The City Council Monday voted to go through with plans for a long-envisioned renewal of the lakefront bike path, despite concerns about the project’s $1.8 million cost

The project would rebuild the bike path from Lee to Clark Streets.

The state would pick up about 60 percent of the cost, with the city to fund the rest as part of its Capital Improvement Program.

The City Council Monday voted to go through with plans for a long-envisioned renewal of the lakefront bike path, despite concerns about the project’s $1.8 million cost

The project would rebuild the bike path from Lee to Clark Streets.

The state would pick up about 60 percent of the cost, with the city to fund the rest as part of its Capital Improvement Program.

But when the project was first proposed in 2005, city staff believed the state would pay for 80 percent of the work.

City parks officials say it turned out the state was only willing to pay for 80 percent of the path itself and only allowed the city to provide its match on the pavement portion.

That left the city to pick up the full tab for pathway lighting and other amenities that are part of the plan.

Parks Director Doug Gaynor said the staff believes it would ultimately be less expensive and less disruptive to park activities to install the lighting at the same time as the path, and he said the lighting had been strongly supported in community reviews of the project.

The staff cut plans for also rebuilding the pedestrian walkway along the lakefront as part of this project after learning the state transportation department would not provide funding for that.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward; Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Don Wilson, 4th Ward, all voiced concerns about spending so much on a capital project when the city is facing an $8 million general fund budget deficit next year.

Fiske suggested postponing a vote until the council has a broader discussion about the lakefront next month, but Gaynor said the city’s funding request has to be submitted to the state by the end of this month to receive funding during the current annual funding cycle, and the council defeated the delay on a 6-3 vote.

A vote to cut the city funding required in half by eliminating the new lights was also defeated, and motion to go ahead with the full project was approved 7-2, with Fiske and Wilson voting no.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Bike Path
    Amazing ! We are all talking on how to solve the budget crisis but the Council now wants to spend this money. I’m sure they will say the State will pay some so we should use it. New flash–the State has budget problems too. Should not they and Evanston spend money wisely, not treat it as free money.
    Perhaps a better solution would be to post signs at the start of the path informing people that in the U.S. we walk and bike on the right side—not left, center or weave back-and-forth. Perhaps additional signs at NU since the bike and pedestrian traffic and accidents show they don’t understand this principle.
    Much cheaper and more effective than spending money on new paths.
    BTW I’m a biker who got rid of my car twenty years ago since there was no need for it in Evanston, so I support biking and not ‘feel good’ things like the painted lanes downtown that already have faded out of existence and are not paid attention to by cars or buses.

  2. Stroller Grannies vs. Bike Lady
    Unless there’s a way to keep the Stroller Grannies off this “bike path” why don’t we just call it the pedestrian walkway it is. The Bike Lady found the lakefront path completely unusable this summer, as it goes straight through the playgrounds, picnic areas, beach entrances, etc. I swear I was afraid I was going to kill a child if I went faster than coasting.

    A bike lane on Sheridan would be faster and safer all around, and the Bike Lady would not have to be constantly ringing her bell at the stroller grannies walking side by side.

    BTW, whether we call the path a bike lane or not, it clearly needs an upgrade and many improvements. It’s not safe, often flooded and is in constant use.

      1. A Phrase of my own Invention
        It refers to the kindly,loving,older grandmothers who take the babies out for a stroll down the lakefront path, very often with a friend who is also pushing a stroller or large baby carriage. They walk very slowly, side by side, essentially taking up the entire path with the strollers and tend to not realize that the path is also designated for bikes. They don’t/cant easily move off the path to let a bike pass. To suggest that a bike just go around them on the grass, questions the designation of the path as a safe venue bikes.

        Now, I am not attaching any blame or judgment with this term because if I was a grandmother and wanted to take the baby out and visit with a friend, strolling down the lakefront path with a view of Lake Michigan seems a perfectly lovely thing to do. And why not, the path is there, as are benches, etc.

        To expect pedestrians, dog walkers, toddlers on trikes, young lovers, double or triple passenger strollers, and smokers wearing headphones to share a path with bikers going from point A to point B with speed and efficiency is just nonsensical. It just doesn’t work.

        You don’t put a bike lane next to a playground, a beach entrance, near benches, etc. We have been learning these lessons the hard way, especially on the weekends with hundreds of families essentially on day-long camp-outs in the parks by the lake. On a weekend, those paths are useless for bikes. And don’t get me started about the festivals or Independence Day.

        I love that lakefront pathway. On a Thursday at 9 a.m., it can be very helpful for a commute up the lakefront. And a safe pathway for all the pedestrians through the lakefront parks is appropriate no matter what the cost. Thousands of people use those paths every day during most of the year.

        However, if we want to build safe ways for bikers to commute to jobs and errands throughout the city, safe and well-designed bike lanes is the way to go, and pointing to the “bike path” at the lakefront as fulfilling those needs is just not true. I have yet to see a stroller granny in a bike lane on the street.

        Now, jogger dads pushing stollers in bike lanes. That’s another story.

  3. Our lakefront is an important asset
    The lakefront parks are a great community asset. Spending money to keep them maintained and safe is important. I applaud the city for placing a high priority on this, and I am disappointed that my alderman (Judy Fiske) voted against it.

    As for your comments about pedestrian/bike interactions on trails, I’m pretty sure that the new path, which will be improved compared to the existing one, will help this situation more than additional signage would. Unfortunately, any multi-use trail is going to have conflicts between users from time to time. I’ve never noticed the trail in Evanston to be all that bad in this regard, especially compared to the lakefront trail in Chicago, and the majority of cyclists in Evanston seem to travel at reasonable speeds and be courteous to pedestrians.

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