Dec 23, 2009

Active Transportation Alliance Reports on our Efforts

This just published in the recent Active Trans newsletter ModeShift:

Completing Highland Park streets

An active group of cyclists and Highland Park residents are imagining safer and more accessible streets. They know what those look like - ones with bike lanes, pedestrian-friendly intersections and slow traffic.

And they knew where they had to look to get them.

Complete Streets policy is flooding Northeast Illinois, with Illinois, Cook County, DuPage County and the City of Chicago all adopting policies that will result in roads that accommodate all users.

Inspired by that movement, Highland Park residents decided to take action to bring Complete Streets to their community.

It started with a meeting called by Jay Goldstein, Active Trans board member and advocacy chair for Velo Club Roubaix, to discuss road safety in the North Suburbs.

“It was amazing how many people came,” said Kim Stone, a former Active Trans board member and Highland Park resident. “It was a really mixed group of people. Some live in Highland Park. Some bike through Highland Park.”

That is where residents connected with Active Trans and our North Suburban Coordinator Lina Hoffman.

Stone and Peg Laemle, another Highland Park resident, were charged with researching Complete Streets and worked with Hoffman to plan the proposal.

“There has to be a way where traffic can flow and pedestrians can also easily cross streets,” Laemle said.

The city already had a Healthy Highland Park Task Force and a Green Initiatives Alliance, a multi jurisdictional approach to making Highland Park more sustainable. Stone and Laemle believed that Complete Streets would fit in with the City's priorities and would be a natural compliment to both these initiatives. Stone said that it was important to work within the City's process, gaining support from staff as well as elected officials.

The other key to gathering support was the backing of the other residents that attended that first meeting.

“Instead of me just as an individual, it was a group. There was a constituency behind the idea,” she said. “Having a group of people who want to see things changed and have come to a consensus is really key.” Active Trans was able to provide expert resources like sample policy and promoted public meetings on Complete Streets to our members.

Doing their homework paid off. Residents met first with Public Works and Community Development staff, then requested an Active Transportation Alliance presentation before the Traffic Commission, which unanimously recommended the City adopt a Complete Streets policy. Then Stone and Hoffman met with Highland Park Mayor Michael Belsky. The next step was an Active Trans presentation before the Environmental Commission. A Planning Commission presentation will be the last step before City Council review. With Mayor Belsky as an advocate of a Complete Streets policy, support from residents, city staff and commissioners this final step should be a slam dunk!


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