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Decades of research shows that expanding roads doesn’t provide lasting congestion relief. More lanes means more traffic.

Batavia advocates connect with local businesses

A western suburban advocate has been going door-to-door in Batavia educating local business owners and their customers about the benefits of walking, biking and public transportation.

Abby Beck of Walk Batavia/Bike Batavia wanted to help businesses in downtown Batavia better understand how walking and biking can have a positive impact on their bottom line.

She asked businesses to place little chalkboards on their counters with the message “How did you get here today?” Customers were asked to mark “walk,” “bike” and “other.” 

For two weeks during the month of July, around 20 downtown businesses participated in collecting data on the chalkboards, which were purchased with the help of an Active Trans Bike Walk Every Town mini-grant.

Bike Walk Every Town, our suburban advocacy program, offers residents tools and resources needed to improve walking, biking and transit in Chicagoland’s suburban communities.

Research shows that vibrant local economies take root when cities develop their downtowns as a walkable destination rather than a traffic corridor. When businesses understand this, they can become great transportation advocates and allies.

According to Abby, “We are seeking to reverse the last five decades of car-centered decision making to make our downtown a safer place for people (not just cars). We won’t sway our targets without the support of our local business owners.”

By educating the business community on the importance of building our streets for all modes, Abby and Walk Batavia/Bike Batavia’s ultimate goal is to persuade the City of Batavia to adopt a Complete Streets policy. Such a policy would better ensure that all road users are considered in future transportation plans and projects.

Abby intends to use the data to create graphics that show locations of pedestrian and cycling “hot spots” and determine whether they are correlated with nearby amenities such as bike racks, benches, etc.

Walk Batavia/Bike Batavia will be holding a roundtable in early 2019 to discuss the results of the project and introduce the complete streets concept to local businesses. At the meeting, Abby’s team plans to gather input to inform a citywide pedestrian plan, solicit street design ideas, and gather support for a temporary bike lane demonstration project for the summer of 2019.

She has ambitious plans and we will keep you informed on Batavia’s progress.    

Through her experiences working on this project and other Walk Batavia/Bike Batavia initiatives, Abby offers a few words of wisdom to other advocates:

“My advice for other pedestrian and cycling advocates is to design projects and campaigns that require you to collaborate with different stakeholder groups. Whether it’s the business community, city council, senior center, service organizations – find a way to include them, an excuse to present to them, or an integrative way to get their feedback throughout the project. By doing so, a broad group will be more aware of your cause and your efforts. This creates a dialogue between you and the folks you’re going to need to get on board to get real change passed.”

If you’re interested in getting involved in suburban walking and biking advocacy and encouraging others to ride or walk more in your community, visit the Bike Walk Every Town webpage for more information or email maggie@activetrans.org.