Editorial: Arlington Heights proposal a good step toward more walkable, bikeable suburbs
If "Footloose" actor Kevin Bacon can't walk across Arlington Heights Road, who can?
To hear Village Manager Randy Recklaus tell it, Bacon has a difficult time dodging traffic on Arlington Heights Road to get from his hotel to Mitsuwa Marketplace while he's in town for Bacon Brothers shows at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre.
The tale adds a bit of color to Arlington Heights' effort to make the south end of the village less perilous for walkers and bicyclists and more inviting for everyone.
The focus is on Arlington Heights Road roughly between the Jane Addams Tollway and Golf Road, which, incidentally, includes Daily Herald offices. We support Arlington Heights' effort because we know the problem well, with eight- to 10-lane roads forming formidable barriers for pedestrians and harrowing commutes for those who bike to work. But it's not just our location that makes us care about the issue. The problems identified in Arlington Heights mirror what's going on across the area, and the proposed remedies could be a test case for other towns.
Every week in the suburbs, on average, at least one driver strikes and kills a cyclist or pedestrian, Marni Pyke reported last year in her series, "Perilous Passages." In December, Daily Herald journalists tested 49 crosswalks across the suburbs and found drivers oblivious to pedestrians trying to cross, in spite of a law requiring vehicles to stop.
The Arlington Heights plan calls for a "road diet" -- calming traffic with tactics like installing landscaped medians in place of center dual turn lanes and second left-turn lanes, installing another traffic signal on Arlington Heights Road north of Algonquin Road; and widening crosswalks and adding stamped, colored concrete to them so drivers have a strong visual prompt to expect pedestrians.
Though it's not part of the South Arlington Heights Road Corridor Plan, a pedestrian bridge over Arlington Heights should be considered, several trustees say.
The village is counting on some zoning and landscaping changes to add amenities and visual appeal. Arlington Heights trustees have endorsed the plan, which follows discussions two years ago with operators of seven hotels in the area.
Meanwhile, village leaders shouldn't give up on seeking ways to make it safer to walk and bike under the Jane Addams Expressway, even though the recent tollway reconstruction project failed to address the issue.
The chaotic traffic from the tollway ramps, as well as the difficulties of navigating the underpass itself, are nearly impenetrable obstacles keeping walkers and bicyclists in south central Arlington Heights from the trail system of Busse Woods -- a forest preserve they can see, but not easily access except by car.