Oak Park says it may be years before it adds north-south bike lanes

By Marty Stempniak

After years of delays, Oak Park finally added some east-west bicycle lanes on Division Street this year. But it could be years before the community gets any north-south routes to connect to Division, say village officials.

Oak Park completed a village-wide bicycle plan in 2008. Among the recommendations, the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation suggested that Oak Park add bike lanes and more bike storage space around town.

But as the economy tanked, money dried up, and many of the village’s ambitious plans to make Oak Park more “bike friendly” have gone unfulfilled. Earlier this year, though, the village board gave the staff the go-ahead to apply road markings on Division, as well as Augusta.

Now, as Oak Park is preparing its budget for 2012, officials are figuring out what features from the bike plan it wants to adopt next year. It’s unlikely that any lanes will be added in 2012 though. Some type of lane markings are slated for both Ridgeland and Oak Park Avenue, but village hall plans to wait until those streets are repaved in 2013 and 2019, respectively, according to Village Engineer Jim Budrick.

The bike plan also suggested that Oak Park add “bike boulevards,” geared more toward cyclists than motorists, on north-south streets such as Home and Lombard. That would go with proposed east-west boulevards on Lemoyne, Erie, Pleasant and Harvard.

Budrick said it’s possible those streets could see bike boulevards sooner because they’re locally controlled and could be changed more easily.

“We have more jurisdiction when we’re working on local streets,” he said. “When we start working on major streets like Ridgeland and Oak Park, those are federal highways, so we have a lot more hoops to jump through.”

Budrick said that Ellen McKenna, a civil engineer for the village and staff liaison to Oak Park’s Bike Plan Advisory Committee, is figuring out what parts of the bike plan the village wants to tackle next. McKenna could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Oak Parker Maryjo Flint, 55, was concerned when she recently heard that parking might be lost on Ridgeland for bike paths. She hopes the village does everything possible to communicate to residents when any upgrades might be coming down the pipeline.

Oak Park recently received a $250,000 grant from the federal government, which it’s using to install three sheltered bike parking stations around the village. They’ll be placed near the Green Line stop at North Boulevard and Marion, along with the Blue Line stations on East Avenue and Oak Park Avenue, Budrick said.

The stations cost about $30,000 apiece, while the extra costs are for engineering drawings, concrete pads and electrical work around them. Budrick expects the stations to be built near the Blue Line in 2013, and the Green Line in 2014.

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