The days of runners being startled by bikers, and cyclists weaving through pedestrians on the Lakefront Path are over; a new plan will create two separate and “distinct” lakefront trails for bicyclists and pedestrians by 2018.
Billionaire Ken Griffin, who is friends with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, donated $12 million to the Chicago Park District for the trail separation project, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The separation aims to alleviate congestion and improve safety for all users.
Details for the two trails are already in place: the bike trail will be located closest to Lake Shore Drive, will be 12 feet wide and made of asphalt. The pedestrian trail will be 20 feet wide with 14 feet of asphalt and 6 feet of “soft surface mix” on either side.
In March, Emanuel announced plans to repave seven miles of the path with a clear north and south divider; the path was to be separated for bikers and pedestrians from Fullerton to Ohio and 31st to 51st. This project is nearly completed. All of the mayor’s plans were part of the “Building on Burnham” project to improve Chicago Parks and create more space in the city.
Emanuel says the lakefront trail is one of the busiest in the nation, as more than 100,000 people use the lakefront trail a day on summer weekends, according to a recent study by the Chicago Area Runners Association and the Active Transportation Alliance. Now, it will no longer be “like rush hour,” Emanuel tells the Sun Times.
“I talked to Ken, who is a biker, and asked him to help us fund this. He’s helping 100,000 people a day. This takes our most important open space and invests in it for the next 50 or 60 years,” he says. “[We can] do something we’ve been talking about for 20 years.”
Park District Supt. Mike Kelly said in a press release that he was “grateful for this generous contribution to the improvement of one of our most treasured park amenities.” Friends of the Parks has also endorsed this project, according to DNAinfo.