Mayor Lightfoot is putting her foot down and closing outdoor trails after this week’s warm weather saw massive crowds on the 606 and the lakefront.
Lightfoot announced she is closing the 606, some bike trails, the lakefront path, playgrounds and banning contact sports in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 and get people to stay home since some have not taken this measure seriously, she said.
Wednesday’s nice weather brought throngs to the 606 trail, which is narrow and difficult to practice social distancing. Even in earlier days and last week, the trail was extremely crowded. And while people want to get outside to stay sane and exercise during this pandemic, officials warn this is violating Pritzer’s stay at home order.
“In the last few days, we have seen crowds congregating at the lakefront and the 606, a blatant violation of the Stay at Home order,” Lightfoot said. “[This measure should] hammer home the reality to all of you who still have not gotten the message.”
Most people have done their part, she said, but clearly not everyone is following suit. Lightfoot said people can still go outside to get exercise but cannot hang out in large groups. The city has a map of bike trails that can be used if not too crowded. Reporter and Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield also created a low-stress bike map for those to check out.
“We are not saying you cannot exercise, we are saying you cannot congregate,” Lightfoot said. “It is going to create a risk that is unacceptable and could lead to death.”
You can still go for a walk, run or play outside with your dog but make sure not to congregate or be next to people. You can still walk through a park (even better if it’s empty) and get fresh air without coming close to people.
The closures are part of the city’s Stay Home, Save Lives initiative that is in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health, that is meant to put pressure on people who haven’t gotten the message yet. Lightfoot said she “won’t hesitate to take further action needed.”
“If we need to do more to enforce for those who have not gotten the message,” she will, the mayor said.
No congregating at neighborhood parks, playgrounds or playing contact sports, she said. This includes sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball and more, which many have played in Palmer Square Park, Humboldt Park and neighboring green space. People should not mass inland at other places, either, the mayor said.
The bold move might anger some but Lightfoot doesn’t care about that — she wants to make sure people listen.
“No congregation anywhere in the city of Chicago if you want to save your life,” she said. “Stay at home, period.”
Even after the announcement from the city, few people were seen on the 606 trail, according to people on Twitter.
However, this new measure puts the cycling community and those delivery bikers who bring you food more at risk and with less traveling options. Active Trans has called the closure of parks and trails, and fines and arrests for non-compliance with SD, inequitable, disproportionately impacting POC communities and vulnerable Chicagoans.
“The movement of people who are essential workers and others doing necessary travel must take priority during this unprecedented time,” wrote Kyle Whitehead, author of the op-ed. “Additional closures have the potential to disproportionately harm communities of color, where residents already have few options to safely go for a walk or ride a bike under social-distancing guidelines. City leaders must maintain access to spaces where people of color and other marginalized communities can spend time outdoors.”
Charlie Beck, interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, said he was shocked by the thousands of people on the lakefront trail Wednesday, doing things like biking, running, playing and more — all activities he loves but that should not be happening.
“Any time you enforce the law, you’re doing something that somebody will have a disagreement with,” Beck said. “But we are doing this for the public good.”
CPD will enforce the trail measures by citing and arresting people who are congregating in parks and not practicing the 6 feet rule. he didn’t share more details about this but said it’s already happened in the 11th District.
“Please don’t make one of those citations be yours,” Beck said.
Lightfoot stressed the importance of following the rules with a sobering fact: the city could see 40,000 hospitalizations — people who require acute care in a hospital setting. If New York and New Jersey has taught Illinois anything, it’s that the lack of following the rules could lead to breaking the hospital system.
“This will affect all of us or someone we know [and] break the back of our healthcare system if we don’t act decisively,” she said.
Featured photo: Ariel Parrella-Aureli