TagLakefront Trail

Transportation infrastructure is for more than transportation’s sake

Transportation infrastructure should be designed for more than carrying people through places. It also needs to be about carrying people to places, because transportation is for moving people as much for commerce as it is for being social.

The Dutch consider “social safety” when designing and redesigning streets (they’re constantly upgrading streets, roads, and entire neighborhoods to standards that seem to be frequently updated).

Mark Waagenbuur posted a new video this week showing a new tunnel under Amsterdam Centraal, the main train station in Amsterdam, and he highlighted several of its social safety features.

The screen grab I embedded above – and posted on Twitter where it got a lot of shares and likes – shows an aspect that’s common across all cycling facilities in built-up areas: it’s wide enough to ride side by side with your friend, mother, or lover, with still enough room on your left for people to pass you in the same lane.

Another aspect of this tunnel is that it has sound-absorbing panels. Often tunnels have a disturbing echo that inhibit comfortable communication – my new home office has an echo and it makes it hard to have conversations on the phone here because I hear an annoying feedback. The communication is important to be able to hear people cycling with you, but also to hear what other people are doing.

The tunnel has a final feature that supports social safety: clear, wide, and open sight lines. Not just from end to end, but also to the sides. It’s hard to hide around the corner because the breadth of vision is so wide that you would see someone lurking in the corner.

For Chicagoans who use one of the many old tunnels under Lake Shore Drive connecting the “mainland” to the nation’s most popular trail along Lake Michigan, the feeling of claustrophobia and invisibility of what’s around the bend is too common. New tunnels, which I prefer to bridges because you go downhill first, should be a priority when the State of Illinois rebuilds Lake Shore Drive north of Grand Avenue in the next decade. This is what those tunnels look like; sometimes they have mirrors.

We can sell ads on the Lakefront Trail underpasses, but they're still shitty to walk through

Study recommends designing bike paths for bikes, not for sharing

running and bicycling on the lakefront trail

Some parts of the Chicago Lakefront Trail have a 2-foot wide side path designed for pedestrians but the study reviewed very cases where bicyclists crashed with pedestrians. It’s unknown if this side path results in fewer crashes than the parts of the Lakefront Trail without it. Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

The Active Transportation Alliance posted a link on Facebook to a new study [PDF] in the Open BMJ from December 2014, a free peer-reviewed “version” of the British Medical Journal, and said it “conclusively shows separated space reduces crashes and the severity of injuries when crashes occur”.

The posting was in the context that bicyclists and pedestrians using the Lakefront Trail should have separate paths. I agree, but there’s a problem in how they stated the study’s support for separation.

I wouldn’t say that the study “conclusively” shows that bicyclists would fare better on paths without pedestrians. The study reviewed fewer than 700 crashes in two Canadian cities. Only 11% of those crashes occurred on multi-use trails and only 5.9% of the crashes were with a pedestrian or animal (the two were grouped) – this sample size is too low from which to draw that kind of conclusion.

The study didn’t report the association (correlation) between crash severity and pedestrians. The authors didn’t even recommend that bicyclists and pedestrians have separate paths, but instead wrote “These results suggest an urgent need to provide bike facilities…that are designed [emphasis added] specifically for bicycling rather than for sharing with pedestrians”.

While I don’t discount the possibility that separating bicyclists and pedestrians in off-street corridors will reduce the number of crashes and injuries when those two user groups collide, it’s imprudent to call this study “conclusive” when linking it to the measure of crashes between bicyclists and pedestrians.

The study’s primary conclusion was that bicyclists crash more often when there are high slopes, fast moving cars, or no bike lanes and the authors recommended that bike infrastructure be built for bicycling. That’s a solid recommendation and I recommended that you sign Active Trans’s petition advocating for separate facilities in the North Lake Shore Drive reconstruction project.

31st Street marina is open for business, with boat slips, boat launch, and new playground

In this photo you can see the new community center and harbor master office, picnic tables, parking garage, and shade sails on the roof of the community center. 

I completely agree with Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin’s description of those colored trees: “garishly painted recycled trees that goes overboard in an attempt to create a festive atmosphere”. I would prefer to see them removed and real trees take their place. I was saddened to see mature-growth trees being removed during construction. I appreciate a lot of the new features the marina brings to Burnham Park, like the upgraded playground, a small park on the pier and a bike trail that should bypass a lot of beachgoer traffic.

These mature trees were replaced with…

…these garish trees.

The sign in the background is outdated and should be replaced. To access the trail from 31st Street you ride down the driveway and then enter the sidewalk.

