Towns work to encourage biking, walking

By David Brummel

Guest columnist

Automobiles and suburban living. Aside from apple pie and baseball, what's more American?

The DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference believes it's time to add two new elements to that mix - biking and walking.

That's why we're working with dozens of suburbs to accommodate more bicyclists and walkers and encourage residents to take advantage of trails throughout the county.

DuPage County boasts 531 miles of existing walkways and bike paths and has an additional 278 miles in the planning stages.

Long-awaited trail additions - between the Great Western Trail and Army Trail Road in Carol Stream, from the Illinois Prairie Path Geneva Spur to the West Branch regional trail in the DuPage County Forest Preserve, and along German Church Road in Burr Ridge - have connected and extended trail networks.

More important, new and safer routes are making it easier for less-frequent bike riders to ditch their cars to get to work and school, visit friends and family and run errands.

More and more, Suburbanites can walk or pedal from village to village without getting on a major highway. In fact, the planned Elgin-O'Hare Western Access project spans 17 miles, connects 19 communities and calls for a bike/pedestrian corridor that intersects both the North Central DuPage and Salt Creek regional trails.

What's changed? Biking and walking for recreational use has never been more popular. More municipal leaders are viewing bikes as forms of transportation and are incorporating safe and dedicated bike routes into their local planning, particularly with the help of grants that defray costs.

For example, the City of Warrenville's Strategic Plan includes provisions of a City Bikeway Implementation Plan created by its Bicyclist and Pedestrian Advisory Commission that identifies problematic areas and improvements within the city's infrastructure to create a more inviting, less stressful environment for bikers and walkers.

In addition, Elmhurst, Naperville, Schaumburg and Warrenville have received Bicycle Friendly Community designations while Bensenville, Lemont and Lombard have adopted Complete Street policies. Meanwhile, Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Wayne Township and Wheaton have designed active transportation plans.

Developed in partnership with the Active Transportation Alliance, Lombard adopted its first bicycle and pedestrian plan, which establishes a framework for a safe and accessible system of facilities that connect cyclists and pedestrians to public transit and other popular destinations while meeting residents' mobility needs, regardless of age or ability.

Finally, DMMC's Transportation Policy Committee is looking ahead and spearheading a multijurisdictional application to federally fund bicycle facilities, including bike racks, shelters and lockers aimed at luring commuters.

Efforts like these help attract new residents and companies to our communities.

We all know the benefits of bikes and walking. Gas consumption drops, congestion eases, air pollution decreases and physical activity gets a much-needed boost.

But these aren't your father's bike paths and walkways. These days, they go far beyond recreational use as more residents are discovering that leaving your car in the driveway will get you where you need to go.

David Brummel is mayor of Warrenville and president of the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference.

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