Sunday, March 9, 2014

Come help document problems with Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail!

by Michelle Stenzel

The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive are famous routes in Chicago, known for providing walkers, bicyclists and drivers good transportation and great views of Lake Michigan and the downtown skyline. 

However, the Lakefront Trail is far too narrow at many points to serve the huge number of users, and its proximity to the lake means that waves often effectively shut it down. It's lacking greenery and natural elements from Grand to North. Many of the access points are grimy, dark, and inaccessible to people with mobility issues.
The Lakefront Trail near Ohio Street Beach on a typical summer evening. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Because of its broad lanes and highway-like design, Lake Shore Drive acts as a barrier between the Lakefront Trail and the residents living west of the Drive. The street's design encourages speeding, leading to a high rate of crashes and injuries: 1,100 crashes per year, just on the northern section. Although it's very wide and 69,000 riders per day ride on 9 total bus routes, Lake Shore Drive has no dedicated space for public transportation. 
In this picture, I see 74 cars carrying an estimated 93 people in the northbound lanes and on ramp. All these people would   fit into one articulated CTA bus. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Fortunately, the opportunity to improve Lake Shore Drive and surrounding areas for all users is now at hand. 

In August 2013, the first public meetings were held for the "Redefine the Drive" project, which is being undertaken jointly by the Illinois and Chicago departments of transportation. The project seeks to address problems with North Lake Shore Drive and surrounding areas, and the public is invited to provide input. This is an eight-year long project, so there's much more to come.  (More -->)

I encourage you to visit the project website to get all the information first hand, but some of the basics are that the project will focus on the seven-mile stretch from Grand Avenue to Hollywood. The scope includes the roadways of Outer Lake Shore Drive, Inner Lake Shore Drive, East Lake Shore Drive, the Lakefront Trail, the shore line, the intersections and on/off ramps onto LSD and all access points to the Lakefront Trail. The next set of public meetings will be in June 2014, with the topic "Development of Alternatives". 
The Lakefront Trail at Fullerton is often shut down due to waves and ice. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
There are seven project task forces made up of citizens and agencies who were selected from a pool of applicants. I am happy to be serving on the South Residential Task Force, made up of residents living near the Grand Avenue-to-Diversey Avenue stretch. The task forces are meeting periodically to provide the project team with input. 
Screenshot from the Redefine the Drive project website. See much more like this at
Although I'm happy to be participating on a task force, BWLP Co-Leader Michael Reynolds and I want to make sure that other citizens with a strong interest in the North Lake Shore Drive project have an opportunity to meet, brainstorm, and provide input. Therefore, we're holding a grassroots meeting for anyone who wishes to participate to come help us generate a final list of specific existing problems facing people on foot, on bike and on public transit, from Grand Avenue to Diversey Avenue. We will submit the final document in writing to the Redefine the Drive task force so it is part of the public record and used in the process in deciding next steps for redesign.
Three Divvy riders using the Lakefront Trail in January 2014. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
Please note a few things: We will only address the Grand-to-Diversey stretch, in order to keep it streamlined. (If anyone else wants to organize meetings for points further north, we'd love to attend!) At this time, we're only focusing on a list of the problems, not the solutions. Finally, you'll notice that we said "final list". That's because we've already begun casually jotting down problems, and have compiled more than 40 items already! We've probably missed a few, so please come to add your views and opinions!

We're holding the meeting upstairs at CityGrounds coffee bar, on Dickens just west of Lincoln, in Lincoln Park. The first cup of coffee is on us! Let us know you're coming via e-mail to or Tweet us @BikeWalkLP

WHAT:   Grassroots Meeting to Generate Problem List  for LSD and LFT
WHEN:   Saturday, March 22nd, 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM-ish
WHERE: CityGrounds coffee bar, 507 W. Dickens, Chicago 
RSVP:   Please let us know you're coming or ask us questions: 

Follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP


  1. In the process of rebuilding they should bury a driverless subway under lake shore drive. 69,000 people is not an appropriate scale for busses. It is appropriate for a subway line.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alex. It is a huge number of people being moved via bus on LSD currently (the numbers include bus lines on inner and outer LSD). Ideas for improvements/solutions to the problems will be the next big topic for the project. The large public meetings held by the project team will be in June, and we at BWLP are also hoping to again host a smaller gathering as well. -- Michelle