[Image courtesy of www.bikecommuters.com.]
By John Greenfield
[This piece also runs in Time Out Chicago, www.timeoutchicago.com.]
Q: If Chicago’s parks and beaches are public property, then why can police kick people out at 11pm? Is there some sort of loophole that will let me use the parks after closing time?
A: The Chicago Park District’s legal code says beaches and parks are off-limits from 11 pm to 6 am, with exceptions made for events like the vampire-friendly L.A.T.E. Ride. “Those hours are set for the safety of patrons,” explains park district spokeswoman Marta Juaniza. To prevent drug dealing, prostitution and violent crime? “Whatever can happen in the dark,” Juaniza says.
Friends of the Parks’ Erma Tranter supports the curfew, noting New York has similar rules. “If there’s a basketball game going on after midnight, that’s a problem for people who need to sleep.” But if you want to use the Lakefront Trail for a late-night jog or to pedal home after last call, you’re in luck. Tranter says cops generally don’t ticket trail users. “They use common sense and don’t bother people who are recreating,” she says.
“Responsible users are not being hassled,” agrees Active Transportation Alliance’s Adolfo Hernandez, adding his group wants to see this de facto policy made official. “People rely on the Lakefront Trail for their commute during all hours of the day.”