Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Forty-seven ways to improve Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail

by Michelle Stenzel

In our last blog post, we invited you to attend a grassroots meeting to discuss North Lake Shore Drive, the Lakefront Trail, and surrounding areas. Thank you to those who joined us! 

Grassroots action at its best! Discussing the North Lake Shore Drive project at CityGrounds coffee bar.
(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
We met in order to generate a list of issues facing people from Grand Avenue to Diversey Avenue, and came up with a total of 47 opportunities for improving Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail for people walking, biking and using public transit.  (More -->)

Here are seven of them:
  • Express buses on Lake Shore Drive are stuck in the same traffic as single occupancy vehicles on the ramps and on the roadway, because there is no dedicated space for public transit or high-occupancy vehicles. This design does not encourage citizens to use public transit or carpool. 
  • There are currently no bike lanes on any of the streets leading to and from these access points:  Ohio Street, Chicago Avenue, Oak Street, Division Street, North Boulevard, LaSalle Drive, Fullerton Parkway, Diversey Parkway. This does not encourage people to use bicycles for transportation and recreation, nor provide them with a good alternative to driving in a car. 
  • The intersection of Oak Street, Inner LSD, Outer LSD, and East LSD is a tangled mess. This area should be a beautiful, grand gateway connecting North Michigan Avenue, Oak Street shopping, the Gold Coast residential area, and Oak Street beach. The street intersection needs to become less motor-vehicle-oriented, safer and more pleasant for people walking at the surface level. There is no signage clearly directing people to destinations and how to get to the Lakefront Trail/beach, including from the nearby bus stops. 
  • There is too long of a stretch between access points to the Lakefront Trail between the North Ave pedestrian bridge and Fullerton (.8 miles). This is in violation of the Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance of 1973, which requires pedestrian access to the lake at a minimum of one-quarter mile intervals. 
  • Portions of the LFT are plagued by wind and waves creating watery/icy conditions that are too treacherous to traverse, causing closures of this important commuting route many weeks of the year. This is especially notable at the Oak Street curve and on the section just south of Fullerton. 
  • There are no signs directing people from the LFT to nearby public transit, including Divvy stations, bus stops or L lines. 
  • Because Lake Shore Drive is not currently designed to discourage driving and encourage alternatives to driving, it contributes to the congestion of cars driving into and parking downtown, which is a major deterrent to economic growth. The current capacity of Lake Shore Drive to move people is too small and its capacity to move cars too large to accommodate a growing city. 

We compiled the list and submitted them to Rebekah Scheinfeld, Commissioner of CDOT, and Ann Schneider, Secretary of IDOT. We also sent copies to all the city and state officials whose constituents live near the project area, to let them know our concerns and to ask their support.

Did you even know there's an underpass here at Diversey? Many people don't because there are currently no wayfinding signs directing people to or from it. (Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park)
For those of you who couldn’t make it in person, you can still show your support:

Drop a line to your own alderman or state rep saying that this project is important to you, and you would like the problems we’ve listed addressed!

Attend the next public meeting of the Redefine the Drive project, which will be held in June (dates/locations to be announced)!

Attend our next grassroots meeting, which will be about generating suggested solutions to the 47 problems. That will be fun! Stay tuned to this blog for when/where that will be, likely in May or June.

At least leave us a supportive comment in the Comments sections below!

Or just follow us on Twitter @BikeWalkLP


  1. Couldn't make the meetup, but I would like to add: 1) Bathroom and water fountain access year round, 2) Open bathrooms earlier in the summer. Training groups are out there before the crack of dawn and need them. 3) Improve N Side intersections Montrose/Wilson/Lawrence/Foster. Impatient drivers can't wait for peds/bikes to cross, lots of hits and close calls, 4) I'm not a fan of bike/ped markings on the path. Unless there is buffered separation, ppl will ignore them. Save your paint for crosswalks. 4) Extend the path up through Evanston.

    1. Thanks for the additional input, Jeff. What do you mean by buffered separation on the path? I'm having a hard time picturing it. For the most congested areas, like at Oak Street Beach, I think the general call has been for completely separated paths for people on foot v. people on wheels. Is that what you mean? -- MS

  2. Jeff Wegerson

    I would immediately switch the pedestrian/jogger side of the the LFT from the current customary right side to the left side facing oncoming bicycles. As a pedestrian I am much more comfortable being able to see bikers as they approach me. As a biker I am always anxious that a walker will meander into my path when they are walking on the same side as I am biking. Indeed in the last year or two a walker got sued and lost for stepping into a cyclist that was approaching from their rear.

    So some simple signage would likely do the trick of changing the custom to match the rules of the road on streets without sidewalks for cars and pedestrians. That is walk facing the traffic.

    1. I know what you're saying about bicyclists startling people walking as they approach from behind. Hopefully the path will be widened sufficiently in all the areas that need it, so that user types can stay at greater distances from one another. -- MS

  3. Thanks for submitting these comments! I get discouraged sometimes when I see a superhighway packed with cars in our beautiful park, but there are still plenty of ways to improve the park. Thanks for taking action!

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