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  • Writer's pictureGreg Hipp, Executive Director

Lakefront Trail Update

As spring season fights to take hold, and Chicagoans are getting outdoors again, the status of the newly separated Lakefront Trail is a hot topic among runners. Where to go, and who goes where, are the two main topics of conversation we are hearing about at CARA. As the running community’s advocate, we have met with Chicago Park District officials on two occasions over the last month to discuss the projects next steps, and the policies that will guide trail users going forward.

With the primary construction having been completed in December, the Park District was unable to complete related paint striping and markings that are desperately needed to guide users along the trail. At recent meetings, CARA and Active Transportation Alliance, were provided with extensive striping plans to complete the Park Districts wayfinding vision.

This includes some additional signage, and substantial ground markings that guide users on which trail is for pedestrians or bicycles, warnings for transition zones, and locations where the two trails intersect. This also includes general striping for lanes on the trail. Much of the striping that was put down last year, had to be put down immediately to get trails reopened. But will need to be repainted now that the asphalt is ready to take the paint.

CARA has advocated for some additional wayfinding on the trail that is not yet planned. That includes “negative signage”. As in signage or markings that display what not to do. Such as no bike markings on the pedestrian path. The Park District has stated that their position is to observe how trail users comply and adapt to the trail over the next year, and then determine what additional signs and markings are needed.

Our meetings have also had much discussion on which users should be assigned to which trail. CARA has advocated that the pedestrian trail is for only foot powered traffic. That of course includes running, jogging, and walking. It also could include wheelchairs, strollers, skates, roller blades, and foot powered skateboards and scooters. We have stated our view that all allowable types of traffic powered by a pedal, crank, or motor belong on the bicycle trail. That includes bicycles, and should the Park District choose to allow on the trail, quadracycles, e-bikes, e-scooters, e-skateboards, hoverboards, and segways. Presently all of those are allowed.

Over the past two years, every time Mayor Emanuel broke new ground or cut a ribbon on the separation project, he celebrated that trail users will no longer have to hear “on your left”. That phrase having long been heard by pedestrians from fast moving bike riders flying by.

For that promise to become a reality, it is important that each trail be reserved for only users traveling by similar methods, at reasonably similar speeds. Should users traveling the trail not by foot be permitted in the pedestrian lane, hearing “on your left” will be both a regular occurance, and a daily reminder that the trail did not meet its promise.

CARA looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the Park District as this project comes closer to reaching its intended vision.

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