Thursday, May 19, 2005

North Shore Channel Path Improvements

As I mentioned in my last post, there is a multi-use path along the Chicago River and the North Shore Channel. It runs from Lawrence Avenue (4800N) all the way to the Ladd Arboretum in Evanston, a distance of more than seven miles each way. It begins with parallel asphalt and wood chip trails on the west side of the river from Lawrence to Argyle Street (5000N). A short, paved trail continues north, but one must cross the river on the Argyle bridge to follow the main path on the east side. Just south of Foster Avenue, the river forks off to the west and the North Shore Channel (formerly a sewage canal) continues north. At Lincoln Avenue (6050N), the path crosses over to the west side of the channel.

Yesterday I broke in a new pair of hiking boots by exploring some recent improvements. The city completed underpasses at Peterson Avenue (6000N) and Lincoln this spring. The path runs right beside the channel between them, with trail users protected by a black, wrought iron fence (Mayor Daley's preferred barrier). With lights and a wide, concrete path, the underpasses should be relatively safe. Now there are no at-grade street crossings from Argyle to Lincoln. This may be the longest uninterrupted path in the city aside from the lakefront.

Funding is available for a new pedestrian/bike bridge over the channel north of Lincoln, but word on the street is that Alderman Bernard Stone does not want to build it. This is ridiculous considering that the money will be lost (as opposed to being directed elsewhere in his ward) if the bridge isn't built. Instead, runners and cyclists have to cross on the Lincoln Avenue bridge to continue up the west side of the channel into Skokie and Evanston. Cyclists will have to brave Lincoln's heavy traffic (I'm thinking particularly of the younger ones; it's not a bad street for experienced riders). Runners and walkers will have to use the bridge's north sidewalk, which is more narrow than the path, and dodge the streetlight poles. Local cyclist Bob Kastigar has
photographically documented the problem.

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