Forest Park’s designation as a Bronze Level Walk Friendly Community has been renewed for another five years. First awarded to the village in 2012, the designation has been renewed until 2022.

“I’m very proud of this Walk Friendly designation,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said. “I hope we can build upon it to become the gold standard of a pedestrian-friendly community one day.” 

The Walk Friendly Community program is sponsored by FedEx and operated by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center. The program is supported by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, a national clearinghouse on bicycling and walking, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Forest Park is ideal for pedestrians because we’re small and you can get from one end of town to the other in pretty short order,” Calderone said. “I really enjoy seeing the community on foot, walking their dogs or going for a jog.

“It’s not only a healthier lifestyle but it is also embraces the essence of being neighborly. Often you’ll see folks walking and waving at their neighbors or stopping to chat.”

“We are impressed with all that you are doing,” said Dan Gilenne of the Walk Friendly Community program in informing Forest Park of the award.

According to Village Administrator Tim Gillian, Forest Park is doing a lot and has been doing a lot for a long time.

“Forest Park has always been a Walk Friendly Community because of its compact size and geographic relationships to the CTA Blue Line and Green Line, as well as Metra train line,” he said.

Gillian noted Forest Park’s efforts to be walk friendly date back as early as 2000, when village officials stressed the importance of making the design of Madison Street between Desplaines and Harlem avenues more pedestrian-friendly and accessible.

“We were first in the area to provide bump outs at the intersections to make the distance shorter for a pedestrian to cross,” he explained. “That design feature also acted to slow traffic as it proceeded on Madison.  We carried those same elements onto the design of Jackson and Harvard.” 

The walk-friendly efforts continued when Forest Park passed a complete streets policy.

“In 2011 we adopted our complete streets policy and have been working toward making our town more pedestrian-friendly ever since,” Calderone said. “Where feasible, with each new roadway we now include narrowing of pedestrian crosswalks to make the crossing of our streets safer.”

“This policy dictates that whenever the village is doing a street project, it considers all forms of transportation in the design,” Gillian said. “That includes cars, bikes, pedestrians and wheelchairs.

“In our new project on Roosevelt Road, the final product will have several features that will make it easier for pedestrians to cross the busy roadway, including bump outs and safe zones in the middle.”

The effort began as part of a $145,000 grant Forest Park received from Cook County through its Model Communities program, which was an offshoot of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program, run by the county’s Department of Public Health and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Gillian also pointed to the addition of a sidewalk to complete a concrete path on south Desplaines to 22nd Street; a pending grant application to add a new sidewalk on Van Buren Street from Madison to the CTA station; and the last project on Madison west of Desplaines, which includes many of the pedestrian enhancements present elsewhere in the village.

“All the new crosswalks are completed in very exacting Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) specifications to make the intersections easier for disabled people to navigate,” he added. 

In addition, he said Forest Park has been “adamant” in discussions with IDOT revolving around the possible expansion of the Eisenhower Expressway that the crossings on Desplaines and Circle include a dedicated bike lane and much wider sidewalks.

“This project is still in the design phase but all drawings to date show these features as included,” Gillian said.

Forest Park is among 10 communities recognized in the latest round of Walk Friendly Communities announced last month. The Walk Friendly Community designation, awarded from bronze to platinum, is given to applicant communities that have demonstrated a commitment to improving and sustaining walkability and pedestrian safety through comprehensive programs, plans and policies. To date, 65 communities in the United States have been designated as Walk Friendly Communities.

Chicago and Evanston are the only other communities in Illinois to be designated.