for making biking, walking and transit improvements the priorities in long-term construction projects – like the reconstruction of North Lake Shore Drive – while calling for less costly enhancements that could be made now to the improve the experience for all trail users.
Chicago’s Lakefront Trail is one of the busiest trails in the United States, with more than 30,000 people accessing the trail daily at the busiest points and more than 100,000 people using the trail on a typical summer weekend.
With a growing number of users and more public attention on Chicago’s lakefront – particularly during the busy summer months – it’s an ideal time to mobilize trail users to push for biking, walking and transit improvements.
- Safety – Separate pedestrians and cyclists traveling at different speeds wherever possible. Solutions may include enhanced pavement markings and adding a separate path in the most congested areas
- Public Education & Wayfinding – Launch a public education program promoting basic trail etiquette such as suggested speeds, not blocking the path when traveling in groups and staying to the right to allow traffic to pass. Add more signage featuring safety and wayfinding tips
- Access – Improve access points where possible to safely accommodate users of all types and abilities, especially people with disabilities, seniors, children and families. Add lighting and infrastructure to prevent snow and water buildup where needed.
- Events – Establish policies for the number and frequency of events that use segments of the trail. When granting permits to events that will use the path, require production team to add temporary signage for users approaching the event and work with Park District and partners to inform trail users.
- Maintenance – Remove sand, ice and debris from the path as quickly as possible. During construction projects, mark a dedicated pedestrian and bicycle detour and maintain it throughout the construction.
- Completing the Lakefront Trail - Fill the gaps in the Lakefront Trail system to create a continuous trail spanning Chicago’s entire lakefront.
We're currently advancing all of these goals in a Lakefront Trail planning process with the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA). Through this partnership we provide advice and recommendations to the park district on how to ease congestion and conflicts on the trail, with a focus on creating separate trails. Lakefront Trail crash victim and Active Trans volunteer Megan Williams has been a key advocate for separation since 2014.
In March 2016 Mayor Emanuel announced the trail will be widened and split into separate lanes for people on bikes and people on foot in two of the most congested segments. We continue to work with the city to ensure leaders effectively implement these improvements and continue to upgrade trail infrastructure.
Work began in August 2016 on the first segment of the Lakefront Trail separation project from 31st to 51st on the South Side. The South Lakefront segment should be completed during spring 2017. See a conceptual rendering of the separated trails on the South Lakefront.
In December 2016 Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District announced hedge fund manager Ken Griffin donated $12 million to the city to create separated paths for people biking and people on foot along the full length of Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. According to the park district, the bike trail will be 12 feet wide and made of asphalt. It will be located closest to Lake Shore Drive. The pedestrian trail will be 20 feet wide. It will include 14 feet of asphalt buffered by 6 feet of “soft surface mix” on either side.
The city said Griffin’s donation will allow the park district to complete separation along the full length of the trail by 2018. We are working with the park district and CARA on the plans segment-by-segment. In May 2017 the park district started construction on the first North Side segment between Fullerton and Ohio.
- Standard Trail Design: We advocated for—and the park district adopted—a standard trail design that enhances safety and ease of travel on the trail.
- Diversey Bridge: We helped secure funding for the Lakefront Trail bridge at Diversey Harbor, which relieved a bottleneck in the trail.
- Navy Pier Flyover: We’ve been involved with the Navy Pier Flyover project since meetings for the project began—nearly a decade ago. We provided input on the Flyover’s concept and design, we participated in public meetings with our members and we helped address concerns about the project from nearby residents.
- South Lake Shore Drive Reconstruction: We secured agreement from the city to keep the trail open during construction, which was completed in 2005. We also advocated for trail improvements where construction required trail removal and replacement.
- Routing and Design Input: For many years, Active Trans has provided the park district with input on Lakefront Trail design and routing, giving users a say in how our trail is constructed. Due to our input, major trail routing improvements have been made between Foster Ave. and Hollywood Ave. (currently under construction) and between 31st Street and McCormick Place.
- Maintenance: We advocated for routine trail maintenance and have established a clear channel of communication with the park district to address immediate concerns about trail conditions. We also have worked with the park district to establish standard guidelines for trail access by city vehicles and work crews to avoid trail interruptions.
Chicago Park District Lakefront Trail page
People on the Trail Report (2013)
Chicago Park District Lakefront Trail Counts (2011)
North Lake Shore Drive Platform (2013)
North Lake Shore Drive Project Page: Redefine the Drive
Navy Pier Flyover Project Page
Conditions and Events: @activetransLFT and #ChiLFT on Twitter