Evanston festival touts driving alternatives

Jennifer Ball, Assistant City Editor

Evanston hosted a street festival Sunday on Main Street, encouraging residents to support the city’s pro-biking initiative and embrace modes of transportation besides driving.

Community members who attended the “Streets Alive!” festival were treated to music and activities while learning about Evanston sustainability initiatives. The mile-long section of Main Street was blocked off to car traffic between Robert Crown Park and Hinman Avenue, inviting residents to walk, bike and skate the area.

Although the city has been doing an annual Bike the Ridge ride for residents for a number of years, this is the first time it has done an open street event of this magnitude, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

The festival stemmed from discussions that occurred through the Evanston150 project, during which community members worked to devise ideas on how to better the city in the future. Initiatives that came out of the project included the start of pro-biking and walking group Walk ‘n’ Roll, who sought in part to promote alternative forms of transportation.

The group organized a pilot event in September 2013 called Shared Streets, which similarly blocked off a portion of Dempster Street for pedestrian and cyclist use.

However, the festival Sunday was larger than the event in 2013 and included food trucks, a tap water station, and even games and crafts.

“We thought it was a great success,” Streets Alive! event chair Natalie Watson said. “The hope is that we can do more events in more places…and get more people excited.”

For the event, the city partnered with the sustainability advocacy nonprofit Citizens’ Greener Evanston to put on the festival. The event is part of Evanston’s Livability Plan, created in May to outline the city’s environmental goals and implementation strategies.

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