Bicycle-friendly Wilmette improvements still on village radar

Michel Legere, of Quebec, and Susan Reed, of Wilmette, discuss a Bacchetta bike, during the annual Bike Expo at the Wilmette Public Library, on Saturday, May 7, 2011. | File
Michel Legere, of Quebec, and Susan Reed, of Wilmette, discuss a Bacchetta bike, during the annual Bike Expo at the Wilmette Public Library, on Saturday, May 7, 2011. | File

In June, members of the Wilmette Village Board’s municipal services committee planned to talk with local bicycle advocates about ways the village can become even more bike-friendly.

For instance, the board could pass an ordinance that holds the village to considering all forms of transportation when it looks at new street projects.

An unexpectedly busy meeting agenda meant the conversation didn’t take place, but committee members are still open to considering a “complete streets” ordinance, village staff members said – as long as the advocacy group can supply examples of how it might be written.

“Eventually we hope to have them back for a meeting. In the meantime, my take is that the committee is generally in favor of making Wilmette open to multi-modal access,” village Engineering Director Brigitte Berger said July 22. “If they don’t mind doing the research, the committee and staff are absolutely open to looking at it.”

Ken Obel, a spokesman for the Wilmette Citizens for Active Transportation, said his group will be “very glad” to put together a package of potential ordinance frameworks, since other area communities have passed similar ordinances.

“There’s no shortage of templates,” he said July 22.

Convincing village elected officials to adopt a complete streets policy, and implement it through an ordinance, would be what Obel called an important first step in making Wilmette even more bike friendly than it currently is, he said.

That’s the message Obel and other WCAT members brought to village trustees in April, when they told board members they had applied to the nationally-based League of American Bicyclists to have Wilmette recognized as an official bicycle friendly community through the league’s Bicycle Friendly America program.

At the time, Village President Bob Bielinski routed the WCAT presentation to the municipal services committee, the group didn’t know how well it would do with its presentation, although Obel said at the time it was hoping to reach honorable mention status.

This week, WCAT learned its application had done just that, member Tim Perry said July 21. According to feedback from program administrators, Wilmette needs to put an ordinance into place, in order to merit a higher designation – such as a bronze, silver or gold classification – when it reapplies to the program, he told members of Wilmette’s Environmental and Energy Commission.

A complete streets policy, in the words of an application feedback report WCAT received from the league, means that communities direct engineers and planners to make every street network transportation project “better and safer for drivers, transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The state has a complete streets policy Evanston and Chicago have enacted complete streets legislation, and have won silver designations from the Bicycle Friendly America program, Perry said. In the most recent award cycle, Edina, Minnesota won a bronze designation, “and I consider that comparable to us,” he added.

Both Perry and Obel emphasized that cementing a complete streets policy is only a first step toward winning a higher Bicycle Friendly America program designation – and toward making the village truly bicycle friendly.

Adding more bicycle racks in the village, especially downtown, and developing more education programs for adult bicyclists would be examples of what Perry called “low hanging fruit” to make further progress on various fronts of the program: enforcement, education, engineering, among others.

No date has been set to call WCAT members back to the municipal services committee Berger said. John Adler, head of the community development department told environmental and energy commission members he hoped it would happen in the next 60 days.

WHEEL APPEAL

WHAT: Complete streets policy

GOAL: transportation for more than cars

FANS: Wilmette Citizens for Active Transportation

To view a presentation by Wilmette Citizens for Active Transporation, visit http://prezi.com/7l8drorgriec/wilmette-citizens-for-active-transportation/

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