Results for tag "planning"

3 Articles

Main Street Makes A Statement

There was a buzz on the bluff last night. A public forum was held at Bradley University’s Westlake Hall regarding the proposal of making the intersection of Main and University streets in Peoria more pedestrian friendly. It seems there has been a push in the recent months of making things more walkable, bikeable, and more equitable for people who are moving around town sans auto.

westlake

What spurred this conversation is more of a happy accident than a true, dedicated effort to make things better for pedestrians [Water Main Break]. Either way, take what you can get. It was a full house of concerned neighbors, business owners, and people who are tired of Peoria being stuck in the proverbial four-wheeled rut. Local officials, engineers, and public administrators filled in the rest of the crowd.

Crowd

It became clear from the start, that the public’s input was not only appreciated but much-needed. The intersection today is pretty dangerous, and almost completely favors the car as you can see on the Google map view.

main-university

Just looking at the curbs, they are rounded, which if you think about it, makes it quicker and easier for you to make a turn. The faster you do that, the faster you can hit someone on foot or on bike. The sidewalks are compromised, and there are no bike lanes to speak of. When thinking of how to “fix” this intersection, the best way is to bring everyone into the room and see how they actually use this space.

To better conceptualize the intersection for people, there were 3 options of proposed options. Making things difficult is that these three options are all different in their concepts and thus, you force people to love it or hate it (see roundabout discussion).

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

To me, this meeting was a breath of fresh air. Mike Rogers, the new Public Works Director and new to town, brought up old plans like the Heart of Peoria Plan and even the Walkable West Bluff Campaign. By old, we’re talking 10 years ago, but still are extremely relevant to last night’s conversation These efforts were to create a vibrant atmosphere that encouraged walkability, bikeability, and to induce neighborhood regeneration by reducing auto-dependency and increased human interaction.

Mike

Over the past 2 years, the revival happening  on Main Street cannot go unnoticed. It has seen a revival, in part, due to adding on-street parking which as traffic school teaches us, actually slows down traffic and gives businesses parking for its patrons. We’re so trained at wanting to go fast and breeze through wherever we are driving to or through, that we don’t want anything to get in the way. As a whole, what high-speed traffic had done to Main Street, and Peoria in general, was remove the desire for anyone to get out of their car.

As one commentor put it:

We want Main Street to be a destination that people come to and spend time, enjoy it – not just drive through it.

Which is very true. Somewhere in our history, 50 or 60 years ago, we stopped creating places people want to go and spend time at. We have built our streets and buildings to be high capacity, high speed ways to get people in and out – usually at the lowest cost. This oldie, but goodie TEDTalk by James Kunstler spells this out very clearly.

Main Street has that ability to be a place that people care about. They already do judging by the turnout last night. People showed up literally and figuratively to say so. The comments made were awesome. Even without a roundabout pamphlet professing safety, we know we want things to be safe. When we show them images with people, trees, flowers and texture they get excited. Show them a car sewer and the mood goes down.

Let’s make not only this intersection great for people, but the entire street and the neighborhoods that they serve. It’s easy and what it takes is to put cars in their place. Pedestrians, bikers, buses, delivery trucks, then cars. I will guarantee you that this area will continue to revitalize and that there will be more and more activity in this part of town. It will set the precedent for other areas around town that are going to have the same conversation. Within a short amount of time, Peoria can rebuild around its people, not their cars.

For more coverage on last night’s meeting view the links below:

Peoria Journal Star

WMBD 31

WCBU 89.9

WEEK/WHOI

Thank you to everyone who came out and shared their thoughts!

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Why I Ride

Erik Bike

Post by: Erik Reader, President, Reader Area Development

I have been waiting for the right time to drop my own post on the Bike Peoria site for a while. It’s not that I haven’t had the words, I just haven’t had the time. But isn’t that the age old excuse. For those of you who are unfamiliar, I usually do my blogging over at Reader Area Development dot com. Sure, that’s some shameless self-promotion for myself, but what the hell, I’m an administrator on this site as well.

Like most, I grew up riding my bike around the neighborhood after school just to be outside playing. That evolved into riding to school, downtown, to baseball practice, a friend’s house, or wherever my legs could motor me. Somewhere around that pivotal age of 15-16 it became clear that it wasn’t cool to ride a bike. As we all know, the most exciting thing for every high-schooler is getting their driver’s license.

