HYDE PARK — After a car crash stalled traffic on DuSable Lake Shore Drive Wednesday evening, dozens of South Side drivers decided to turn the Lakefront Trail into an impromptu detour.
Chicago Police were notified of a traffic crash in the northern lanes of the 4700 block of South DuSable Lake Shore Drive Wednesday, a spokesperson said. A report on the crash was not finalized as of Thursday afternoon.
Confusing and endangering pedestrians and bicyclists, rogue drivers brashly used the trail to bypass the traffic jam only to end up in another traffic jam as they exited the trail using an underpass near Promontory Point.
“The saving grace here is that there were so many of them, they got caught in their own traffic,” said Eric Allix Rogers, who was visiting the Point around 7:15 p.m. when he noticed the line of cars. He filmed the situation and posted footage to Twitter as it happened.
With the exception of one driver — who Rogers estimated went about 30 mph on the trail — the car traffic moved slowly, he said. All cars were off the trail about 15 minutes after Rogers first noticed them, he said.
“They couldn’t speed or drive erratically,” Rogers said. “They were just in a line trying to get off the trail.”
Several drivers on the trail rolled down their windows to holler at trail users, saying there was an accident on DuSable Lake Shore Drive “as if that justified what they were doing,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he didn’t witness any close calls where a driver almost hit pedestrians or cyclists on the Lakefront Trail. But the unsafe situation could happen again if local agencies don’t secure the trail, he said.
Emergency vehicles and Park District service cars sometimes access the trail using curb cuts near 51st Street and at the south end of Promontory Point.
Without barriers, the driveways provide easy trail access to any car heading northbound — whether they’re allowed to be there or not, Rogers said.
He wants the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Park District to gate and lock the curb cuts, so only city employees can access them in an emergency.
“It’s a symptom of the broader problem in this city, which is that we need safe physical infrastructure that prevents cars from accessing places where they shouldn’t be,” Rogers said. “Obviously, this is a major failure of that.”
CDOT and the Park District did not immediately respond to Block Club’s questions about how they would prevent drivers from using the trail in the future. The Illinois Department of Transportation directed questions to city agencies.
Just hours before drivers took over the Lakefront Trail, CDOT announced all protected bike lanes will get concrete barriers by the end of 2023.
The department is also launching public forums to address pedestrian and bicyclist safety as Chicago faces the highest number of traffic-related deaths and injuries in years.
Seventeen pedestrians and five cyclists have been killed this year alone, including 2-year-old Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas, 3-year-old Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook, 11-year-old J’alon James and 15-year-old Joshua Avina in the past month.
“The city is convening people to talk about safe, alternative modes of transportation, and I certainly hope that [the Lakefront Trail] will be part of this conversation,” Rogers said.
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