Tales from #bikeCHI: Park District repaves parts of busy Lakefront Trail during busy commuting week

Following #bikeCHI on Twitter is a great way to stay on top of what’s going on in bicycling communities or with  infrastructure issues that affect bicycling. A case in point: two people posted photos Tuesday and Wednesday of construction on the Lakefront Trail along with their brief complaints.


Tweet: City says screw ‪#B2WW‬. Let’s dig up Lake Front Trail and place barricades every few miles. ‪#bikechi‬ pic.twitter.com/BIm6lAxm


Tweet: Bike to work week is the perfect time to cut deep trenches in chicago’s bike highway. ‪#BikeChi‬ ‪#ChiLFT‬ ‪#B2WW‬ ‪#fail‬ http://twitpic.com/9vzdn8

Grid Chicago asked the Chicago Park District (not the City) why it was repaving during Bike to Work Week. A construction contract was recently undertaken and crews are “working feverishly” to repair parts of the Lakefront Trail before the glut of summer usage. The spokesperson didn’t have details on this specific detour but she said they were always provided in construction projects on the path.

In typical Chicago fashion, the provisioned detour was second-rate. I asked @JerryKerns, who was one of two Twitter users who reported the “trenches”, about the detour conditions. He replied:

[tweet_embed id=212925297190903809]

Last night means 5:15 PM during “rush hour”.

[tweet_embed id=212926299512111105]

[tweet_embed id=212927904789708801]

For a look at a proper detour setup, which should be as good or greater than the route it temporarily replaces, visit Utrecht, Netherlands, where an existing route with a lot of bicycle traffic (like the Lakefront Trail) is under construction.

The tweeters posted later Wednesday that construction had finished and the new surface is “smooth sailing” (@ambimb), but the “timing was comical” (@JerryKerns). Construction should have begun months ago as crowded conditions have already begun.

How busy is the Lakefront Trail?

The Chicago Park District hired Active Transportation Alliance in 2010 to conduct counts of trail users. Access point counts are the number of people who entered (not in automobiles) the Lakefront Trail at that location. All locations were counted at the same time in August 2010. I volunteered for a weekend count.

Bryn Mawr Avenue access point

  • Estimated Daily Weekend Users: 3360
  • Estimated Daily Weekday Users: 783 to 1522

Montrose Avenue access point

  • Weekend Users: 1718
  • Weekday Users: 1098 to 1487

Belmont Avenue access point

  • Weekend Users: 2040
  • Weekday Users: 1203 to 2117

Fullerton Avenue access point

  • Weekend Users: 7816
  • Weekday Users: 3352 to 6825

North Avenue pedestrian bridge access point

  • Weekend Users: 8364
  • Weekday Users: 2201 to 5515

Read the rest of them in the Lakefront Trail User Study report (.pdf).

Updated 8:59 to fix missing embedded tweets. 

12 thoughts on “Tales from #bikeCHI: Park District repaves parts of busy Lakefront Trail during busy commuting week”

  1. The capacity for pointless outrage in this city never fails to amaze me. People constantly whine about the condition of the Lakefront Trail. The city actually fixes it, and people whine that the city fixed it, and they whine that the very temporary detour, which was necessary all of two days, wasn’t another paved trail.

    1. I consider bicycles to be equal to automobiles in terms of transportation capacity. Does the city randomly close, say, North Avenue between intersections for planned maintenance without providing a detour?

      I didn’t think so either.

      1. The city does that sort of thing all the time. How long was the Halsted Street bridge closed? How long has Wacker been closed? Or various bridges downtown? Much as there is with the Lakefront Trail, there are existing alternate routes.

        1. The alternative route for the Halsted Street bridges was to cycle down very busy and fast Chicago Avenue, across a narrow (also grated) bridge, then get suck in traffic jams on narrow Kingsbury. And not a single sign that said “bikes may use full lane” or “yield to cyclists”. 

      2. Yes!  Streets are closed without providing adequate detours all the time.  You can stick a “detour –>” sign in front of construction anywhere on the streets, because there are always other streets, but that doesn’t mean the detour is just as good — and often this means a very long wait in traffic.  Construction regularly messes things up for drivers for weeks or more.

    2. Yes but, the whole point of Bike to Work Week is to encourage people that haven’t tried cycling to work before to give it a shot… So when a cycling newbie takes the Lakefront Trail because it’s the least intimidating way to get to work, and he/she encounters something like that, it just makes it that much less likely that he/she will pick up bike commuting as a habit. I’ve gotten pinch flats from similar cutouts on city streets, and that would put a newbie off bike commuting for sure.

      I’m really glad they’re fixing parts of the trail, but a glance at a calendar and a little common sense could have told them to do it last week.

    3. I helped two cyclists fix flats at one of the cuts in the trail yesterday morning. Both told me they were not regular bike commuters and had just pulled their bikes out of storage for bike to work week to see if maybe they could start riding to work more regularly. They were seriously discouraged to find the path littered with dangerous ledges that were perfect for causing pinch flats and bending wheels. As others have noted, the point of bike to work week is to promote biking to work — to increase the number of people who choose to bike rather than drive or take public transport. Tearing up the trail in the middle of that promotion defeats the whole point. I’m thrilled the city is improving ad maintaining the trail and I thank the crews who have done the work this week for doing a great job and working very quickly. I just wish someone in the Parks Department or elsewhere had given just a moment’s thought to the timing of this work so it would not have sabotaged bike to work week.

  2. Agree with Blue here. Not a huge issue, the work was done quickly, and it was actually an upgrade to the city’s biking infrastructure. 

    We need to pick our battles or risk turning public opinion (and the city’s goodwill) against pro-bike initiatives. 

    1. Seconded. Or rather, thirded. If a short segment of Lakefront Trail repair is the worst thing that happened to some n00b this week, then I think we’re doing alright.

        1. And THAT is a battle I think is worthy of outrage. Making biking/walking safer on city streets should be the major focus, and by concentrating advocacy efforts there I think we can do the most good (and avoid overwhelming authorities with requests/complaints).

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