This playground looks like a lot of fun. It has a climbing wall! 

I have some criticisms about the new design of how people access 31st Street from the Lakefront Trail and vice versa.

1. The distance from 31st Street to the LFT has increased from the previous design. Before there was a short hill to traverse from the street to the trail. Now one must enter the trail by sharing the driveway with automobiles, then entering a sidewalk, and then entering the trail. At this sidewalk entrance, there’s an outdated sign. It says “Yield to pedestrians in crosswalk” when state law says motorists must “stop for pedestrians in crosswalks”. I think this sign should be immediately replaced.

The crosswalk that connects the sole sidewalk leading people from 31st Street to the beach house should be here, instead of 50 feet further south as this is the quickest way to reach the beach (actually the quickest way is to walk through the grass on the left side of this photo or through the shrubs left of the photo, off screen). 

2. This crosswalk is also too far from the beach house and people will be crossing the street at the end of the lower curve where there is no crosswalk and no sign.

New intersection to access the marina parking lot and boat launch area. 

3. I’d like to know if the intersection here is timed or has a sensor. If it has a sensor, will it pick up the presence of cyclists? Regardless, this intersection is an improvement over the previous access path which couldn’t facilitate Lakefront Trail cyclists who wanted to travel westbound on 31st Street (they could use the south side sidewalk, which is inappropriate). Westbound cyclists can now share the driveway with automobiles (less than ideal) but can enter westbound 31st Street without any awkward sidewalk moves or crossing the Lake Shore Drive ramp against the light.

4. My good friend Calvin points out that the new marina doesn’t have storage for small sailboats like Lasers and Vanguards. These boats are a cheap and easy way to teach children and young adults how to sail and are more accessible to the wider population. Storage is less expensive and they can be operated alone. He says that only Montrose and Belmont have storage for these boats.

Further reading

Short video on 31st Street marina construction

UPDATE: Thank you, Bill, for sending me a Chicago Park District document with additional artist’s renderings of the promenade, playground and restaurant.

Many Chicagoans are curious about the new marina the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Building Commission are building on Lake Michigan at 31st Street (3100 S Lake Shore Drive) near Bronzeville and the old Michael Reese Hospital campus.

Taken with a Sony HX5V on the handlebars of my Yuba Mundo cargo bike.

This video shows the new access path to the Lakefront Trail, the pier upon which construction equipment is stored, and some people working at the end of the newly constructed breakwater.

Also features a passing Metra Electric train and a view from the marina of the factories in Whiting and East Chicago Indiana.

I took these photos at the same time as the video:

A temporary new path will replace the existing access path. In the artist’s renderings for the new marina and surrounding facilities, the Lakefront Trail will go underneath a marina and parking lot access road that will intersect where the existing access path does now. People who want to access the Lakefront Trail will travel (off street) a little north to an intersection.

Construction equipment on the pier.

Non-auto construction projects in Chicago

There are 17 construction projects listed here and none are about automobiles. Additionally, there is information about 2 studies for bus rapid transit-like projects.

Download all of these into Google Earth with this KML file.

A couple of these projects are being held up by the current Illinois roadway construction workers’ strike. UPDATE: Apparently a deal has been reached to end the strike.

Streetscapes

  • Blue Island/Cermak – I wrote about this project at length in October 2009. Construction should begin as soon as the strike is resolved. CONSTRUCTION UPDATE, 10-21-10: Bioswale, or creek, is mostly complete at Benito Juarez Community Academy (BJCA). Plaza with permeable pavers, and sheltered bike parking also complete. Photos here.
  • Congress Parkway – Full details and renderings from CDOT (PDF). Project should begin in 2010 and will narrow lanes, reduce number of lanes, straighten lanes (no more mid-intersection lane shifts), widen sidewalks, and improve crosswalks. Will add a lot of landscaping and unique and decorative lighting.
  • PROPOSED: Lawrence Avenue between Ashland and Western. Reduce the number of travel lanes from four to three, adding bike lanes and a center turn lane. Project limits include the rebuilt Ravenswood Metra station at 1800 W Lawrence. More details on Center Square Journal. Construction wouldn’t begin until 2011.

