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New bicycle routes explored for Winnetka

Thursday, January 26, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
by Kimberly Fornek

The Winnetka Park District is exploring the routes bicyclists could take to safely reach popular destinations in the village.

The park district initially wanted to provide better access to the Cook County Forest Preserve trails, west of the Winnetka Golf Club.

Park officials sought a way to connect the Green Bay Trail on the east side of town to the North Branch Trail along the Skokie Lagoon. They’ve expanded their vision to creating a bicycle master plan with several options for traveling through the village.

The park district hired Hitchcock Design Group from Naperville to study and prepare the master plan for $31,200, plus incidental expenses.

Officials from the park district and Hitchcock will hold an Open House from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, in the park district administration building, at 540 Hibbard Road. People can ask questions and offer suggestions on the preliminary plan. At 7 p.m., the officials will have a formal presentation on their ideas so far.

East-west trails

Steve Konters, the project manager for Hitchcock, noted the established trails in Winnetka run north and south.

“It’s obvious what you need primarily are east-west trails,” Konters told the park district commissioners at a committee meeting earlier this month. He suggested a combination of dedicated trails and on- and off-street routes be identified for bicycle use. The routes would lead to the lakefront, parks, recreation facilities and Winnetka’s business districts. They would cross property owned by a variety of government agencies and, therefore, call for partnerships with the village, school districts, Cook County Forest Preserve District and, possibly, other entities.

“While Tower, Winnetka and Willow (roads) are your primary east-west routes for vehicles, they may not be quality bike trails,” Konters said.

Alternate routes

Signs could be installed to encourage riders to take alternate routes that may not be shorter, but they would be safer, Konters said. Asbury Avenue, for example, could be used to reach the Hubbard Woods Metra station and Elm Street could be the designated route for the Elm Street train station.

“The preferred width” for roads that are shared by bicycle paths and vehicles is 14 feet, Konters said.

In addition to the Feb. 2 Open House, Hitchcock is gathering public input from a task force that met most recently in December and will meet again Feb. 8.

The task force includes Winnetka Police Chief Patrick Kreis, Cook County Board Commissioner Larry Suffredin, the assistant village engineer Susan Chen, business owners and residents.

Execution of the plan is expected to occur in phases, as funding allows. Portions of the trail could be built as part of larger projects, such as the redevelopment of the park district’s Skokie Playfield, or as improvements to Willow Road

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