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Lake Shore Drive's Future Looks Different to Bicyclists, Motorists

 City and state officials are planning a redesign of North Lake Shore Drive. Tuesday, they held a meeting at Gill Park, 825. W. Sheridan Road, to gather input from the public about the revamp.
North Lakeshore Drive Revamp Meeting
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LAKEVIEW — Cyclist Susan Levine, a 49-year-old Ravenswood resident who uses the lakefront bike trail to commute Downtown to work, said she is looking forward to a revamp of North Lake Shore Drive that "takes every type of user into account."

Armed with markers and sticky notes, Levine and other Chicago residents weighed in on the planned redesign of Lakes Shore Drive from Grand to Hollywood at an open house Tuesday night that was the first of three public meetings planned across the North Side.

The goal of the meeting was to give everyone a chance to weigh in on the iconic roadway's future, but the notes chronicled a battle between cyclists and motorists.

Several notes accused bicyclists of assuming they have priority on the roadways and failing to yield to cars and pedestrians along various lakefront trails.

Others accused motorists of driving too fast, or in the case of a note about the southbound entrance to the Drive at West Lawrence Avenue, turning too fast and "making this underpass difficult to cross on foot or on bike."

This is just phase one of the redesign process, which includes gathering public input and will take three years just for engineering and environmental studies. Phase two includes "contract plan acquisition," and "right-of-way acquisition," according to officials. The final phase — construction — hasn't been scheduled.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) attended the meeting and said safety was his primary concern — particularly at lakefront trails and entrances to the lakefront in the 46th Ward, which includes most of Uptown and part of Lakeview.

"Chicago is promoting more bicycle riding, so, let's make it safe," Cappleman said.

He highlighted one trouble spot near Montrose Avenue and the Drive that he said causes wrecks between bikes and cars.

"We see a lot of accidents that occur there. I would like to have a process that discourages the bottleneck of traffic as they wait for the runners and bicyclists to run by," Cappleman said, mentioning there was a suggestion floating about about putting "a tunnel running under the road where the cars all bottleneck."

In July, 15 organizations submitted a joint proposal for the redesign, Our Lakefront, including calls for bus rapid transit, dedicated bike lanes and dropping the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph.

The proposal warned that without improvements focused on livability, North Lake Shore Drive could become a "superhighway that serves as an ever-widening barrier between Chicago and its lakefront."

Uptown resident Ryan Wallace, 28, said he is a fan of everything that the coalition has proposed.

"The idea of bus rapid transit, separating bike traffic from pedestrian traffic, additional access for pedestrians to the lakefront, all that stuff," Wallace said. "I think like everyone else here I just don't want it to turn into a superhighway, but I think that there's going to be enough political pressure and public pressure that I don't think that will happen."