By Ron Burke
As a 20-year resident of Oak Park, I’m excited to share a number of changes coming to Oak Park that will improve conditions for biking and walking. A few weeks ago, the village board approved the Oak Park Neighborhood Greenways system as an addendum to its 2008 bike plan. Elements of the 2008 bike plan have already been adopted, such as significantly more and better bike parking near transit stations, bike lanes, wayfinding signs and creating a village government bike fleet.
Despite these improvements, many people tell me they are afraid to ride in Oak Park when they have to deal with high traffic and high-speed streets, even if those streets are marked with a typical bike lane.
We know from surveys that most people feel this way, and that is the inspiration for Oak Park’s Neighborhood Greenways, which will bea network of bike and walk priority streets that exists solely on side streetswhere the average person is more comfortable biking and walking.
The Greenways plan calls for marking these streets with advisory bike lanes, deploying traffic calming strategies and adding intersection treatments where the network crosses busy streets that don’t currently have a stop sign or traffic light for oncoming traffic.
The goal is to allow people to safely walk or bike all around Oak Park on calm, low stress streets -- without having to use high traffic streets. Oak Park is the among first communities in Illinois to adopt a comprehensive list of tools and recommendations for Neighborhood Greenways design. Now, we need to get the system built, and we’ll keep an eye on the village’s budget for this!
The expansion of Oak Park’s bike network is nicely tied to the expansion of Divvy bike-sharing program to Oak Park, scheduled for next summer. Divvy has been wildly popular in Chicago, logging up to 25,000 trips per day and introducing tens of thousands of locals and tourists alike to urban cycling. Oak Park and Evanston will be the first Chicago suburbs to get bike sharing!
Active Trans (Active Transportation Alliance) was pegged by Oak Park to help identify locations for the first 12 Divvy stations. We recommended 12 locations with a 13th wild card, which will provide good coverage for the first phase of the program. A second phase of stations would be needed to fill in the gaps.
Check out our report on Divvy locations and the Greenways System, and you can read a story about it published on the Chicago Tribune website as well. Hats off to outstanding Senior Transportation Planner Heather Schady for her work on this!
More exciting news! The founders of Green Line Wheels have tapped Active Trans to manage the organization beginning in August. Greenline Wheels is located in Oak Park at 105 S. Marion and was founded in 2010 by a local family seeking to elevate the bike friendliness of the Oak Park/River Forest community.
Green Line Wheels currently provides bike education programs, bike rentals and tours, winter bicycle training and merchandise sales. For years, Active Trans has partnered with Green Line Wheels to do on-bike education at local elementary schools, andwe’re excited to team up with Green Line Wheels in bigger and better ways going forward.
Ron Burke is Executive Director of Active Transportation Alliance. This article is reprinted with permission.