Did You Know?

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

We must build it before they come

From Active Trans Board President Jane Healy: As I rushed to make the final outbound train before the cutoff for bringing bikes on board Metra, I couldn’t know that the doors would not be opening on the end cars at my stop.

I realized something was wrong only when the doors failed to open on my car and the train began moving outbound to the next town–where the doors failed to open again. The conductor explained to me what had happened (the train platforms are too short for the long rush hour trains), then informed me that I’d have to wait until we got to 159th and Cicero. Thankfully, he was wrong. I was able to get off at Midlothian.

Why was I thankful? Because the thought of navigating 159th and Cicero to my home in Blue Island during rush hour terrified me. I’m an experienced, fairly aggressive cyclist, yet even I know my limitations. I knew of no easy way to get from here to there without dealing with four-lane, high speed arterials–with curbs–for miles. Which pointed out to me the dilemma that so many of our suburbs have to deal with: how do you encourage pedestrians and cyclists to use active transportation when there is a serious lack of safe routes?

We are stuck with these suburban car zones. But we can make them safer and encourage healthier, more environmentally friendly options. The new Cook County Complete Streets policy should begin to create improvements, albeit slowly. From here on out, IDOT needs to take into account all intended users when they do any new or major resurfacing projects. Wide shoulders instead concrete curbs would make South Cicero Avenue much safer for bicycle journeys. Making sure that the sidewalks are complete would make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Only when the built environment becomes safer will we see a serious shift in transit modes in the suburbs. Here’s to the hope that that process has begun.

Jane Healy

post script: I made it home safely–and enjoyed the ride–by taking mostly back streets from the charming Midlothian train station.