Did You Know?
Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson focuses on healthy transportation
Mayor Katrina Thompson has been planting the seeds for sustainable transportation and active, healthy lifestyles in Broadview, Illinois, over the last three years.
As the village improves its walking and biking infrastructure, her efforts clearly have taken root in this west suburban community as more of the people in the community take up walking and cycling.
Because of these successes, Thompson will be receiving the Public Leadership Award from Active Transportation Alliance at the Movers & Shakers Ball to be held at the Chicago History Museum on April 26.
Thompson wants to shape Broadview into a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly destination to promote health, wellness, and safety for its residents as well as boost tourism and economic development in Broadview.
The village is located in west central Cook County and has a population of about 8,000, nearly three-quarters of whom are African-American.
Thompson’s enthusiasm and commitment to improving walking and biking conditions in Broadview can be traced back to the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a former athlete who ran track in high school, Thompson has always been active and healthy, working out regularly, playing golf and tending to her garden. But when the pandemic forced everyone into quarantine, Thompson decided to start walking and bicycling to get some fresh air and stay active safely during the lockdown.
She took video recordings of her walks and bike rides, posted them to her social media channels, and invited Broadview residents to join her.
With social distancing in play, walking and biking with Thompson gave residents the opportunity to emerge from isolation to get some exercise and connect with their neighbors and the mayor.
“I just started walking and biking, and it just became a part of my routine during that COVID period,” Thompson says, “and it manifested into something that I wouldn’t have ever thought would’ve happened.”
Those informal walks and bike rides morphed into the popular Walk/Bike with the Mayor initiative in 2020. Since then, from May to October, Thompson rides with a group of Broadview residents on Saturdays and takes a walk with another group of residents on Sundays for about an hour each day.
About 20 people join Thompson for these walks and rides. Thompson updates them on the village’s latest policies and initiatives and asks for their ideas on how to improve and unite the village.
Born from these walking and biking events have been new initiatives like Broadview’s annual Juneteenth festival, which has quickly become a popular draw in the community, featuring live music, food, and vendors.
“This is a time for them to get to know me,” Thompson says. “This is the time they have my ear. We can talk about things because I want our community to be aware of policy and things that are changing or coming up and put it on their radar, and I want them to give me input because they live here, too.”
“I see it as a win-win because I get to talk to them and get input from them, and we get exercise, too,” she adds.
A TOUR ON TWO WHEELS
Building on the Walk/Bike with the Mayor program and her growing affinity for bicycling, Thompson co-created the annual Tour de Proviso group bike ride with Maywood Trustee Miguel Jones.
Held every year in October, the ride — an ode to the Tour de France — brings together hundreds of cyclists as they ride at their own pace through some of the surrounding western suburban communities that are part of Proviso Township.
The Tour de Proviso is designed to promote bicycling, healthy lifestyles and township tourism while also strengthening connections among the communities that are part of the township.
About 450 riders took part in last year’s 3rd annual Tour de Proviso, which was held in Riverside and included a community expo that featured local vendors as well as activities, including a bike raffle and bike registration.
Thompson cites the Tour de Proviso as one of her proudest achievements as mayor. The group bike ride has not only strengthened the bonds among the participating communities via bicycling, but it also opened Thompson’s eyes to the disparities in walking and biking infrastructure in the various communities that are part of the Proviso Township, including Broadview.
“We don’t have one bike lane in Broadview, but I can go to Oak Park or Forest Park or River Forest and see bike lanes,” she says. “Why is that? Or why can’t we get our streets repaired so that people don’t hurt themselves biking in Broadview.”
AT EYE LEVEL
Creating safe conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, says Thompson, will encourage people to have active lifestyles in Broadview and attract tourists to the village’s business and shopping districts, hotels, restaurants, recreational areas, and historical and cultural sites — much the same way the Tour de Proviso showcases the host community’s amenities, businesses and services that participants may not have been aware of until they take part in the ride.
“You see so much either walking or biking that you don’t see riding in the car,” she explains. “We can promote our community better when people can see things at eye level — whether they’re walking or biking — like a small business or museum.”
Broadview received a $2.9 million grant from The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to build a bike path along 25th Avenue, a main arterial road in Broadview.
The bike path will stretch from the village’s industrial zone to the Cook County Forest Preserve, providing a safe alternative transportation route for people who work in that industrial area. The project is currently in the engineering phase. Construction is slated to begin in the spring of 2024.
In addition, Broadview’s aging commercial corridor on Roosevelt Road is getting a makeover.
The village received a $120,000 capital improvement grant from Cook County to modernize the streetscape from 9th to 17th Avenues along Roosevelt Road that calms car traffic and provides safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
That includes improving traffic lights and street lighting, intersections, bus stops, sidewalks and curbs as well as installing bike parking and bike lanes and complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Broadview will use the grant to fund the project’s preliminary engineering work.
In addition, Thompson says there are a few more Streets projects in the works for Broadview. “We should be able to live, eat and play where we live and not have to always get in a vehicle to do it,” she said. “And we can do it in a healthy way.”
Photos courtesy of Katrina Thompson. Top photo shows her on right, center photo show her holding camera, and bottom photo shows her on right.
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