Permalink Reply by J on October 16, 2008 at 9:42am
Especially this time of year, and throughout the winter, the path can be somewhat dangerous when riding without lights. It is relatively well maintained, and if you ride it regularly, you've probably memorized all of the hazard locations. So for most riders, the problem is not illuminating the path itself -- but rather alerting other riders (and drivers!) to your presence.
I ride every day for about an hour before dawn, and would highly recommend the most powerful lighting configuration that you can practically afford. With the new battery-driven amplified LEDs, that no longer means $200+ halogen setups. Fronts like the Cateye 530/520 or Planet Bike Blaze 1/2 are sufficient to illuminate the road for 5-10 meters and certainly alert oncoming riders to of your approach. Powerful rear lights are also preferred, but perhaps not as crucial on the path as on the roads. But they're still a good idea.
In the last year, the city has added lighting to a handful of formerly super dark stretches, both on the north and south ends of the path -- making things much safer and more fun to ride in the dark.
I ride this all the time at night, from the beginning down to about Navy Pier. Some of the worst areas are the beginning where there's no street lighting and as you approach North Ave. beach, where there seems to be really dark, sharp curves. I have just one bike light which works just fine for me. I usually attach it to my clothing and don't have a problem. The scariest part is hearing the horror stories of riders being attacked on the path at night or when the sun isn't up. But for the most part, if you go in the morning before dawn, there isn't much traffic at all, if you go at night, you'll find the traffic to be much heavier, but generally riders proceed with caution.
I ride the path everynight and have ridden it at all times of the day. Since I ride it that much like J said I have memmorized the hazards. In my opinion the most hazardous parts of the path are;
-Between Fullerton and Addison. Its very poorly illuminated and the S curve just to he North of Fullerton is a crash waiting to happen for the uninitiated.
-The path construction right by the Aquarium, I usually take the East Ramp with the steep inclines, its well lit but when you are shooting down that ramp doing 25+ you can get airborne at times done it before so don't be afraid to hit the brakes...
-Pretty much the whole area between Burnham Harbor and 55th is poorly lit.
Once again I ride a lot at night and use no front lights mostly due to the fact that I hate it when the flashing headlinght is directed right into my eye it literally blinds me until the biker passes and also your night vision suffers for about 5-10 minutes after seeing such a bright white light...So either aim those headlights low or turn them off at the path unless you are totally blind...Just my 2 cents...
I have heard that the section by Oak Street beach becomes quite the hazard. There is a pretty steep grade sloping from the stairs to the water with no protection. So imagine one of those days where it warms up and the snow melts and refreezes...it's like an ice slide right to the lake. I've read about a few people falling in with their bikes. So if I were you, I'd avoid that stretch on icy days ;o)
Its a really great question Julie! Since I moved down to Hyde Park, I ride the path more than any other route to get around. I ride alone, often late at night, and wonder if it is safe enough for me as a woman to be riding. My lights on my bike are a necessity for those darker patches. I notice that there are signs that say the path closes at 11 pm, but there is almost always a handful of people to be seen 'hanging out' at all hours of the night. I've asked around to a few other hyde park girls if they thought the path was safe to ride alone at night, they all gave the thumbs up. However, one included that she has heard of people jumping out from bushes and scarying cyclists, aka boogiemen. Second hand info aside, just ride fast and keep your alertness up.
As for winter, yah, it gets really icy. Beautiful and Peaceful, but icy. The city takes much better care of the streets (and bike lanes) than it does the path.
Oh yeah, one last thing. I never spend much on lights. That way, if they break/get stolen/get lost/have an obscure battery type, its not the biggest loss on my wallet or heart.
(Illegal fire late night on Lake Shore Path in April.)
Ive gotta say the lake path is the worst riding in chicago(in my opinion of course) i would never really recommend anyone to ride it. The lighting is poor, in the summer its highly congested with too many varied type of travelers from slow walkers to high speed cycles, it never takes me where i need to go, in the winter it gets very little care compared to roads, there is no sheilding from the wind with buildings, and since youre right on the lake sometimes very icy in winter from wave action(haha yes waves in chicago it happens). ive never seen anyone jumping out but that sure doesnt help!
At night on the LSD bike path you must have some kind of lights for the safety of others. More than once I had been surprised by a cyclists in the middle of the traffic lane without any lights stopped and straddling the bike adjusting something or other. At certain places oncoming cyclists are almost impossible to see and if you are both really moving it, the closing speed is something more common to motor vehicles. So it is not only a matter of your safety, but that of others. Please think of it this way and help us all out.
Like what Suzanne and David said, be careful. Lights are one thing but it seems like every couple of months (mostly during summertime) I read about somebody getting jacked. You ought to be aware of how isolated parts of the LST can be from the rest of the city.