by Elisa Shoenberger
While the Lakefront Trail is a popular route for commuting cyclists, snow and ice can make it hazardous during the winter.
A 2011 Park District and Active Transportation Alliance report found nearly 30,000 people used the trail daily during the summer. It’s used through the winter, although the number of cyclists drops off.
Dan Lowman has been using the path to cycle to work down- town for more than a decade. “The Park District does a really good job of clearing and salting the Lakefront path,” he said. “The path is often in better shape than Lake Shore Drive and other roads.”
However, the conditions can become dangerous in the winter.
A few years ago, Lowman slipped on clear ice near Oak Street. He used his bicycle to anchor himself on the incline to avoid falling into Lake Michigan. A city worker in a tow truck saw the incident and threw down his tow line so Lowman could pull himself up.
Lowman actively uses the path but “If there’s been snow, ice or big waves, I don’t bother. I don’t have the need to have that same incident again,” he said.
During adverse conditions, he gets off at Oak Street, takes the underpass near the Drake Hotel, and gets back on the Lakefront Trail at a safer place or takes Inner Lake Shore Drive.
“Chicago Park District crews remove snow and apply salt to the Lakefront Trail as needed, seven days a week,” a spokesperson for the Park District said. “Crews also work with the Office of Emergency Management Communications (OEMC) to close off sections of the trail that are in close prox- imity to the lake edge when conditions are icy.”
Colin Cameron, founder of Chicago Bike Law Firm, said that the city can be liable for damages for accidents on the Lakefront Trail since it is a designated bike trail.
There are informal alert systems that cyclists use such as #chilft (Chicago Lakefront Trail) on Twitter to inform each other about the path. The Park District recommends people check its website and follow the district on social media for updates.