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Street fighters: Where the scary spots are

  • The Lakefront Trail near North Avenue Beach
The Lakefront Trail near North Avenue Beach (Lenny Gilmore/RedEye )
July 25, 2012|By Tracy Swartz, RedEye

As the temperature heats up, so does the potential for conflict between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers as more people visit the lakefront to cool off.

The Active Transportation Alliance has identified five vehicle-pedestrian trouble spots along the Lakefront Trail: at Illinois Street/Grand Avenue and Montrose, Wilson, Lawrence and Foster avenues. Here are the five pedestrian-cyclist sticky wickets along the trail, as recognized by the Alliance.

Oak Street to Fullerton Parkway

With 30,000 visitors per day in the summer, this is the busiest stretch of the trail, Active Transportation Alliance spokesman Lee Crandell said. Parts of the trail here are too narrow to accommodate all the traffic, and Oak Street, North Avenue and Fullerton Parkway are the most popular locations to enter.

Those who use a pedestrian underpass at Oak Street have to exit the underpass onto the trail, which may create a collision between them and people already on the trail.

Off Fullerton, the trail narrows by Theater on the Lake, which stages shows in the summer. Fullerton sees some of the highest volume of cyclists on the trail, according to the Alliance-Park District report.

A redesign of the trail near Fullerton is forthcoming, Crandell said. Meanwhile, the Alliance recommends building a wooden boardwalk on the east side of the trail at Oak Street Beach to draw foot traffic off the trail.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier, which drew 8.7 million visitors last year, is Chicago's most visited tourist attraction. Add cyclists and pedestrians to the trail, which winds in front of Navy Pier, and that area becomes a bottleneck.

As the trail travels south of Navy Pier, it parallels vehicular traffic getting on or off Lake Shore Drive, setting up the possibility of car-pedestrian clashes.

The city plans to begin construction in the spring on the Navy Pier Flyover, a bridge that may allow users to cross the Chicago River more easily. The project is slated to cost

$44.5 million, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation.

31st Street

The Alliance estimates about 1,500 people access the trail at 31st Street on a typical summer Saturday or Sunday.

Path users should be seeing some relief at this area of the trail, once a conflict area between cyclists and beachgoers. The city dedicated its newest harbor at 31st Street last month. The $103 million project, which includes new boat parking, also reconfigures the trail to prevent gridlock.

Addison Street

On a typical Saturday or Sunday, about 700 users access the trail north of Addison Street at Irving Park Road, while about 2,000 users access the trail at Belmont Avenue, about a half-mile south of Addison, the Alliance estimates.

The confluence of the parking lot off Recreation Drive, tennis courts, golf course, and an underpass off Waveland Avenue spells trouble for this site.

Trail users listed the Recreation Drive area as one of the top conflict points with vehicles.

Hollywood Avenue to Foster Avenue

About 3,300 people access the trail on a weekend day from Armore Avenue, just north of Hollywood Avenue, according to the Active Transportation Alliance.

This part of the trail suffers from potholes and poor drainage, which means users may collide while going out of their way to avoid certain parts of the trail, Crandell said. A Park District redesign of this section of the trail is in the works, Crandell said.

tswartz@tribune.com | @tracyswartz

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