It has been a strong and steady effort, moving Forest Park from a typical car-first culture to a community that takes active steps to make walking the town easier, safer and more enjoyable.
True enough, Forest Park was built a century and more ago with the bones of a walkable town. Two el lines draw people and housing. The Metra is right there, too. The town is compact, the housing dense.
But until 2000, Forest Park was caught up in that post-war mode of engineering everything to speed cars through town, to accommodate more cars. More lanes, more parking lots. The Madison Street downtown reduced to second-hand shops and bars as slowing things down to encourage retail or dining on the street just weren't considered. Like most suburban burgs, Forest Park was not a town where walking or biking were encouraged.
It was with the total remaking and rethinking of Madison Street at the turn of this century that the conversion began. The street was simply two traffic lanes. There were well-marked and enforced pedestrian crossings. Curbs were bumped out at intersections to make crossing safer. Sidewalks were widened to allow people to gather, whether for a neighborly conversation or for dinner.
The efforts did not stop on Madison. A range of walk-friendly features have been spreading to the neighborhoods and the current remaking of Roosevelt Road includes components to tame that mighty mini-highway.
This week for the second time, Forest Park was recognized as a "Walk Friendly" town by a national organization that measures walkability. Well deserved.
This movement is good for making neighborhoods tighter and friendlier, it fosters good health, and it puts eyes on the street, which improves safety. In a moment when millennials may be rejecting our car culture in favor of ride sharing, bikes and a walk to the el, it also positions Forest Park as a great destination for younger residents and families who want to leave the city but have no interest in Lisle. God help us, Lisle.
PMSA ranks, East does not (yet)
Congratulations to the students, teachers and staff at Proviso's Math & Science Academy. Again this year, the select admission school based in Forest Park placed strong in rankings published by US News & World Report. In fact, the school moved up a notch from bronze to silver this year.
No doubt this is an accomplishment. And though we are always questioning of these ranking mechanisms, it is clear that good things are happening academically at PMSA.
As always, here's the challenge: What about Proviso East and Proviso West? They are "unranked" by US News. If you trust their methodology, here's a number that could not be more stark. At PMSA 70 percent of students are "ready for the next level." At East, less than 3 percent of students are "ready for the next level."
In a press release, the district calls the PMSA honor a "district-wide achievement." Optimists would call that aspirational.
Realists would say, good for PMSA but all the focus now is on East and West.