The Chicago Park District and the Active Transportation Alliance (Active Trans) announced the findings of a lakefront trail study in an effort to improve the function and quality of the heavily utilized thorough-way. In the past decade, there has been no comprehensive study conducted looking at the lakefront trail usage.
“The lakefront trail is popular for both commuting and recreating,” said Michael P. Kelly, Chicago Park District interim General Superintendent and CEO. “We’re excited to share the findings with our partners at Active Transportation Alliance that will aid in long-term improvements to this heavily utilized trail.”
“The Lakefront Trail counts show incredible demand for quality places to walk and bike in Chicago,” said Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance.
“The trail is a unique gem that makes Chicago a truly world-class city, but we need to invest in its future if we want it to continue serving residents’ needs.”
The Active Transportation Alliance conducted counts along the trail on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010 from 1 - 4 p.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010 from 6 - 9 a.m. and 4 - 7 p.m. A select number of counts were conducted on other days around those dates.
The counts found that Oak Street, the North Avenue pedestrian bridge, the Ohio Street underpass and Fullerton Avenue are the most popular locations to enter the trail. During peak times, an average of more than 575 pedestrians and 100 bikes per-hour used each of these access points.
Based on the count data, the following estimates were made: the study found that at the busiest points along the trail, nearly 30,000 people used the trail daily. In addition to counting users at some of the busiest points along the trail, counts were also tallied at about half of the trail’s 50 access points. Among the access points that were counted, more than 70,000 people accessed the trail on a typical summer weekend during the day and more than 60,000 accessed the trail on a typical summer weekday. These numbers would be roughly double if counting users at all the access points.
Overall, 70 percent of people who accessed the trail were pedestrians, 29 percent were on bikes and 1 percent were other users.
Weekday pedestrian usage peaks after people return home from work from 5:45 – 7 p.m. Based on time of day, pedestrians are more likely to use the trail for recreation as opposed to a transportation network.
Based on peak bicycling times, the study also found that the Lakefront Trail is used as a primary route for workforce bicycle commuters. The share of bicycles on the trail is highest during typical weekday commute times. Of the access points counted, Ardmore Avenue, Fullerton Avenue and the North Avenue underpass see the highest volume of cyclists on weekday mornings. The highest volume of cyclists on weekday evenings occurs at 11th Street, Fullerton Avenue and Monroe Street. On weekdays, about 35 percent of trail users rode a bike, while only 25 percent of weekend trail users rode a bike.
For cyclists, weekend afternoons are only a slightly more popular time to bike than weekday evenings. The per-hour rate of cyclists accessing the trail between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays is similar to the per-hour rate of cyclists accessing the trail between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends. An average of more than 1,200 to 1,600 cyclists per-hour access the trail during these times.
The peak time for cyclists along the trail is weekend afternoons from 2:15 to 4 p.m.
More than half the people that accessed the trail from Jackson Street, Monroe Street, 11th Street, Illinois Street and Ardmore Avenue were cyclists.
Ardmore Ave., 11th St. and Fullerton Ave. are the most popular locations to enter the trail for cyclists. During peak times, an average of more than 150 cyclists per-hour used each of these access points.
The report recommends a variety of long-term improvements in specific locations along the trail that will increase trail user safety and improve access in the decades to come including:
•Upgrading to the trail design standard (including drainage and lighting) in places that do not currently meet the standard.
•In collaboration with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), designing intuitive underpasses and overpasses that create fewer conflict points between beach/park users and trail users, and reduce congestion in heavily trafficked areas along the trail.
•Partnering with CDOT to improve on-street accessibility and increase safety at intersections near the trail.
The 35th Street and 67th Street access points had significantly fewer users than the north section, pointing to a strong need to improve accessibility and connectivity on this section of the trail. The Chicago Park District and CDOT are already planning construction of a 35th Street bridge to begin next year.
Additionally, based on the number of bikes seen along the trail, additional bicycle parking should be created at beaches and playing fields.
Recommendations and data collected support the Chicago Park District’s long-term plans for the Lakefront Trail, such as the Navy Pier Flyover.
About the Active Transportation Alliance
The Active Transportation Alliance is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve bicycling, walking, and pedestrian environments in the Chicago region and provides professional and technical services to dozens of state, regional and local agencies, including Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Active Trans has previously produced important planning documents such as the Illinois Commuter Study and the Bike Lane Design Guide as well as key outreach programs such as Mayor Daley’s Bicycle Ambassadors program.