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posted: 6/11/2014 5:01 AM

Editorial: Creating a bike culture in the suburbs

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  • Bev Horne/bhorne@dailyherald.comForest Preserve Commissioner Shannon Burns makes her way across Butterfield Road in Warrenville recently as part of her two-day bike ride around DuPage County to raise awareness the county's extensive trail system.

      Bev Horne/bhorne@dailyherald.comForest Preserve Commissioner Shannon Burns makes her way across Butterfield Road in Warrenville recently as part of her two-day bike ride around DuPage County to raise awareness the county's extensive trail system.

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Will the suburbs change from a car-dominated culture anytime soon? Highly unlikely.

But suburban officials can make significant changes to accommodate and encourage the use of bicycles, moves that we support.

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As Daily Herald Transportation Writer Marni Pyke reported Monday, the Active Transportation Alliance is offering free help to municipalities interested in creating safe havens for the average cyclist.

"We want to help the suburbs develop next-generation bike facilities that accommodate the average person," said ATA Executive Director Ron Burke. "We're looking for towns that embrace our goals."

Given efforts already under way in many communities served by the Daily Herald, it's likely they'll find some takers. And it can't be soon enough, as cars continue to dominate suburban roadways, making it tough and dangerous for bicyclists.

According to Burke's group, registered vehicles jumped by 3 million in Illinois between 1982 and 2012. The average person, not an avid cyclist, is "afraid of getting hit by a car or their kids being hit by a car," Burke said.

What can be done? Look to Batavia as one forward-thinking suburb. The village is installing flashing beacons at key streets along routes 31 and 25, using money from a federal grant. It also has implemented a traffic-calming technique on one of its streets to slow cars and make the street more bicycle friendly.

Just Monday night, Barrington announced a series of projects aimed at encouraging residents to use their bikes, including improving bike signs, painting bicycle shared lane markings and simply putting more bike racks around town.

"Once they park their bikes, they are walking and that's a good thing for all of the businesses," said Trustee Pete Douglas.

Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Hoffman Estates, Mount Prospect, Palatine and Wheeling also are working to improve bicycle and pedestrian transportation networks.

"It seems to me like not just in Hoffman Estates but in the larger metropolitan area, there is an increase in people walking and biking," said Mike Hankey, that village's transportation director.

"We want to coordinate with other communities so these paths go somewhere," Arlington Heights Village Manager Bill Dixon said last week. "Our bike paths now are primarily focused on recreation, which is wonderful, but more and more bikes are being looked at as a form of transportation."

Indeed, they are and should be. As we said, cars will most likely always trump other forms of transportation in Chicago's suburbs, but encouraging residents to use their bikes on a regular basis is good for exercise, good for family time, good for the environment.

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