The Chicago Lakefront Trail at Lawrence Avenue showing possibly conflicting intersection signage. Photo by Robert Powers.
[This piece originally ran in Time Out Chicago. Photos by Hui Hwa Nam.]
Q: What’s up with those signs in Uptown where streets cross the Lakefront Trail? Are drivers supposed to stop for bicyclists or are bicyclists supposed to yield to drivers?
A: This unusual signage is at Montrose, Lawrence and Foster Avenues, where the path not only intersects these east-west streets but also meets on- and off-ramps from Lake Shore Drive (LSD). Street traffic gets stop signs while cyclists and skaters on the trail get yield signs.
According to Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) spokesman Brian Steele, the path used to cross these streets about 50 feet east of the LSD ramps and there were no signs for either street or trail users at the crossings. A few years ago the city improved the path at these locations by widening it and adding soft-surface jogging lanes.
View from the Lake Shore Drive off-ramp at Montrose Avenue showing two, possibly conflicting signs: one is a stop sign and the other instructs turning drivers to yield to those in the crosswalk. Photo by Hui Hwa Nam.
CDOT also opted to bend the trail west towards the ramps, creating curves in the path that encourage bikers and bladers to slow down. This layout also means cars are already stopped when they encounter trail users. Since there’s usually more traffic on the path than the roadways, non-noxious transportation gets the right of way.
So why the yield signs? Just like on-street yield signs, these direct folks on the path to slow down or stop when necessary, says Steele. “I don’t believe these intersections are confusing to any of the users and they’re certainly a much safer environment than the old configuration.”
View from the Lakefront Trail at Montrose Avenue showing that trail users have a yield sign. Photo by Hui Hwa Nam.
Randy Warren from Active Transportation Alliance disagrees. “These signs are completely inappropriate.” he says. “Bicyclists are being told to yield to stopped traffic.”
Warren thinks the ensuing confusion may be causing crashes. “I got a call from an insurance company after a cyclist got hit,” he says. “It wasn’t clear who had the right of way. The motorist was saying the cyclist was supposed to stop for him. The signs just don’t make sense.”