Sunday, January 6, 2013

A virtual ride to the lake on the new Fullerton bridge

by Michelle Stenzel

The Fullerton Parkway bridge rebuild project was completed at the end of December and I've now had a chance to view the final result a few times. My overall opinion remains the same as it was on this post in March 2012, when Michael and I first learned of the plans days before demolition began: It's unfortunate that an entire sidewalk/multi-use trail was removed at this very important access point to the Lakefront Trail because it eliminated a natural, direct, and very well-used route. 

I made a video of the route to get to the lake arriving by bike from parts west on Fullerton. It's a little rough, but I'm new at making, editing and uploading videos, so take that into account.


In addition to the problems I mentioned in this follow up post of missing sidewalk, missing crosswalk and wide turn radii, I note that the off ramp from Lake Shore Drive is now a double-turn lane, with just a puny stop sign that will supposedly halt the drivers who were barrelling down LSD at 45 mph only 100 yards prior, and who are eager to make a right turn and continue on their way (the offramp is seen in the video at  1:38). I'm predicting a lot of motor vehicle traffic blocking the only crosswalk we have left.   (Following added January 8, 2013:) Update! This will not be simply a stop sign permanently. They are installing a traffic signal there as we speak. See my further thoughts in the comments section below.

John Greenfield of Grid Chicago wrote an article for New City that comments on the project and quotes from this blog.

Have you been on the rebuilt bridge? What are your thoughts?


  1. I know it is not the point, but my first instinct would be to just cross fullerton going north, then Cannon going east and hop on the sidewalk there instead of doing the loop around. Or even just stay on the street and ride straight to the path.

    I'm a runner though, so I have eagerly been awaiting this to open. The underpass on the path is really nice, leaps and bounds better than the mud pit it used to be.

  2. It's true that crossing Fullerton going to the north and then Cannon going east is an option, and it would take less distance and physical effort than taking the loop-de-loop in the video. It would require waiting through up to two signal cycles, though, so I don't know how it would compare in time spent.

    I have rarely ridden on Fullerton here to get to the LFT because it's always been challenging due to the requirement to take the lane, and relatively fast, aggressive drivers. Under the new configuration, two things will make this even more challenging: There's now a double turn lane for cars to turn right onto the ramp, so increased chance of conflict with bicyclists, and I'm pretty sure the curb cuts/rail openings are gone at the LSD off ramp now to get onto the trail (although I'd have to double check that).

    Re: the improved underpass for the north/south path: Yes, it will be nice not to have to run/bike next to that permanent stagnant pool of water!

    Thanks for the comments. -- Michelle

  3. We should at least get an in-street crosswalk sign at the LSD off-ramp.
    With the multi-use path on the south side eliminated, all non-motor traffic is concentrated to that single crosswalk. I expect there will be times in summer where the stream of people is so steady it will be impossible for cars to get through without forcing their way through the crowd. The two-lane off-ramp doesn't help if there's a bottleneck at the crosswalk, except maybe as a place for cars to back up. It also makes it harder for drivers to see the path from both directions with another car next to them.
    Just because it's built for two lanes doesn't mean it has to be used for two lanes even if it proves to be dangerous. Let's stay on top of this.

    1. Thanks for the comments, John. I've now updated the post to reflect that I saw today that a traffic signal is in the process of being installed there, at the base of the off ramp from southbound LSD traffic. However, I hope the light isn't timed to completely favor motor vehicle traffic at all times. We'll continue to have to monitor it. Since it's a very busy bike/peds crosswalk and it's two lanes of MVs turning, I would think at the very least it should be "No turn on red", and ideally enforced as well. -- Michelle

  4. 1. Anytime we can build a wall to abut a pedestrian path, we should. People love walking next to walls (speaking of the one on the SW side of the bridge, in the beginning of the video where you made a left turn at the bottom of the ramp). /sarcasm.

    2. That took a long time.

    3. It seems the sidewalk under LSD is narrower than the sidewalk across the Lagoon.

    4. The sidewalk narrows immensely for the crosswalks at LSD off-ramp (west side) and LSD on-ramp (east side). This decreases throughput on a sidewalk that's narrower than the two sidewalks it replaces.

    5. Again, the scope of CDOT projects are too limited to fix the problems that are intertwined. In this case, the issues present on the Lakefront Trail at the intersection of the Fullerton Ave sidewalk, food cart, and water fountain (where you ended the video).

    6. No turn on red being enforced? I look forward to that...

    1. Funny you should mention that big wall. Of the many things that irritate my husband about the entire redesign, that sticks in his craw the most. Why is an enormous concrete wall actually needed there? It's not like the lagoon a few yards to the east regularly floods over or develops enormous waves. My hub points out that a view of a waterway while one is walking is much more pleasant and inviting than staring at a l-o-n-g, blank wall. On a related note, I noticed as I made this video on bike that the long walls on both sides reminded me of tunnels designed and built for motor vehicles.

      And yes, the multi-use trail on the bridge itself feels pretty wide, but the two crosswalks as well as the portion under LSD are all significantly narrower. I recently received a laser measurer as a gift (my geekhood is now completely sealed) and expect to be putting it to good use this year obtaining precise measurements. -- MS

  5. I used to avoid this underpass at all costs. If I had to go on to the LFP, I'd take the underpass near Barry over this one.
    I have had a chance to ride the new construction half a dozen times or so, all after dark. Generally I do like what I see: Fewer conflict points, a (generally) wide sidewalk. In my estimates it is wider than LFP is in many places. I do like the underpass under Fullerton as well. It is smooth riding with wide turns. As a bicyclist I don't mind riding the extra few hundred yards to gain safety (this may be different for pedestrians)
    The main thing I did not like was crossing Stockton drive at the south side of Fullerton, going eastbound. At that point most cars going eastbound are speeding already while jockeying for position on the LSD on-ramp. I found it hard to figure out if cars where making a right turn. That may become bigger problem in the summer when the parking lots on Stockton drive are use a lot more.