Forest Park officials are hoping financial assistance from the state of Illinois will help them make the village friendlier to bicyclists.

The village council, Nov. 27, unanimously approved application for a $227,101 Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant to establish four on-street bicycle routes. The total cost of the project, called the Forest Park Bikeways Project, would be $283,780, of which the village would provide $56,770.

The bicycle routes would be established by utilizing pavement markings and signage on Circle Avenue from Harlem Avenue to 16th Street; Jackson Boulevard from Harlem to Desplaines Avenue; Harvard Street from Harlem to Desplaines; and Van Buren Street from the Illinois Prairie Path to Desplaines. Village officials describe the four streets targeted for the proposed routes as “minor arterials” with low traffic.

The project also includes installation of 10 bicycle parking facilities, two on Van Buren and eight on Circle.

Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the pavement markings and signage would be similar to that on Jackson going into Oak Park.

“Like many other communities, we want to continue, where possible, bicycle strategies and this will be one of those efforts,” Mayor Anthony Calderone explained.  “We have to take it where we can find it and integrate it into our roadways.”

He acknowledged that the project would not provide completely separate bicycle lanes.

“With our narrow streets, it’s really hard to provide the separation between bicycle traffic and vehicle traffic that’s seen in other communities,” he said.

In the grant application, village officials said the project would improve safety for bicyclists by providing a safe, dedicated bicycle route or shared lane. The proposed pavement markings and signage would alert motorists about shared roadway responsibility, increasing awareness, they added.

Gillian said the grant applications are due Feb. 1 with announcement of awards expected in three to six months. If the village is not successful in obtaining the grant, the project will be tabled until another grant opportunity presents itself, he added.

Village officials said the streets chosen for the bicycle routes are in central locations and connect the village’s east, west, north and south boundaries. The proposed bicycle routes would connect with existing bicycle facilities such as the Illinois Prairie Path on the west side of the village and proposed bicycle facilities such as bicycle lanes under the Eisenhower Expressway expansion project.

In the grant application, village officials note that the proposed improvements are based on a report compiled by the Active Transportation Alliance, which analyzed bicycle facilities within the village for possible improvements. In the report, the alliance outlined the need for increased multi-model transportation facilities in the village.

In addition to providing bicyclists with a dedicated, safe path through the community and guide them to points of interest in the village, secondary benefits of the project include improved public health and decreased dependence on vehicular transportation. Village officials said local bicyclists describe the proposed routes as “comfortable” and “having good connections.” 

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