Lakefront Trail lighting and (illegal) Bloomingdale Line access points


[These pieces also run in Time Out Chicago magazine.]

I recently fielded a couple different questions from Time Out Chicago readers about current and future Chicago greenways. I felt a little funny about giving people instructions on how to get up on the Bloomingdale Line, which is still Canadian Pacific Railroad property and has “No Trespassing” signs posted. But until the railroad does a better job of securing the line or the City of Chicago steps up and takes ownership of the right-of-way (which should be any day now) and erects more effective fencing, people are going to continue to go up there to stroll, jog and hang out anyway.


Q: How come there’s lighting on the lakeshore bike path EVERYWHERE except the stretch between Fullerton and Diversey? – M.B., Lakeview

A: Good news: you’ll soon be singing, “Hello lamppost, whatcha knowin’?” This section near Theater on the Lake, was the site of a 2003-2005 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seawall reconstruction project. The federal funding for this rehab didn’t include money for lighting, says Chicago Park District spokeswoman Zvezdana Kubat. Her agency is currently working with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to secure another federal grant to install nineteen new light poles on this stretch, hopefully by the end of the year. Kubat says there are actually a few other lighting gaps on the Lakefront Trail but the park district eventually plans to eventually illuminate the entire 18.5-mile path. “The trail is so heavily used, not just for recreation but also as a transportation route,” she says. “Now that it’s getting dark earlier it’s especially important to keep the trail well-lit at night. Obviously we want people to be able to see where they’re going.”

Q: On September 8, there was a Bloomingdale Trail design meeting at the Congress Theater. The finished elevated park still seems years away. How can I get up there and enjoy it now? – Gabby, Andersonville


A: Mayor Emanuel has pledged to build the Bloomingdale Trail, a 2.75-mile multiuse path, on this site within four years. In the meantime this dormant rail line, at 1800 N. between Lawndale Avenue and the Chicago River, is still Canadian Pacific Railway property. While fences were recently installed to keep trespassers out, the line is still popular for strolling, jogging and partying. If you’d like to learn more about the Bloomingdale without breaking the law, there are three community input meeting in early October; see the Friends of the Bloomingdale site for details. Otherwise, here are four places you can access the line – at your own risk.


Ashland Avenue (1600 West)

South of the Bloomingdale, on the east side of Ashland, scramble up the embankment, climb over a low chainlink fence and squeeze through a hole in a second fence. Don’t venture into the graffiti-lined area under the Kennedy if you’re wearing flip-flops – the space is littered with hypodermic needles.


Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street (2200 West)

Just north of the intersection on the west side of Leavitt there’s a gap between iron fencing and a concrete wall where a path leads up the embankment. To get around security fencing at the top you’ll have to hoist yourself over the viaduct’s rickety railing – be careful!

[flickr]photo:6173765286[/flickr] Security fencing on the Bloomingdale at Leavitt Street

Whipple Street (3030 West)

North of the Bloomingdale, enter Albany-Whipple Park, a new greenspace with insect-themed playground equipment, from the east. At the west end of the talli-ish iron fencing at the base of the embankment there’s a low concrete wall you can clamber up.

Lawndale Avenue (3700 West)

At the southeast corner of the parking lot for the McCormick Tribune YMCA, 1834 N. Lawndale, site of the community input meetings, a path leads up the embankment.

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John Greenfield

John has lived in Chicago since 1989 and has worked a number of bicycle jobs, from messenger to mechanic to managing the Chicago Department of Transportation's bicycle parking program, arranging the installation of over 3,700 bike racks. He writes regularly for Time Out Chicago, Newcity, Momentum and Urban Velo magazines and works at Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square.

15 thoughts on “Lakefront Trail lighting and (illegal) Bloomingdale Line access points”

  1. Hey! longtime reader, first time caller.   Can you ask your LfP sources what’s up with the stretch of lakefront between 31st + 47th?   Almost all the lights are out (despite 2 reported assaults) and as of last week is “littered” with hundreds of trash cans (every 15 feet!). thanks!

      1. I rode that section last Saturday night and was creeped out by the darkness.  You’ll notice that there is a parallel path to the east in this section that does have light posts. That is the actual path. We were riding on the detour path – the detour is due to construction of a new marina.

          1. Like I said, the unlit path is a temporary detour. The actual, lit path should be re-opening soon.

  2. I just rode past the Leavitt “access” point. They’ve added a fence at the bottom of the hill on which you climb to access the viaduct. However, there’s a gap in the short fencing that one can use to bypass the tall fence. 

      1. In Japan there’s the opposite strategy. It’s very hard to find a public garbage can so people hold onto their trash until they find one. Therefore there are less unsightly, overflowing garbage cans on the public way. On the other hand it’s very easy to find a public bathroom in Tokyo.

    1. The excessive trash cans are caused from a one year test run with, an initiative run by PepsiCo that gives out free cans, and associated waste disposal, in exchange for advertising space.

      So the Park District has essentially sold public park space to a outside vendor with the ability to populate the areas with as many trash cans as they wish, all of which have 4 sides of advertising available. One will always be Pepsi, the other three are for sale. Teh way they try to make the public feel good about this is by donating a percentage of the proceeds, both from aluminum and advertising, to the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities program.

      This is a load of crap. I go to the parks to ESCAPE from advertising, I enjoy riding my bike in the parks because they are free from visual clutter… I can focus on my ride, the fresh air and the scenery. Instead I am bombarded with advertising and unsightly trash cans every 50 feet for 18.5 continuous miles on the lakefront.

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