Chicago Deserves a Better Lakefront

At Chicago, Bike Grid Now! we believe our lakefront should be “open, clear and free” for all Chicagoans. Nearly 100 years ago North DuSable Lake Shore Drive was designed to keep Chicagoans car dependent and stuck in traffic…Now we have an opportunity to dream big and design a lakefront for all.

Our lakefront should have a transit corridor that prioritizes sustainable and multi-modal transportation solutions, like bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail. Current proposals put forth by the Redefine the Drive project team for North DuSable Lake Shore Drive (NDLSD), led by IDOT and CDOT, fail to address safety issues, exacerbate environmental concerns, and perpetuate car dependency. This is an issue that impacts all Chicagoans, as the Lakefront is a treasure for the entire city, the region, and our nation.

a better lakefront for chicago. reduced air and noise pollution. more space for pedestrians. dedicated mass transit lanes. 2 way cycle track. increased green space and wildlife habitats. mixed travel lanes with less congestion.

IDOT is failing Chicago by bringing 80 year old ideas to the table for this once in a lifetime opportunity and we will fight back. For over a decade, advocates have been fighting for a better lakefront. We appreciate and applaud the works others have done to make today’s fight a reality. The tide is turning and recent actions from City and State elected officials make that clear.

  1. Illinois House Resolution 438
  2. Illinois Senate Resolution 825
  3. City Council LetterPress Release

City Council Letter

In June 2024, 14 Alderpersons and a coalition of community organizations asked the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to halt its “Redefine The Drive” project before it moves out of the planning phase. This is the first time Council members have come together to speak out against the IDOT plan and they join a growing number of elected officials from the Illinois General Assembly seeking to reboot the NDLSD plans.

We are proud to have the support of Alds. Daniel La Spata, Ward 1; Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Ward 25; Ruth Cruz, Ward 30; Scott Waguespack, Ward 32; Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Ward 35; Jr., Andre Vasquez, Ward 40; Brendan Reilly, Ward 42; Timothy R. Knudsen, Ward 43; Bennett R. Lawson, Ward 44; Angela Clay, Ward 46; Matthew J. Martin, Ward 47; Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, Ward 48; Maria E. Hadden, Ward 49; and Debra L. Silverstein, Ward 50.

In addition, community partners Commuters Take Action, a member of the Redefine the Drive Geographic Stakeholder Task Force, Urban Environmentalists Illinois, The Southwest Collective, Active Transportation Alliance, Better Streets Chicago, Chicago BIPOC Birders, and The Freshwater Lab at UIC have also signed on in support.

Read the letter in The Chicago Tribune. Read the Block Club Chicago story here.

Want your organization to sign-on? Reach out to [email protected].

Want to join the fight?

Sign our petition and let the Redefine the Drive project team know you want a Better Lakefront for Chicago. Also, check out the work that our friends at Better Streets Chicago is leading to create a new vision for our lakefront.

All the reasons why

There are so many reasons why our lakefront is important and why Chicago needs a visionary plan for DLSD. Below are just a few reasons why a multi-modal, transit-first approach to the lakefront transportation corridor is critical:

  1. Congestion: We all know how congested DLSD gets during peak travel times. With travel along the lakefront slated to rise in the coming years re-building DLSD without including public transit improvements is a recipe for disaster. Studies show that the only way to reduce traffic is to heavily invest in public transit and reduce the number of vehicle lanes. While this may seem counterintuitive, increasing the number of vehicle lanes leads to “induced demand“. Simply, while a a single 10-foot lane can move 600-1600 people an hour in cars, bus rapid transit or light-rail can move 10,000-25,000 people and hour in that same space. More here.
  2. Wildlife: Besides direct habitat loss due to roadway and highway construction, wide and loud roads have been shown to fragment wildlife habitats, impact bird behavior and movement. More info on how road noise increases habitat loss and fragmentation, here.
  3. Water Pollution: Tire wear from motor vehicles has been found to represent nearly 85% of microplastics that enter aquatic environments. Additionally, salt from winter road operations leach into our lake as well. Rebuilding a highway on our lakefront is untenable as we grapple with the climate crisis and Chicago’s role as a freshwater haven.
  4. Transit Access: As the CTA grapples with unreliable service, low ridership, and a looming fiscal crisis, buses sit in traffic amongst private motor vehicles on DLSD. Our buses need dedicated bus lanes and infrastructure that makes transit a top choice for Chicagoans when deciding how to get around our city.
  5. Accessibility: Whether its flooded underpasses, dangerous intersections, or unreliable public transit, DLSD impacts Chicagoans ability to access the lakefront or travel across Chicago. Roads around DLSD include some of the most dangerous intersections for Chicagoans who walk or roll.
  6. Noise Pollution: Exposure to noise from load roadways, like DLSD, negatively impact the health of all people, especially the most vulnerable. Chronic exposure to traffic noise can lead to increased stress, sleep disturbance, cognitive impairment in children, and can have negative effects on the cardiovascular and metabolic systems. Studies have also shown that traffic noise can slow memory development in children. More here.
  7. Property Values: Studies, including one around the Capital Beltway in Washington DC, show that properties adjacent to highways are valued less. Businesses and home values benefit tremendously from walkable and people-friendly streets.
  8. Transportation Emissions: Over 30% of Chicagoland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, the second largest source of emissions. Chicago’s transit system and dense land use is what allows us to be a leader in reducing per capita emissions, however, expanding transportation alternatives and reducing car dependency is required amidst a climate crisis.
  9. Traffic Violence: Since 2018, DLSD has been the scene of over 15,000 crashes, or seven crashes every single day. These crashes – which have even affected users on the lakefront trail – resulted in over 3,900 injuries, including 537 incapacitating injuries, and 49 fatalities. The economic cost of these crashes is estimated at more than half a billion dollars. Data from CPD.