On August 27th, Highland Park’s City Council will be considering whether to incorporate a new component, Bike-Walk HP 2030, into the City’s Master Plan. Bike Walk HP 2030 “recognizes that non-motorized modes of travel … are important components of Highland Park’s Transportation system.”
One integral part of Bike-Walk HP 2030 is a Complete Streets Policy, a comprehensive approach to street design which would improve our quality of life by balancing the needs of all users of our roadways -- drivers, transit users, pedestrians, bicyclists, older people, children, and people with disabilities. In other words, cars will share the road with all users, whether on foot or bike. Research shows that incorporating features to make the roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians reduces accidents for everyone.
We first proposed the idea of a Complete Streets Policy to the City in 2009. Without this policy in place, road construction and developments continue to be planned without incorporating the needs of residents and visitors who travel by means other than a car. Once the city passes the Policy, pedestrian and bicycle friendly improvements will be included in the planning of these projects.
- Bike lanes must be included when repaving a road if the road is wide enough.
- When new developments are constructed, bicycle parking would be required to be included and a pedestrian crosswalk and signal might be put in place for easy access at nearby intersections.
- During wintertime in the Central Business District, when snow is removed from sidewalks, care will be taken to also remove the piles of snow that cover a sidewalk when the adjacent street is plowed, and to ensure that piles of snow do not impede sidewalk access from handicapped parking spaces.
- New signage could indicate direction and distance to a destination, and perhaps which amenities are present. This signage would indicate the quickest path to help you get from Sunset Road to the Central Business District, for example, or to the Lakefront from Downtown.
According to the Plan itself, the Complete Streets Policy and Bike-Walk Plan will “yield a more convenient and efficient street (and pathways) network…(with) improved safety (and signage) for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, and a more regionally connected, sustainable, and energy efficient community.” Community improvements must be budgeted; therefore, once this new policy is in place, the City can include these projects in its Capital Budget planning process. It’s often more cost efficient to plan for these items when undertaking a project, such as a road repair, than to undertake them later as stand alone projects.
An increasing number of residents wish to travel through our beautiful community by bike and on foot. Complete Streets and Bike-Walk 2030 would ensure that future road improvements are safer for bicycles and pedestrians, and thereby cars, as well. These policies will improve travel for all in Highland Park.
Once the policies are in place, be on the lookout for some initial projects to kick-start this process and engage community support. You will be able to read through the complete Bike -Walk 2030 Plan once it becomes available on the City’s website (http://www.cityhpil.com/). To learn more about Complete Streets, go to http://www.completestreets.org/ or http://www.atpolicy.org/complete-streets-policy.
Kim Stone and Peggy Laemle
Kim Stone is a Highland Park resident with over 20 years of environmental and management experience.
Peggy Laemle is a community activist who has lived in Highland Park since 1973. She helped found a long-gone Highland Park Food Co-op (Forest Co-op) and the Ravinia Neighbors Association, to which she has submitted occasional articles about sustainability issues.