The sun breaks through the clouds over Lake Michigan Thursday, March 5,…
Chicagoans love their lakefront path, but they don't love all 18-miles equally.
In fact, the three-mile stretch of trail between Fullerton Avenue and Randolph Street frustrates cyclists, runners, and beach-seeking pedestrians alike, according to a new report from local transportation and recreation advocacy groups calling for improvements to the trail.
During the hottest months for outdoor recreation, as many as 30,000 people travel through the lakefront trail's most popular points, according to the report, called "People on the Trail," which is slated to be released Tuesday. Unfortunately, the popularity of landmarks like Oak Street Beach can cause heavy congestion on the trail, where bike-commuters, runners, rollerbladers and pedestrians--all moving at different speeds--must compete for space on the narrowly paved path.
According to the 1,600-some Chicagoans surveyed by the Active Transportation Alliance, Friends of the Parks, and the Chicago Area Runner's Association, these conditions make the Near North Side sections of the trail the worst places to ride, run, and walk.
"The beaches attract a lot of people," said Lee Crandell, the Active Transportation Alliance's director of campaigns. "The trail ends up being used not just for transportation and recreation from North to South, but as a public space that people gather on because there's limited opportunity for people to hang out on solid ground near the beaches."
Crandell said the city could alleviate these problems by adding multiple, multi-purpose trails to the area, including a separate boardwalk or sidewalk through the sand, or separate paved paths for runners and riders. He also noted that the city's Navy Pier Flyover construction project, which would create a new trail where people pass Navy Pier and cross the Chicago River, would likely help too.
The Near North Side also has the worst trail access points, where people exit and enter the trail from the street, according to the report. The report flags the access points at Fullerton Avenue, Oak Street, and Illinois Street as the worst. They're also the most congested points.
The sections of the trail that got the most positive reviews, according to the report, include the section between Roosevelt Road and 31st Street in the Near South Side, and the section from 51st Street to 55th Street in Hyde Park.
Edgewater stood out in the report for having the most conflict between vehicles and trail users. Survey respondents flagged the access points at Lawrence Avenue, Wilson Drive and Montrose Avenue for being pionts where drivers and runners or riders often butt heads. Unsprisingly, respondents said the access point at Illinois Street, where cars pull up to Navy Pier, was also a problem area.