Every trail needs a staunch advocate. For the Major Taylor Trail on Chicago's South Side, Peter Taylor has played that role for many years.
To recognize his tireless efforts, Active Trans will be giving Taylor a Public Service Award at our 30th Anniversary Soiree on Feb. 22.
Taylor, who’s served as an Active Trans board member since 2005, helped get the trail off the ground, and he’s worked over the years to help ensure the trail lives up to its potential.
It all began when Taylor moved to a neighborhood where the trail was partially developed, and he began asking around why the trail was unfinished and felt so uninviting.
Thanks to him and others putting pressure on the Chicago Park District and other agencies, the trail was completed and has become a better place to bike, walk and run.
As the head of the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail, Taylor has continued to serve as the trail’s lead advocate, pressing the city for better maintenance and installing basic elements like trash receptacles and signage.
Recently, he’s been working to make the trail easier and safer to access for people biking and walking from nearby neighborhoods.
The Major Taylor Trail — which officially opened in 2007 and bisects the South Side for 6 miles between 83rd St. and Whistler Woods in Riverdale — will soon connect to a larger network of trails when it fuses its south end with a newly opened section of the Cal-Sag Trail.
Taylor lives in the Chicago neighborhood of Roseland Heights, and has worked for University of Chicago Medicine for 33 years, primarly as a systems engineer.
Active Trans talked with Taylor (pictured above) about his work on the trail and other local bike-related topics.
Active Trans: What’s been your involvement with the Major Taylor Trail?
Peter Taylor: After I moved into a house I used to own and had been there for a few years, I noticed that a new bike trail was getting built nearby, but it didn’t really look like a bike trail. It was paved and the right size, but it had no markings and it was not being maintained. It just didn’t look like a good place to be.
Then I started making calls. I called CDOT [Chicago Department of Transportation] and got to know Keith Holt, who worked for Active Trans when it was the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. Keith was pulling together people in the community to try to develop the Major Taylor Trail.
That group of people was the original Friends of the Major Taylor Trail. In that group, we talked about our dreams and ideas for the trail, and then started putting pressure on the city to actually finish the trail.
I’m very happy that the Major Taylor Trail is open and visible, and it is starting to come into its own.
It was important for people to visualize what the Major Taylor Trail could be, and actually now we’re seeing it coming together to the point where it is an accepted part of the community. That certainly didn’t happen by me alone.
Please join us as we honor Peter Taylor and others at Active Trans’ 30th Anniversary Soirée on Feb. 22. Enjoy hors d’oeuvres and beverages during cocktail hour, followed by dinner and an auction.
Active Trans: What advice do you have for people who want to see more bicycle infrastructure in their communities?
Peter Taylor: You have to ask questions. I made myself aware of all the people who could affect change and found other people of like minds.
And I would not have been able to do any of this without Active Trans. They provided the resources to be able to get things done.
Active Trans: What’s your impression of cycling in many neighborhoods around the trail?
Peter Taylor: Children bike. They bike a lot. Teenagers bike. But somewhere it just stops. We’ve been talking about trying to bridge that gap. We are working with Oboi Reed [and Slow Roll Chicago] to try to develop that culture in these communities.
One of the reasons that we work with the city trying to develop bicycle infrastructure is because most people don’t bike with their children or they stop biking altogether because of traffic dangers in their neighborhood. Streets are not designed in a safe way for people to ride.
Active Trans: Where is your favorite place to bike?
Peter Taylor: Of all the places I’ve been, probably the Fox River Trail. I use that as a model a lot of times for what I wanted to see happening on the Major Taylor Trail — the way that the bicycle infrastructure, the community, the bike shops, the restaurants and shops have grown up around it. I think it is a really great place to ride.
I also like the Cal-Sag Trail. It’s one of my new favorite places to ride because it has a potential of becoming all of that that the Fox River Trail is, and really adding a pleasurable network of off-street trails when it is done.
Active Trans: Do you have advice or insight for those who want to start biking?
Peter Taylor: For people of color, our communities are troubled with different types of systemic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and obesity. Getting more physical activity can help manage those things.
Bicycling allows you to get more exercise, which will enhance your wellness at the same time as saving you money. You are contributing to a better environment, reducing greenhouse gasses, and not having to spend so much money on gasoline.
I focus on making all trips of two miles or less on a bicycle. And I encourage others to do the same. That’s a sufficient amount of exercise for the average person without being overbearing, and takes into account trips for local needs.
Please join us as we honor Peter Taylor and others at Active Trans’ 30th Anniversary Soirée on Feb. 22.
The interview was conducted by former Active Trans advocacy intern Samantha Kearney.
Photo courtesy of Peter Taylor