I remember my parents telling me that I would have to get a job in order to afford a car. So at the ripe old age of 14 I got my first real job – at McDonald’s. Yep… first you have to be humbled before you can be cool apparently. Needless to say, I saved up enough to buy a 1990 Chevy Beretta. How I kept the ladies at bay was a mystery, it just naturally happened.

At a time with $0.88/gallon gasoline (1998), I made my way to the bowling alley, movie theater, cross town to friends houses, to school and a few side trips my parents don’t need to know about. That was all fine and dandy, but I still had to work here and there to afford my new-found responsibility. With no other obligations to my name, this wasn’t a huge drag, but the real sticker shock would occur in the 15 years since.

The cost itself wasn’t just in the form of driving from A to B, it was everything else it represented. Gas, car insurance, maintenance, the occasional ding or scratch, countless hours staring through a pane of glass, and the hours working a job I hated to afford it all. I grew up outside of Chicago in the far western suburbs and that meant LOTS of driving. Want to go to a baseball game? Drive. Need a job? Drive across the ‘burbs. Thinking about visiting friends? More driving…. you get the picture.

In college, I had an opportunity to study abroad in the Netherlands. Leeuwarden, a northerly city of 90,000 people exposed me to a different culture that has taken years to decipher what I really learned. The Dutch are widely regarded for their over-the-top biking culture. I didn’t really “get it” until my semester abroad started.

Amsterdam

We were told that we would probably want to rent a bike. The few Americans in the group looked at each other like it was a joke or something. Even me, I hadn’t ridden anywhere on a regular basis for several years didn’t understand it. We have cars … duh?  All kidding aside, they were serious. The best way to get around town is by bike. The town, which is hundreds of years old, is perfectly laid out for it. No bike? Well, walking is just as easy. Riding to the bar as a 21-year-old was probably the most freeing feeling you could imagine. You mean I can go do something stupid and follow it up with something responsible afterward? No shit…

Unless you’ve been, I have a real hard time of putting it into words and trying to explain it. That’s the reason why downtown Leeuwarden remains as my website header. To serve as a reminder that this other place exists.

Leeuwarden

After my tour abroad ended, it was back to Geneva, where that quaint, charming downtown existed but the biking culture didn’t. I was dying to bring back what I thought to be a slice of heaven back with me.  No one else felt the same. My excitement to ride faded as my jobs would take me here, there, and everywhere by car. It got to the point where I was filling up for gas twice a week. It became a repetitive and vicious cycle. I’d seen my Dad fall into it, and I knew it was killing him too. Spending hours in a car everyday isn’t healthy for you. That’s a no-brainer. So why do we get stuck in the proverbial rut?

We somehow accept this as our reality. We know in order to find work, we must drive. In order to find food, we must drive. In order to live, we must drive. After a year of life on the road, my then girlfriend, now wife, Danielle and I moved to Dallas, Texas. A change of scenery was interesting, and it provided the initial stimulation we needed. But something still seemed off. Gone were the Main Street’s and downtown’s of Illinois I was used too. Everything is bigger in Texas, even their big-box stores which dominated the landscape. Six-lane residential thoroughfares were the norm. Big hair. Big trucks. Big stereotypes. We enjoyed our stay, but after 5 years it was high time to head out.

Before we did, I came across a little biking movement that was taking over a south Dallas neighborhood. The Oak Cliff neighborhood was quickly becoming the “bike part of town.” I was curious, as I hadn’t heard of such a thing. Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, was one of those things that I needed to see at just the right time. “Ok, so there are people who have thought the same thing as me and feel the same way…” This wasn’t about racing, an extreme off-road excursion or loading up the bike for leisurely stroll at a park. This was about riding your bike for day-to-day things. I get that.

When we left Dallas for Peoria, I decided I’d like to take a slice of what I thought was a great citizen-led movement with me. We moved to Pekin, which admittedly, isn’t the biking capital of the world. I would talk about the Dutch, Dallas, and what I thought could be a bike movement in Central Illinois. The only thing more out of the ordinary than seeing someone without a DUI riding their bike in Pekin, is someone talking about “Bike Friendliness.”

Behind Bars

Back to the subject of stereotypes. The same freedom, liberation, and mobility I felt in Leeuwarden could and should be applied in Pekin, Peoria, or anywhere for that matter. Why is it that people think you must have done something wrong to be riding a bike in broad daylight wearing anything but lycra? To be fair, there are a good amount of those riding with some legal troubles, yes, but that’s why it is imperative for low-income, low-educated towns like Pekin to adopt a new transportation strategy. One that is equitable for all of its citizens. And for those who don’t want to hear my previous statement, I’m sorry, the 2010 Census blew your cover [DATA].