Transit

  • Morgan/Lake Green and Pink Line CTA station (new) – Details and renderings from CDOT (PDF) – Overview from Chicago Transit Authority – Tons of bike parking included at the beginning, how it should be. Construction should start this year. To better serve the West Loop area, where more people are moving to, but also has lots of existing businesses.
  • State/Grand Red Line CTA station renovation – Construction should finish this year.
  • 35th/Federal Rock Island Metra station (new) – Construction started in 2010.
  • LaSalle/Congress Intermodal Center – To improve connection between buses and the LaSalle Metra station. Mentioned in the Congress Parkway streetscape presentation (PDF).
  • Wilson Red Line CTA station renovation – Down the street from a new Target store that opens this weekend and hundreds of brand new housing units in the Wilson Yard development. Will use TIF funds from the Wilson Yard district. Overview on CTA Tattler.
  • Ravenswood Metra Station – A popular station on the Union Pacific-North line (to Kenosha). Will add longer and sheltered platform and become accessible. Details with Chicago Square Journal.
  • FLOATING: New Green Line CTA station at 18th or Cermak. Roosevelt station serves three lines. South Loop neighborhood fast growing. The new station would improve transit access to McCormick Place (at least if built at Cermak). Follow the Chicago Journal for more news on this topic.

morgan cta station rendering

Rendering from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) showing context-sensitive design. See the full presentation (PDF) for architectural influences.

Bridges

  • Halsted Street over North Branch Canal of the Chicago River. Replaces 99-year old moveable span with fixed span. No information on how it will accommodate the Halsted Street bike lane. Construction to begin in 2010 (PDF). CDOT project number 74062.
  • Navy Pier Flyover – Elevated section of the Lakefront Trail to bypass current bottleneck where the Lakefront Trail currently enters the Lake Shore Drive bridge over the Chicago River and DuSable park. Details from CDOT presentation on July 15, 2010.
  • PROPOSED: 35th Street pedestrian bridge over Metra/Illinois Central tracks and Lake Shore Drive to lakefront and Lakefront Trail. Bridge will be self-anchored suspension, like the new Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco. Overview on Burnham Centennial (drawing says 2007).

Rendering of the Navy Pier Flyover as it travels over the Lakepoint Tower condominiums as seen at the Cities and Bicycles forum with David Byrne in June at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Other

  • Various CREATE projects. All CREATE projects involve railroads in some way and most projects will construct grade separations. I’ve written about CREATE.
  • The Chicago Park District opened a new beach at Oakwood/41st Street this year. The grand opening for the beach house happened this past Saturday.
  • The Chicago Park District is currently building a harbor and marina immediately south of the 31st Street beach. The Public Building Commission of Chicago has the details and renderings. AECOM, the architect of record, produced these concept drawings (PDF). It appears how bike riders currently navigate the intersection at the entrance to the beach will change to be a little more normal and not force bike riders on the sidewalk. It’s unclear how many new parking spaces are being created along the lakefront – the fewer the better. The concept plan shows a new parking lot on the west side of the railroad tracks, a design I wholly support.
  • FLOATING: Luann Hamilton mentioned at the Cities and Bicycles forum with David Byrne in June that CDOT was thinking about a buffered bike lane on Wells Street.

31st street harbor concept rendering

Rendering of the 31st Street harbor concept plan. As seen in the contractor’s presentation to the Public Building Commission of Chicago.

Related

Although not construction projects, two additional proposals merit your attention. The Chicago Department of Transportation and the Chicago Transit Authority each received grants this month to study and develop two corridors with bus rapid transit-like features. CDOT’s plan is to develop a priority bus lanes for up to seven routes between the Metra stations and Navy Pier and North Michigan Avenue (the Miracle Mile). Thank you to Kevin Z for the update.

CTA’s grant money is to fund the development of a speedy bus service from the southeast side to the West Loop via the north-south Jeffrey Avenue.

That Lakefront Trail

It’s not the “Chicago Bike Path.” It’s not the “Lakefront Path.” It’s not the “Chicago Riverwalk.”

Those are all names that have appeared on Google Maps at some point to describe the 18-mile multi-use path along Lake Michigan in the city limits.

It’s the Lakefront Trail. And it’s pretty great. Most of the time. South of Solidarity Drive.*

It looks like this:

Burnham Harbor. My point and shoot camera, a Fuji F50fd, was recently damaged and the lens cover will not fully retract. It casts a shadow over wide angle shots. When zoomed, like in the photo below, the shadow disappears.

And this:

Can you name all the buildings?

*The Lakefront Trail is extremely congested starting near Museum Campus (especially when there are a lot of walkers and tourists that day), and has pinch points at Monroe, Grand and Illinois, Oak Street Beach, North Avenue Beach, and Belmont (those are the ones I remember, I rarely ride on the Lakefront Trail because of the insanity). No matter how many drawbacks I list, you can’t beat an open and unobstructed view of the city or the lake. Open this photo to see how many people are using it.

© 2017 Steven Can Plan

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