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updated: 7/19/2011 5:05 AM

Palatine approves bicycle transportation plan

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After years of wishing and months of planning, Palatine finally has approved a bicycle transportation plan that aims to make the village friendlier to one of America's favorite recreational pastimes.

"It's been a long road," Wayne Mikes of Mikes Bike Shop said Monday following the council's unanimous vote. "We have an opportunity to make cycling easier for people."

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Mikes, along with other members of a task force, approached the village in early 2009 about crafting a plan. The 44-page document examines the types of facilities that can help and encourage people to use bikes for safe and pleasant transportation and recreation.

A reflection of extensive public input including meetings and surveys, the plan also recommends a mixture of on-road bikeways and off-road "side paths" and trails to provide a network of bicycle routes linking the various areas in and around Palatine.

While the plan doesn't discuss implementation or funding, the idea is that future construction from sidewalks to signage will take the blueprint into account. There are low-cost recommendations such as installing bike sensors at traffic lights and requiring new retailers to have bike racks.

Having a detailed plan also makes the village eligible for numerous bicycle-related grants, Palatine Director of Community Services Harry Spila said.

Mikes said that from a personal standpoint, he's most excited about the recommendation to install dedicated bike lanes along Illinois Avenue, which he sees as a key connector between a system of trails to the south and east. And to the west in Inverness, Mikes will soon meet with Village President Jack Tatooles, who has expressed interest in creating a similar plan for that community.

Palatine Councilman Aaron Del Mar said he's most interested in making sure some sort of bike trail is included along the stretch of Quentin Road slated for expansion -- if Cook County and the forest preserve district can agree on the extent of the project. He said it's important to make sure pedestrians and cyclists have increased access to the adjacent Deer Grove Forest Preserve.

"That's a major piece of this whole puzzle," Del Mar said.

Spila said he's excited about the project because in addition to health benefits, an improved network of bike paths is proven to increase a community's quality of life, better meet the transportation needs of many people and attract tourism and new business.

The Palatine Park District recently approved the plan.

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