The Chainlink

Careful with physical distancing on forest preserve trails, we don't want the districts to shut them down to people


Cyclists are on the radar of the Cook County Forest Preserve teams for not following physical distancing on the trails. They have had observers out this week and are saying that everyone is struggling to follow the distancing and that cyclists have been the worse recent offenders not giving people enough space as possible.  

They really want to keep the trails and forest preserves open for us all, including for people that are in unsafe home situations to have somewhere to go and for those that need it for their health/wellbeing. 

Please do your part and go slowly and pass people with as much space as possible for the sake of all of our wellbeing.

Thank you! 

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Thanks for the reminder. I was on the NBT yesterday evening and appreciate it.

I was on the Major Taylor Trail today. The trail wasn't crowded. I encountered a few dozen people over a few miles, mostly 1 or 2 at a time. The vast majority of people did great at social distancing, and it was easy enough to go off the trail for the few exceptions.

Two clueless doofuses were walking next to each other, one of them right on the centerline. They clearly saw me but did not move over at all. I rolled off onto the grass to allow a few extra feet of space. The only other problem situation was a family with little kids on tiny bikes. As is usually the case with kids that small, they were all over the place. I stopped and went a few feet off the trail, waiting until they passed. 

If I was overtaking someone, or I wasn't sure that they saw me, I rang my bell, and each of us moved to a safe distance. Many of them thanked me.

I tweeted about the trail not being crowded and people generally doing a good job, tagging @fpdcc. Their response: "Thank you for sharing. Please call 708-771-1000 to report crowded conditions or groups gathering (if you see them) & FPDCC police will dispatch someone to check it out." 

I was out at Caldwell Woods this morning with my kid and dog. We were walking and exploring mostly off trail along the river where it wasn't muddy. It was really nice to get out and enjoy some fresh air and nature.

The North Branch Trail itself was busy, but I wouldn't describe it as crowded. Everyone was doing a good job to maintain distance. It's pretty difficult for people to pass each other on the trail and maintain 6' between them. I hope the observers are focusing more on preventing group rides/runs and larger gatherings in the picnic groves, etc rather than harassing solo runners or cyclists over their passing distances. There seemed to be more families with kids and dogs than normal, which makes sense. The few hardcore cyclists I saw were being really respectful, slowing down, announcing their presence, etc. I think everyone is trying to do their best while sharing a narrow trail.

There was a Cook County Sheriff sitting in his car at the top of the hill near the parking lot, observing the area and occasionally "reminding" people over his car loudspeaker to keep their dogs on leash. The parking lot at Milwaukee/Devon was also about 1/2 full at 9am. It wouldn't surprise me at all if that lot gets closed down later today as it warms up and gets busy. 

I got a smile out of hearing the little girl, maybe 5 or so, who said to her mom as I passed within earshot, "I'm following the pandemic rules!"

Without trying to sound combative, it seems that the Forest Preserve officials have an anti-bike bent. I would ask how you come to know what "they" are observing.  If you're privy to Forest Preserve officials, I would ask that the observers observe more closely. 

I was biking on the N. Branch and Skokie Valley trails yesterday and it was indeed very busy due to the rare full sunshine and Sunday afternoon timefame. From my perspective, the worst offenders were the stroller sets and dog walkers who always seem to stop and chat right on the yellow dividing line of the trail, completely oblivious to the fact that bicycles might be coming along at any moment.

The second worst offender group was the runners, who like to run just inside of the yellow line so a passing cyclist has to wait to time their pass without running into a trail user coming in the opposite direction.

"Use a bell or announce your intention to pass" you may be saying to yourself and me through the keyboard.  I have a bell and used it prodigiously but only about 5% of the runners moved over to the right side of the lane because they are all wearing airpods and can't hear the outside world.

There were many people on bikes but I would say it was unilaterally "regular" people, not any road group doing a training ride, so speed and unsafe passing practices can't have been a legitimate concern.  This unfortunately smells like a slam piece.

I've been riding the NBT and SVT in the mornings in lieu of my daily commute.   I am out early in the morning (6:30am) and am able to get in 18 miles before I need to start work at 8:00am.   Some mornings there are more deer on the trail than people.   Runners, walkers, dog walkers, and cyclists have all been cool at that time in the morning.   When out on the NBT in the mid morning or afternoon it is considerably busier with more variable behaviors though most people are considerate and observe social distancing.   Cyclists are not the worst offenders of social distancing protocols.   Peds in groups of two or more walking abreast of each other are the biggest problem that I have observed.   If you are looking to regular rides to maintain sanity during this time I would recommend early morning rides.

Last Friday the weather was very nice in the  mid afternoon.  My bride and I took a stroll from the far south end of the NBT after ordering  from  the carhop at  Superdawg and liberally using sanitizing products. The carhop wore gloves and let  me insert my credit card into a device to pay. They were well trained. 

On the path  there were a lot of people out and  age was the major  criterion  in  awareness of distance.  There were many people under the age of 25 in  small  groups including some guy who was leading a workout on the hill with three students who were all bunched together.  People over 60 all had  masks and all  shied away from  other  people.  Those  between 25 and 60 were generally unmasked but in their  own  zones without being too close to one another.  The cyclists seemed more  aware of  distancing themselves than the  pedestrians on  that day. It  may be because there were too many pedestrians for the cyclists to  zip by. Cyclists had to be slow and mindful.


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