Homewood gives cyclists more reasons to pedal
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org August 8, 2012 7:00PM
Lu Ruffolo, from Western Remac Inc., installs a bike route sign on Maple Street near the intersection of Ashland Avenue part of the village bike plan in Homewood, Illinois, Thursday, July 26, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:04AM
New stripes and signs have become part of Homewood’s streets this summer, making the roadways safer and easier for cyclists.
The village implemented its five-year-old bicycle plan recently as it tries to create a bike-riding culture.
While the detailed plan covers near, short- and long-term improvements to make cycling more fun and attractive, the village initially is nearing completion on the more affordable, near-term measures with the help of a $114,000 federal grant.
“In the best communities to live and work, a walk or a bike ride isn’t a 20-minute drive away. It’s right out your front door,” Homewood resident Steve Buchtel, executive director of Trails for Illinois said. “If quality of life matters to your family or business, Homewood’s bike plan puts us on your map.”
A few miles of shared lanes and dedicated five-foot wide bike lanes have been installed along high-traffic segments of Dixie Highway, Ashland Avenue, Park Avenue and Ridge Road. Signs are up designating bike routes and directing riders to destination points.
To further encourage Homewood riders to commute by bike, 50 bicycle racks are being placed throughout the downtown area, shopping areas, public agencies, schools and parks.
“It’s all about replacing your car trips to the library, to Starbucks, to Walts,” Buchtel said.
With these simple improvements, Buchtel figures Homewood could double the number of its bicyclists — from 1 percent to 2 percent. While he acknowledged it’s easy to double such a low number, he also predicts that within three years, 5 percent of all such trips will be by bike.
“You will see a cyclist no matter where you are going and that is exciting,” Buchtel said. Cycling then becomes more accepted and is seen as a transportation choice.
“If you make it fun, people will change,” he said.
And with these improvements, Homewood is making cycling fun as well as safe.
Buchtel believes people want to be active and be outdoors and will seek out communities that offer these opportunities, which in turn, will spur economic development. The addition of bike racks also increases parking in the shopping areas, he said.
“There is intense competition among suburban towns for sales tax revenue,” Buchtel said. “This positions Homewood to compete with Batavia and Oak Park.”
Homewood was in the right place at the right time to secure grant funding for bike trail improvements, he said. In the future, less such funding will be available.
Village manager Jim Marino said the village is not seeking additional grant money at this time but will be reassessing and modifying its bike plan. Some of the planned improvements in the five-year-old plan had to be scaled back per the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The village hopes to promote the use of the new trails with special events.