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updated: 4/30/2014 7:10 AM

Lake Arlington path changes start with new season

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  • Norma Alfaro of Arlington Heights and her son Alex, 14, walk around Lake Arlington in summer 2013.

      Norma Alfaro of Arlington Heights and her son Alex, 14, walk around Lake Arlington in summer 2013.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer


Permanent changes have been made to the path around Lake Arlington in Arlington Heights in response to concerns brought up by residents after last year's deadly pedestrian vs. bicycle accident.

Following the death of Barbara Pagano -- a 74-year-old woman walking around Lake Arlington who was accidentally hit by an 11-year-old bicyclist -- the park district implemented an interim park plan that separates walkers and joggers from cyclists on the mixed used path.

According to park district officials, when the boat house opens at Lake Arlington on Thursday, May 1, bikers and walkers will still be separated on the lakefront path.

Bicycles and other wheeled users are required to use the outside lane and to travel in a counter clockwise direction every day, according to a news release sent by the park district.

The inside lane of the path is reserved for pedestrians, runners, strollers and wheelchairs traveling in either direction.

During the interim plan, pedestrians and runners were required to travel in the opposite direction of bikes and other wheeled users.

At a community meeting in October, however, several families argued that this limited families from enjoying the path together -- as young children ride their bikes and parents walk or jog alongside.

Park district officials said they took resident opinions seriously in planning changes.

"Knowing the level of interest in the community about path usage at Lake Arlington, we decided the best way to get input ... was to give everybody a chance to submit their own ideas," said Alann Petersen, director of parks and planning, in a release.

"The changes being implemented this season were heavily influenced by all of the input we received."

According to a survey done by the park district, the majority of path users at Lake Arlington are walkers, followed by joggers and runners, Bikers and in-line skaters are also representative of the average path user.

"The average path user at Lake Arlington visits daily and there is no one particular time of day," said Brian Meyer, director of recreation and facilities, in the release.

He said the path is used from dawn to dusk, especially in the summer.

"What we heard was that the majority of users prefer the interim path modifications over the original-use plan."

Before the accident, both lanes of the path moved in one direction and users were expected to share the path safely. Pagano's accident occurred when a young bicyclist on a field trip swerved to avoid her. The cyclist behind did not have time to stop, and hit her from behind.

Pagano hit her head and died at Northwest Community Hospital a few days later.

Officials will continue to monitor the modifications to the path and take feedback from residents, while looking for grants for future enhancements, the release said.

The path at Lake Arlington was originally built with grant money to be used for bikers. A large $36 million referendum, which was rejected by voters in 2012, would have included money for a separate path for walkers and joggers.

Officials said education is still the key to being safe on the path.

"Bicyclists, both adults and children, are encouraged to be aware of safe riding techniques, observe the rules of the path and follow the 8 mph speed limit," the release said.

The park district will host a Launch, Walk & Roll event, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, to educate visitors about the pathway changes. There will be giveaways and demos from Elite Athletic Development, Runners High N' Tri, Mount Prospect Bike Club, Wheeling Wheelmen Bike Club, Trotters of Arlington Heights, Angler's International Resources, Village Cycle Sport and more.

The event is free and no registration is required.

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