FYI, I saw this article from Chicago Athlete that discusses the issues with the trail separation and how we can continue to be heard. It is focused more on runners and CARA, but worth a read. I think there are areas where the path is better but many more areas where it is more dangerous than before. And the lack of water stations for runners to access without getting run over by two lanes of bike traffic might be the worst offender... either that or the terrible decision to redirect bikes along the lake from Foster to Montrose where pedestrian traffic is at its worst.
As both a biker AND a runner, I see both sides and understand the frustrations that come with both areas of the path now.To express your concerns, email email@example.com.
Trail separation was generally a win for safety, but one problematic aspect is how the lane layout sometimes changes without warning, offering plenty of opportunity for dangerous confusion.
For example, in some sections where cyclists and pedestrians share a single wide strip of asphalt, the pedestrian lanes are next to each other, and the bike lanes are next to each other.
But then the layout will suddenly change, with the two bike lanes in the center, and the pedestrian lanes on the outer edges.
If you're riding a bike and not paying attention to the changing lane configuration, it wouldn't be hard to get into a head-on collision with another cyclist, because what was the northbound bike lane a block ago is suddenly the southbound bike lane.
Agreed. The inconsistent lane configurations cause confusion, especially for infrequent users.
The separated stretch between Fullerton and North Ave is great, but the mixing zones at Fullerton and just south of North Ave Beach are a bit confusing with lots of weaving/mixing.
I think people also need to remember that this current trail separation project was done on limited resources, with lots of constraints. The designers seem to understand the problem areas and have ideas to solve them (like relocating drinking fountains or re-configuring tennis courts/softball fields, building new underpasses, etc) but CPD doesn't have the money to fund those projects.
It doesn't help the pedestrian path from Oak Street Beach to Navy Pier is under water. I nearly collided with runner wearing headphones that didn't look before turning to cross the bike lane this morning, too, in the hole north of Columbus. Normally you can spot someone slowing down or changing their pace and be ready for something like that but there was no tell at all.
Agreed. I am avoiding doing my long runs that way just because I know the path is underwater. That at least is something a little more unforeseen than the fact that people running in the heat might actually like to get some water without having to cross a busy path full of Armstrong-wannabes. I imagine some runners choose to run in that narrow spot on the right side of the southbound path between North Ave and Oak Street just so they can get water without having to cross lanes of traffic. In fact, I'm willing to bet a lot of runners ignore the path designations to avoid having to navigate across lanes of bike traffic. Lord knows I've been tempted to do the same.
Greg Hipp is giving some odd advice in this article:
“Another thing that can lead to improved paths, including the addition of gravel – it sounds a little bit odd – if runners make a cow path somewhere in the grass, then eventually the PD will give in.”
One of the more dangerous things I see on the LFT at the moment is runners (and a few cyclists) cutting through the grass and hopping the curb at Montrose to cross the intersection where the old at-grade crossing was, rather than using the underpass.
I've often thought that some low shrubbery would be very useful there, and a few other places.
While I don't condone bypassing the underpass at Montrose, I understand why people are doing it. The flooding there (or even the very real probability of it) is often enough to get me to change my route to avoid it.
Another area where people are cowing a path is near Irving Park in front of the playground. The reroute for runners around the playground and tennis courts is fine until you have to cross three lanes of traffic to get back to the southbound side of the running path. Even worse are those who aren't running in the grass but on the bike path in a section of the bike path that is more narrow than most, making passing difficult in even moderate traffic. I'm not trying to Lance Armstrong around people, but I find that bottlenecks of bikers/runners can be just as dangerous as the speedracers.
CPD has raised the path under there so it doesn't flood as easily, and most people still bypass it when it's bone dry. Even with all the orange catch-fences it hasn't stopped a lot of people. I finally gave in and use the underpass, but still not the longer "bike" path to the north.
I've tried to stay off the north path now designated a running path but I hate the new path for bikes around Cricket Hill for so many reasons. It's full of pedestrians, dogs, coolers, soccer players and children, not to mention terrible curves, bad transitions across intersections and a generally clunky layout. I've taken to biking the road around it instead of the actual path. And I refuse to bike the area from the lot around the lake to Foster beach house. It's always a cluster. Plus the new bike path is a half mile longer, which matters if you're trying to get somewhere or beat a storm or get somewhere quickly, which is normally what bikers want to do.
If you want to avoid this, and don't mind a little gravel, when headed northbound turn right by the clocktower and go behind the golf tee off. It's a gravel park district road with butterflies, birds, and a family of raccoons. It passes the mouth of Montrose Harbor and pat the bird houses. You can follow the road east again by Montrose beach and dog beach, and then up a limestone path before rejoining the main path by montrose field house.
Yes, it's still a 1/2 mile longer, but lovely and far enough from the car traffic to actually be quiet.
It's a matter of perspective. I don't commute on that section of LFT but if I did I'd likely just ride the ped path west of Cricket Hill to avoid the conflicts you note and take a more direct route.
The only time I'm up there (on a bike) is usually super early in the morning when the only other people out there are a few cyclists and joggers. At those times, the detour around Cricket Hill is awesome because it's mostly empty, and I'm just riding to get miles in, not to get to a destination.
Humans have been creating so-called lines of desire for as long as they have been walking.