Why so many communities are adopting bike plans -- and how they benefit riders
"2023 is a turning point for bike plans," observes Ryan Peterson, senior planner at Epstein Global, a Chicago-based firm specializing in bicycle and pedestrian planning.
Numbers tell the story: Four adopted plans (Batavia, Cook County, Kane County, Libertyville), two pending approval (Glenview, St. Charles), plus plans on the horizon for 10 others, including a five-village plan in West Cook County.
Why so many now?
Jen Maddux, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning senior planner, suggests, "Residents in our region want it. Safety is high priority.
"Big part of the current traffic safety crisis is pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, increasing remarkably since 2020. Shifts in travel mode from the pandemic continue to show more people biking and walking," said Maddux.
"Additionally, Illinois Department of Transportation is currently pursuing its vulnerable road user assessment and statewide active transportation plan. We're not alone in pumping resources into safety and bike/planning -- it's a trend nationwide."
"Work from home arrangements have shifted recreational habits, leading to a stronger desire for more active transportation opportunities. Subsequently, communities are recognizing benefits of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure: Health-related advantages, economic development, overall improvements in residents' quality of life.
"Federal and state agencies are creating more funding opportunities to support these initiatives," Peterson notes, specifically 2021's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. To access these funds, explains Maddux, bike/pedestrian projects need to originate with a plan to ensure formal vetting via community engagement processes.
With plans in process, Chicago area suburbs are positioned to access this funding.
Batavia bikers and walkers
Following its 2007 bike plan, Batavia achieved several related bench marks: Batavia Bicycling Commission (2009), Bicycle Friendly Community status (2013) and Complete Streets Policy (2020).
Per biking advocate Abby Beck, Batavia's 5th Ward alderwoman, its newest Batavia Bike and Pedestrian Plan, approved last March, offers an even more active transportation focus, with key objectives engaging both bicyclists and pedestrians: increased connectivity, safety, and access to community resources.
City staff, Batavia Bicycle commissioners, and school, park and business representatives worked with consultants Ride Illinois, 2007 plan developer, and Active Transportation Alliance, bringing a pedestrian focus.
Identified projects spanning a decade assume an annual $300,000 city budget for sidewalk, bikeway and intersection improvements. Per Beck, this fall's 2024 budget discussion will address funding.
Estimates ranging from $34,000-$109,000 over 10 years provide for bikeway projects expanding the existing system of trails, side paths and bikeways to create a connected network and enhanced with marked/signed routes.
Sidewalk budget numbers ranging from $101,000-$149,000 support sidewalk installations on at least one side of each street and fill gaps to key destinations -- parks, schools and central business district.
Active Libertyville Commission
Organized in 2010 and reporting to Libertyville's Public Works committee, it coordinates community outreach and public education efforts, including annual Bike to School Day (May) and the upcoming Community Bike Ride, which rolls from 9-10:30 a.m. Sept. 10 from Adler Park, with 2.5- and 5-mile, self-paced routes around Independence Grove Lake. Ride registration is online.
Adopted by the village board of trustees May 9, the plan includes a Bike Network Phasing, Prioritization and Cost Estimates table. Tier 1 projects are lower cost and more likely programmed into the annual budget, while Tier 2 and 3 projects cost more and may require grant funding.
Plan proposals include 40 marked/shared lanes and just a single dedicated bike lane on Garfield Avenue, whose width allows for such inclusion, per Senior Project Engineer Harrison Meyer. As an older village, Libertyville has narrower rights of way on collector streets. To add dedicated lanes, older trees would have to be sacrificed for widening.
Recommendations also include about 9.5 miles of new side paths, some under village control, with others under county or state jurisdiction, with estimates ranging upward from $400,000.
Equity in Kane County
The Kane County Board approved the Kane County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan July 11, updating its original 2012 plan with three overarching objectives: Advance equity, improve connectivity and foster partnerships across Kane and north Kendall County.
Led by Kane County Division of Transportation with Epstein Global consulting, the plan recommends 370 miles of new bike facilities: Side paths and shared use paths (239 miles), bike lanes (28 miles) and paved roadway shoulders (79 miles). Proposals also list over 2,100 intersection improvements, including 650 marked crosswalks and over 1,400 curb ramps.
With equity as a plan focus, plan implementation will put over 64,000 more residents within 0.25 miles of a new biking facility, nearly 18,000 in poverty tracts and 26,500 in historically disadvantaged communities.
Jackie Forbes, executive director of Kane Kendall Council of Mayors and KDOT chief of Planning and Programming said, "The biggest impact will be having updated guidelines for bicycle and pedestrian facilities so our community partners have access to that information in one place."
Both KDOT and individual municipalities will implement biking/pedestrian projects.
More plans this fall
With consultant Civiltech Engineering, Inc., incorporating final comments, Chris Gottlieb, St. Charles Public Works Engineering manager, affirms, "We are close ... city council approval, probably in the September/October time frame" for its new bike/pedestrian plan, undertaken by Public Works, Community Development and Economic Development departments.
Last April's draft plan recommendation slides envision possible active transportation proposals: Designated bike lanes (5 miles), marked/shared lanes (17.5 miles) and side paths (12.5 miles), all under city jurisdiction. Per Gottlieb, some proposed roadway striping will already be completed by mid-September.
Implementation of the draft Glenview Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan will be coordinated through the Capital Improvement Program, according to Adriana Webb, Community Development, Engineering Division manager. With a 20-year vision of improvements, plan approval is expected this fall.
Proposed are 18 on-street bikeway and shared use path projects (about 35 miles), with connections to surrounding communities. Not surprisingly, several east-west routes dominate, since Glenview is situated between the Des Plaines River Trail (west) and Skokie Valley Trail (east).
Besides infrastructure improvements, recommendations include policies and programs to increase Glenview's bike/pedestrian friendliness: Bike parking guidelines for new developments, expanded Metra station parking, and wayfinding signage.
• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at email@example.com.