Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Evanston approves paths for bicyclists

Evanston is paving the way for bicyclists.

City Council voted unanimously Monday night to create a system of bicycle lanes and routes, and to improve existing paths throughout city parks.

The plan, which will take at least four years to implement, will go into effect in 2003. The system calls for 12 miles of marked bicycle lanes and defines 31 miles of streets as shared space for both drivers and cyclists. In addition, three miles of bike paths will be improved.

Funding for the proposal, budgeted at more than $1.15 million, will come from a combination of state and federal grants as well as city funds.

According to Suzan Pinsof, the chief consultant for the project, the plan is necessary for a city that is “a big bicycling community.” The current system, which was designed in 1975, is outdated, she said.

Riding on the streets will be safer because the new lanes provide cyclists with a defined area of the road, Pinsof said.

The lanes will also be wide enough for bike-riders to avoid drivers opening car doors without the cyclists having to swerve onto the road.

“There are many different skill levels and age levels of people out there bicycling,” she said. “You’ll get more of your average cyclists using (the street) instead of the sidewalk.”

The plan may also help to relieve Evanston’s parking crunch. Adding the lanes will not remove any parking spaces and Pinsof said she is hopeful the safer conditions will encourage people to trade cars for bikes. She said 10 bicycles can fit in the space that one car takes.

“This plan is especially important in a community like Evanston where parking is at a premium,” she said.

In addition, the proposal will complement similar systems in surrounding communities. Skokie and Chicago already have created bike routes that will work alongside Evanston’s plan, according to Pinsof.

Alex Sproul, speaking on behalf of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said the bike system will “enhance the attractiveness of the community.”

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) praised the plan’s creators, which also include T.Y. Lin International and the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, for actively seeking advice from Evanston residents.

“I know some people in my ward … were just overwhelmed by the amount they were able to participate,” Rainey said.

Pinsof’s team held two community meetings over the past year and hosted a cycling tour of Evanston in September 2001.

But not all community institutions were involved in drafting the plan. Despite an invitation, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 chose not to advise the planners.

According to Ald. Arthur Newman (1st), a number of the middle school students in his ward bike to class because there is no bus service.

“I think we need to talk to (District) 65,” he said. “We need to get them involved.”

Pinsof said despite “extensive field observation” the system will not be perfect.

“It isn’t easy to provide a comprehensive system to meet all needs,” she said.

In order to win the state and federal grants, Pinsof said it is necessary to have a plan already drafted, but that the plan can change as the city experiments with different routes.

She said funding will come primarily from the state’s allocation of funds from the departments of Natural Resources and Transportation.

“There’s a fairly huge fund of money available,” she said.

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Evanston approves paths for bicyclists