By Kristin Boza
Bike riding in an urban community is challenging; often, only the most experienced riders will even attempt to bike down a major thoroughfare like Western Avenue. However, promoting walkability and bikeability is essential to bringing even more traffic to small businesses in Beverly/Morgan Park — without the polluting effects of cars.
UrbanMain is one organization seeking to find ways to encourage walking and biking on Western through a grant to the Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association. Several local organizations, businesses and individuals are working on ideas to spur economic vitality in our community along Western Avenue.
Beverly/Morgan Park resident Anne Alt is committed to working with UrbanMain on initiatives to attract more bike and foot traffic and generate more ideas for businesses that can fill the low-activity gaps on Western.
“Part of the potential for this project is encouraging people to visit businesses on Western by walking or biking,” Alt said. “I’ve been working on ideas for better pedestrian and bike access, and event ideas for promoting non-car visits to businesses there. If we improve some crossings with treatments like median refuge island and curb bumpouts, that could encourage more people to visit destinations on Western without getting into cars. Businesses could serve more customers with less parking.”
While riding and walking down Western is great for local businesses, alternate routes are needed that keep biking families with young kids safe in transit. Alt recommends a few alternative bike routes that let families stretch their legs, get some much-needed fresh air and exercise, and avoid traffic and stay safe as much as possible while traveling to their destinations:
For east-west routes, 91st, 100th, and 109th Streets are quiet and easy for families to follow the rules of the road.
Wood, Hoyne and Bell are quieter north-south street alternatives to Longwood and Prospect.
Leavitt has stop signs and traffic lights which make is useful for crossing major streets, though it’s not ideal for little kids because of the amount of traffic it attracts, particularly between 94th and 99th Streets.
West of Western gets challenging, since many streets are one-way and change direction in inconvenient locations.
Above all, Alt stresses that families adhere to general bike safety rules, no matter what roads they travel on:
Ride with the flow of traffic. Drivers are not expecting people to be riding at them in their lane, particularly at intersections or driveways. This opens up the potential for accidents.
Use a mirror attached to handlebars, helmet or glasses to see what’s coming behind you. Don’t be shy — wave at cars coming up behind you to ensure they see you in their lane.
Use reflectors. While bike lights are a part of Illinois law, be sure to also use reflectors and reflective bands on your ankles. This combination increases your visibility and makes it obvious to oncoming drivers that you’re riding a bike.
In Illinois, one important bike law to follow is to affix a white, front-facing headlight and a red rear-facing reflector or light to your bike. This makes the rider visible from at least 500 feet when used at night.
Use hand signals to alert drivers to your direction changes. Learn more about hand signals at CyberDriveIllinois.com.
Find out more about Illinois bike laws at BikeLaw.com.