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While the Chicago region’s population grew by 18 percent since 1980, the traffic increased by 66 percent in the same period.

Batavia and Elmhurst join ranks of bike-friendly communities

The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) just unveiled its newest list of Bike Friendly Communities (BFCs) and Illinois has a lot to celebrate. We now have EIGHT communities on the list: six that have continued to earn a spot and two newcomers!/

The returning communities are: Chicago (Silver), Evanston (Silver), Champaign (Bronze), Naperville (Bronze), Schaumburg (Bronze), and Urbana (Bronze). The two newbies are: Batavia (Bronze) and Elmhurst (Bronze).

Active Trans offers a hearty congratulations to them all.

Active Trans is especially pleased to see Elmhurst and Batavia join the six other BFCs in the Prairie State, as we had a bit of a hand in helping them get there (as did the League of Illinois Bicyclists and Trails for Illinois).

Elmhurst initiatives supported by Active Trans have led to the community creating a bike task force, adopting a bike-parking ordinance and ‘Share the Road’ signage, and participating in a number of bicycle-centered events. Elmhurst continues to serve as a great example of how suburban communities in Chicagoland can become more bike friendly.

A little further west in Batavia, the wheels started turning around 2009 when local resident John Gamble reached out to Active Trans for assistance. He and other engaged community members were looking to make Batavia a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly place.

The city already saw itself as a cycling destination since it’s home to the Fox River Trail (pictured above) and a spur of the Illinois Prairie Path.

Active Trans staff met with the core group of passionate cyclists, and in very short order they managed to create the Batavia Bicycle Commission. Gamble, who became the chair, credits Active Trans with helping it get organized, and adds that the fledgling commission was lucky to have a city council that was actively enthusiastic about the group's goals.

The city had drafted a bicycle plan in 2007 with the help of the League of Illinois Bicyclists, but it was after the foundation of the commission that things really got moving.

Since dedicating itself to the bike-friendly mission, Batavia has improved its network of bike-paths and trails, implemented two Safe Route to School programs, created a number of bike-focused events for residents and much more.

Early last year, the Batavia Bicycle Commission considered pursuing official BFC status for the community, but the group never thought it would happen so quickly. “Honestly, I thought we’d just get an honorable mention,” said Gamble. 

“We are very excited over the recognition of Batavia’s efforts to promote safe bicycle use in our community,” reads a statement from Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke on the city’s website. “We can’t wait to reach platinum status.”

Though they’re waiting to get feedback from LAB on what they can do to take the next step up in its bike-friendly status, Gamble and the Batavia Bicycle Commission already have plans for the future.

They want to continue connecting routes and paths, improve the already robust bicycle education program in the city by enlisting certified instructors, and ramp up the enforcement of rules and regulations for all road users to increase street safety.

We can’t wait to see what’s coming next for all of our Illinois BFCs!

Learn what it takes to become a recognized BFC and see the list of bike-friendly communities around the country for 2013.