Bicyclists to get new direction on Lake County paths

Results of a wayfinding study to enhance the experience and increase the use of bike trails in Lake County will be introduced today.

The Lake County Division of Transportation will host a virtual session from 6 to 7 p.m. live on its Facebook page to announce the findings. Participants will learn about the new "Explore Lake County" branding and strategies, see sign templates and give feedback on the results, which have been more than a year in progress.

Curious riders can get a preview, as signs have been installed along a three-mile test section of the North Shore Bike Path from Butterfield Road in Libertyville to St. Mary's Road in Green Oaks.

"We didn't want to delay the project any longer," said Matt Emde, principal engineer and project manager for the transportation department. Two maps on the test section serve as a kiosk for riders to orient themselves on the trail, including at the intersection with the Lake County Forest Preserve District's Des Plaines River Trail, which runs the length of Lake County from north to south.

There are hundreds of miles of trails in Lake County but no coordination among them. The intent of the wayfinding and sign system is to increase use by letting riders know their locations and how to find connections to trails and paths in other jurisdictions.

The process began in January 2019, when the Lake County Board authorized a $125,760 contract with Corbin Design Inc. of Traverse City, Michigan, for consulting and design services.

"I was really surprised at the amount of interest," Emde said. "We had over 600 responses to our survey. It's amazing how many offshoots and little trails," there are.

The Lake County Division of Transportation oversees more than 60 miles of off-street paths and on-street bike lanes. But the nonmotorized section of the Lake County 2040 Transportation Plan says there are more than 500 miles of off-street paths and on-street bicycle lanes throughout the county.

While the wayfaring signs are intended for LCDOT paths, the study was not done in a vacuum.

"We really wanted it to be a group effort," Emde said. "There was a lot of input to be gathered."

The Lake County Forest Preserve District, Libertyville Township and the villages of Libertyville, Grayslake, Lake Bluff, Highland Park, Mundelein, Gurnee, Fox Lake, for example, participated as stakeholders and a public open house was held last year. The forest preserve alone has about 200 miles of trails under its jurisdiction.

"They wanted to be inclusive, to make sure what they do will work for the various municipalities and forest preserves," said Randy Seebach, director of planning and land preservation for the forest preserve district.

"From my knowledge, it's a first attempt at looking at a systemwide approach," he added.

The county's 2040 transportation plan recommends another 300 miles of nonmotorized facilities as connections to Metra stations, bus routes, communities, jobs, parks, schools and forest preserves.

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This is a close-up of one of the new wayfaring signs on a test section of the North Shore Bike Path in Libertyville. Courtesy of Lake County Division of Transportation
This sign has been installed by the Lake County Division of Transportation on a section of its North Shore Bike Path between Libertyville and Green Oaks. The "wayfinding" system eventually will be used the agency's 60-plus miles of trails. Courtesy of Lake County Division of Transportation
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