“On your left!” Runners, walkers and cyclists are all familiar with this frank yet courteous phrase. It’s meant to signal to anyone out for a stroll on a shared-use path that someone on a bike is about to pass them (you guessed it) on their left. But if you regularly use the Chicago Lakefront Trail, you’ll soon be able to forget these three helpful words all together.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Park District announced that it will separate bike and pedestrian paths along the entire 18-mile path, which stretches from Edgewater to South Shore. Officials said the decision to expand the scope of the ongoing Lakefront Trail Separation Project is thanks to a $12 million donation from wealthy hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin.
Plans originally announced in March as part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's "Building on Burnham" initiative called for the separation of the two trails from Fullerton to Ohio and 31st Street to 51st Street. The new funding will allow for separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists on all 18 miles of the popular pathway. Once completed, the pedestrian trail will be 20 feet wide, with 14 feet made of asphalt and 6 feet comprised of a soft surface mix. The bike path, which will be located closest to Lakeshore Drive, will be 12 feet wide and made of asphalt.
Officials expect the entire project to be completed in 2018, but work is currently underway on trail segments from 31st Street to 35th Street Harbor and 35th Street to 41st Street. Approximately 7 miles of the Lakefront Trail between Ardmore Avenue and the Oak Street Beach have already been resurfaced and repainted with new stripping and trail markings.
The city said the separate trails will improve safety along the shoreline and alleviate areas of congestion on one of the country’s busiest pathways. A recent study by the Chicago Area Runners Association and the Active Transportation Alliance estimates that more than 100,000 people use the Lakefront Trail each day during summer weekends.
"I often hear from people who avoid the lakefront because it's too crowded, and this will dramatically address that problem and enable more people to comfortably bike and hike along Chicago's beautiful lakefront," Active Transportation Alliance Executive Director Ron Burke said in a statement.
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