Update on Weber trail; hub sought for users of area trails
by BRIAN NADIG
Delays in building the Weber Spur bike trail and the need for a gathering hub for the users of area trails were discussed at the “39th Ward Trails and Bikeways” workshop on May 25.
About 75 people attended the workshop at the Gompers Park fieldhouse, 4222 W. Foster Ave. Alderman Margaret Laurino and the Active Transportation Alliance sponsored it.
Laurino reported that the Weber trail would serve as “a junction,” leading to the Sauganash and North Branch trails. Plans call for the Weber trail to start at Sunnyside and Cicero avenues and go in a northeasterly direction through Mayfair and Sauganash and then continuing through the north suburbs.
City officials have said that negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad to sell the land for the city’s portion of the Weber trail have been slow. Lincolnwood already has acquired the land it needs for the trail.
City Department of Transportation planner Keith Privett asked residents to “be patient” and said that it is not unusual for these types of negotiations to take time. “The railroads are very cautious for safety,” he said. “It will be great when we get there.”
Residents at the meeting reported that nearly all of the tracks for the former Weber railway line have been removed.
Several residents at the meeting said that a hub should be created in Mayfair where bicyclists can gather and park their cars given the network of trails in the area.
One recommendation called for a portion of a planned retail center on the former Sunstar industrial site, 4635 W. Foster Ave., be used as a hub, as bicyclists would patronize restaurants and stores there. Plans for the redevelopment of the 9-acre parcel are expected to be announced later this year.
It also was recommended that the area’s trails be promoted in a way which would bring visitors to cultural attractions and businesses on the Northwest Side. A resident said that it is “fun to bike and get lost” at the North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski Road.
North Mayfair Improvement Association president Jim O’Reilly urged workshop attendees to get involved with the newly formed North Branch Trail Alliance, which is studying ways that area trails can facilitate economic growth.
The alliance is holding a bike ride promoting businesses near the North Branch Trail on Saturday, June 24.
Also at the meeting, concerns were raised about the difficulty of riding bikes from the Northwest Side to the Lakefront. While Lawrence has bike lanes, several residents said that the street is too congested and that they prefer using side streets such as Wilson Avenue.
Several residents also said that when choosing a diagonal street to reach Downtown, Elston Avenue is a better option than Milwaukee Avenue in part because there are no CTA bus routes on Elston. They said that the movement of buses from the curb back into traffic creates an additional hazard.
Alliance trail advocacy manager Steve Simmons discussed an initiative to create a contiguous 27-mile trail along the Chicago River.
Simmons said that the trail would greatly increase access to the city’s diverse neighborhoods and that in some areas the trail would have to detour away from the river because homes back up to the river.
Laurino announced that work on second phase of the southern extension of the North Branch trail is scheduled to be completed by mid-August. The second phase takes the trail from Forest Glen Woods to LaBagh Woods.