Whether you’re young or old, need affordable transportation, wanting to stay fit, or wanting to exercise your right not to drive, you should have that opportunity. So that is why, when a fate meeting with some other like-minded individuals early this spring brought us to the table looking to create a “biking movement” I jumped at the chance.

Erik & Danielle

My ride last night finally knocked loose what I was looking to write. I ride as much as I can right now. I wish it could be more, but you know, I have to drive to Peoria for a job. I am in meetings on opposite sides of town. I am renovating a house after all of that and need to carry random odds and ends around. I have seen more people out there who are curious. Those are the people who will help shape the future of Peoria. Having only lived here for two and a half years, I see an area that is dying for a breath of fresh air. We, as everyday, ordinary people can give that to the area we call home – one bike ride at a time.

For more of Erik’s musings, check out his blog at readerareadevelopment.com, follow him on Twitter @RADincorporated and Like ReaderAreaDevelopment on Facebook.

Want to be featured in Bike Peoria’s Why I Ride section? Email us at bikepeoria@gmail.com

 

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What Would A BICYCLE Friendly Peoria Look Like?

Daniel Waite

I’ve lived in, and ridden my bike in Peoria for the past 2 years. I’ve often wondered why riding a bike here isn’t as easy as in other cities. From nearly being ran over by cars to getting yelled at – I’ve wondered, what would a bicycle friend Peoria look like?

It could be a safer and more reliable city for alternative forms of transportation while transforming the way people travel from one place to the other but it also has the power to completely transform and reincarnate a depleting economy and positively affect whole neighborhoods.

Many people in our city have developed the point of view that a bicycle is merely a toy or a tool used to help the less fortunate get around. While this has a sliver of truth, it has also propagated to encompass an image of urban cycling while members of our community who have a strong passion for cycling sit on the curb in despair.

Some would say that it isn’t fair and we have been forgotten. I call your bullshit and say its our fault as a community to have allowed this to become the current ideal and the problem we have to deal with on a daily basis. Please spare me your empathy and take a stand this time.

We can start by riding our bike. RIDE! RIDE! RIDE! Ride everywhere! Get up 20 or 30 minutes earlier in the morning so you can commute on two tires rather than four. Ride the 3 miles to the grocery store to get that gallon of milk while getting a some exercise in. We can take a stand by riding and abiding by the law that protects our basic rights as bicyclists. Ride on the right side of the road with traffic and have the proper lighting or visuals while riding at night.

Its easy and simple. The only way we are going to show motorists that we should also be on the road with them we need to actually be ON THE ROAD with them. No matter how rude or stupid some people can be we have to muscle forward and show them we mean business. Stand strong and make your presence known!

After my little motivational lecture I think its time talk more in-depth on what cycling has to offer an everyday citizen. Things you should consider while pondering your decision to ride or drive.

Cyclists on average live two years longer than non-cyclists and take 15% fewer days off work through illness. (CTC)

On the same urban route, car drivers were exposed to more airborne pollution than cyclists, despite the cyclists’ higher respiration rates. (Rank, J., et al., 2001)

The bicycle industry is estimated to support 1.1 million jobs and generate nearly $18 billion in federal, state, and local taxes. (Outdoor Industry Foundation, 2006)

Aside from these positive benefits to your health and wallet, you also have the freedom to go where you want when you want without the hassle of traffic or parking. It is a great way to move around freely with very little effect to the environment while pleasantly exploring your city and interacting with your community.

It has been proven that the more bicycle and pedestrian traffic on a street the more businesses will pro?t and this will also give them a reason to be open during non-work hours. With that happening the city can and will be a desirable place to spend an evening with your family and enjoy the amenities of a vibrant community.

Imagine a flourishing downtown Peoria on a warm summer night. Riding to the riverfront with your family and friends, enjoying some ice cream and watching a movie or live music in the park. Or being able to just cruise through the streets safely while enjoying an atmosphere full of arts, dining and events surrounding families. It’s a large but simple task. It all starts with you (:GETTING ON YOUR BIKE:)

While many people have ambivalent or cynical ways of looking at us and our views, it’s the basic fact that these are our rights and we should defend them. If you’re looking for a way to become a part of something and stand up for what you believe in then please take action and RIDE YOUR BIKE EVERYWHERE.

 

Bike Peoria and this site are dedicated to starting a movement to get more people on their bikes not just for recreation, but for everyday life. Follow along as we ride, write, and advocate for a more bike-friendly Peoria.

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