More than a decade ago then-Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica approached the Riverside Village Board with an idea: Let’s create a bike route through Riverside that connects the Salt Creek Bike Trail with the Cermak Woods/Ottawa Woods trail.

In a presentation to the village board in June 2006, Peraica said the route could go through downtown Riverside and then over the Swinging Bridge into Riverside Lawn and then across Ogden Avenue into the Cermak Woods, where a new path was just being built.

Local officials were skeptical, and the proposal fizzled.

Now, 11 years later the Riverside Village Board itself has repackaged Peraica’s idea in response to requests by local bicycle enthusiasts to use Riverside as a connector route between Salt Creek and Cermak Woods.

With the completion this year of the First Avenue bike path connecting the Salt Creek Trail via 26th Street with Riverside-Brookfield High School, the timing seems right for a connection to the Cermak Woods through Riverside, said Village President Ben Sells at the board of trustees’ meeting on May 18.

“The idea would be to go to the Forest Preserve District and ask them to officially designate, as a Salt Creek connector route, the route coming down the bike path in front of the school, turning left onto Forest [Avenue],” Sells said.

According to a pair of maps included in the village board’s meeting packet, officials are pondering two options. 

The first option runs down Forest Avenue to West Avenue and then south to Pine Avenue. The route then turns south at Longcommon, heads over the tracks and follows Riverside Road to the Swinging Bridge. The route continues south on Stanley Avenue to 39th Street, east to Shakespeare Avenue and south across Ogden Avenue to the Cermak Woods path.

The second option heads west on Bloomingbank Road to Barrypoint Road and then over the bridge before heading east on 39th Street to Shakespeare Avenue.

While the roads through Riverside are too narrow to accommodate separate bike lanes, signage would be able to point the way for cyclists. Trustee Elizabeth Peters, who is the board’s new liaison to the Economic Development Commission said that the ongoing discussion over wayfinding signage by the commission could dovetail with the establishment of a Riverside connector route.

No one on the village board appeared opposed to pursuing the idea, and several local residents urged the board to begin exploring how to make the plan a reality.

Rob Dixon, a Frederick Law Olmsted Society board member and bike path advocate, said the time was right for Riverside to act. Dixon mentioned the completion of the First Avenue bike path as well as a nascent plan by Brookfield officials to find funding for a path along 31st Street connecting the Salt Creek Trail with First Avenue.

“It would seem that this is a unique moment in time as things are crystallizing just to the west of us,’ Dixon said.

Earlier county plans called for a connector to run all the way down First Avenue to Ogden, a path that was neither enjoyable nor easy to navigate. That solution would also direct people away from Riverside’s downtown.

“The alternative is one that would keep people out of Riverside, you’d lose that awareness of Riverside,” Dixon said, “and you’d have a really, kind of, crummy route that people might take, but it wouldn’t be inviting.”

Sells said he wanted Riverside residents to provide input on the idea of a connector route through Riverside and said the next steps would include working with local and county officials to get them on board.

Peraica, who still jogs and bikes the route he proposed back in 2006, chuckled at the notion that he might now be seen as a visionary.

“People have been using [the route] regardless of whether the village agreed to it or not,” Peraica said. “I’m glad they saw the wisdom of my proposal, albeit a decade later.

“Somebody has to start the conversation, but I’m glad it’s happening now.”

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