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Only 24 percent of jobs in the region are accessible by transit in 90 minutes or less by a typical resident — and that number drops to 12 percent in the suburbs.

Villa Park advocates build support for safer biking

Advocate and Village Trustee Bob Wagner is working with a core group of volunteers in the Village of Villa Park to promote bicycle safety and increase public awareness of the village’s recently-developed Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

Active Trans partnered with the village to lead the effort in developing the master plan, which has three main goals:

Create better connections between the Illinois Prairie Path, Great Western Trail, Salt Creek Trail and other local destinations

⇒ Improve sidewalks and intersections for pedestrians

⇒ Develop a bicycle network with a focus on north/south connections

As part of the community engagement process, a 16-member steering committee was formed that consisted of village staff, elected officials, local business owners and residents.

Eager to see the committee stick together beyond the plan’s development, Wagner applied for an Active Trans Bike Walk Every Town mini-grant.

Bike Walk Every Town is our suburban advocacy program dedicated to supporting the efforts of suburban advocates interested in improving walking, biking and transit in their communities (last year the program awarded seven mini-grants to suburban communities, including one to advocates in Villa Park).

The steering committee in Villa Park used the grant to purchase bike lights that Wagner, resident Marianne Greco and other members of the steering committee passed out to residents at community meetings and events.

“We hope that individuals from this group who are helping distribute lights will eventually become our bicycle and pedestrian advisory council,” said Wagner. 

A bicycle and pedestrian advisory council (BPAC) typically advises a municipality on bicycle and pedestrian projects and policies. They can help ensure that active transportation issues remain part of discussions while holding the municipality accountable for implementing a bicycle and pedestrian master plan.

“We are making progress,” said Marianne Greco. “We plan to ramp up our efforts toward creating an advisory committee this year.”

While a formal BPAC has not yet been formed, Wagner appreciates how the process of developing a master plan helped the village find a core group of residents and staff interested in promoting transportation safety, organizing events and supporting the aims of the bicycle and pedestrian plan.

“Because of the plan, there are presently five new menu boards being installed along the Prairie Path and Great Western Trail, and there are numerous new wayfinding signs pointing to various village amenities and business districts,” said Villa Park Economic Development Director Jan Fiola, who was essential in guiding the master plan forward. “Our goal is to provide information to the hundreds of trail users and encourage them to shop and dine in Villa Park.”

Additionally, the core group of volunteers helped run a bike valet at the village’s annual brewfest. “Promoting walking and biking,” said Wagner, “has acted as great tool for building a greater sense of community, promoting health, and connecting neighborhoods — Villa Park elected officials are taking notice.”

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If you’re interested in getting involved in suburban walking and biking advocacy, starting a BPAC, or 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.