The Chainlink

I'm sharing a story as both a warning and a poll. I commute from Lakeview to River North and use the LFT for all of the north/south portion of my commute. This morning at about 6am (pitch black out) I got to the curve just south of Oak Street and stopped to survey the waves, which were relatively mild. I hesitantly decided I would go, so I rode very slowly while hugging the wall..the waves weren't coming up nearly that high though. About halfway through the curve, I realized the entire path was ice. Since the path is sloped towards the lake, after about 10-20 yards my bike slipped out from under me and I fell...the next couple seconds were the scariest of my life. Because the path was completely covered in ice and on a slant, I slid down towards the water, unable to stop myself. I knew that if I ended up in the water that it was all over. Keep in mind there were still waves coming up, and with all the ice I could see something or someone getting pulled back into the lake as the waves race back out. Thankfully, I stopped about halfway down the path, but I could barely get up because it was all ice. By chance I was on a crack in the pavement which had some divots in it, which I was able to use for grip as I crawled back up the icy slope towards the wall. I could still barely stand up even while against the wall, but I sloooowly walked back towards Oak Street and was fine but shaken up.

First, I feel like a fool for having chanced it. I've ridden that stretch probably 2,000 times and like many others I'm sure, have witnessed some potentially dangerous stuff on that same stretch due to lake conditions, mostly from people underestimating the conditions. Consider me scared straight. I'm normally very safety conscious so I keep wondering how I could've been so dumb to risk it at all. 

Second, am I crazy in thinking that this really is an insanely dangerous ~200 yard stretch of the LFT that needs addressing? It is the only portion of the path with no protection or barrier of any kind from the lake, which is at record high levels. There is are no breakwaters protecting that section, and the northern breakwater for the playpen is shaped so that the waves are actually funneled right into that curve, which is partially how the waves can get so large right there. Then there is the sheer ~10 foot wall meaning people are essentially trapped down way to scale it and not even a railing or anything. I can't begin to tell you how scary that wall was. And it's all sloped to the lake, where there is no breakwater and no shore. The whole thing is almost like a James Bond villain's death contraption, and I was almost the first casualty this morning. 

I wanted to warn people but also ask if I'm off base in thinking this is a potentially dangerous little stretch? I'm not sure if my story does justice to how terrifying my experience was. Extending the breakwater or elevating the path or putting in a railing along the wall seem like obvious improvements. Any feedback is appreciated. 

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Lake Shore Flood Advisory:
4-13-18, 3 p.m. to 4:15, 10 a.m.
Oak Street Curve Bike Path Warning.

I remember those even more unrideable days.

"For today,4-14-18 Saturday and Sunday 4-15-18:
* LAKE SHORE FLOODING...Strong northeast winds will result in waves of 10 to 16 ft.
* TIMING...Late tonight through Sunday morning.
* IMPACTS...Elevated lake levels and high waves will cause inundation of flood prone areas near the lake, including potentially areas of Lakeshore Drive north of the OAK STREET curve in Chicago as well as the LFT BIKE PATH.
* PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A Lakeshore Flood Advisory indicates that onshore winds will generate flooding of low areas along the lakeshore."
From The National Weather Service / Chicago

Another wonderful spring/winter weekend in Chicago.

That green fencing protectng the work has probably been washed away by the 18 foot waves and is now resting on the bottom of the lake near Gary, Indiana.

Ah, spring!

I walked through on Sunday and saw all sorts of damage from OAk the way up to North Ave. The asphalt tears up pretty easily.

The waves weren't this bad but a few people less lucky than me got a soaking on the curve:

Suggestion as a general guideline as to whether it's safe to ride this section of the trail: if there's a strong north or northeast wind (15-20+ mph, especially if it's been blowing for a while, giving waves time to build from the north end of Lake Michigan), then it's probably not safe.

It was rough-ish yesterday. I didn't notice any wind, but the lake was VERY wavy, and my feet got splashed. Surprised at how cold the water was NOT. :)

Didn't notice the wind?? It was pegging out of the north.

I'm glad you are okay. That is terrifying. I can relate. In early May a couple of years ago, I was taken down by a wave at that corner. I was riding 50 feet behind another rider and could see water up on the path. The rider in front of me cycled through a wave that washed up to just an inch or two of depth when it got to his bike. I decided to push through and watched as about a foot of water washed up on to the path. I was taken down and pulled down incline towards the lake, stopping when I hit the flat spot. They subsequently added a modest step, which I presume is intended to stop lesser waves, but it isn't enough. I agree with you that this section of the trail needs to be addressed.

If this isn't you then you're not the only one:


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