What a difference a decade makes. It wasn’t that long ago that the village boards in both Riverside and Brookfield looked at more bicycle traffic through town as something to be avoided. Now, both villages are courting county officials to see if they can obtain approval and funding for more ways to bring bicyclists to the area.
In April, the village of Brookfield approached county officials about funding a feasibility study that would look at creating a bike path along the south side of 31st Street that would safely connect Prairie Avenue and First Avenue and serve as a direct connection to the Salt Creek Trail on the north side of 31st Street.
If the plan moves ahead, we also wonder whether the village of Brookfield and Brookfield Zoo might want to take the opportunity to create a bike path through the woods west of Salt Creek, connecting 31st Street and Kiwanis Park.
It would be another safe, family-friendly option for bringing cyclists to downtown Brookfield.
At the same time, the village of Riverside has dusted off a decade-old proposal to have the village’s streets serve as a connector between the Salt Creek Trail and the Ottawa Woods/Cermak Woods Trail.
The plan would direct bicyclists east on Forest Avenue from where the new First Avenue bike trail ends over to West Avenue and then down Pine Avenue into downtown Riverside before exiting over the Swinging Bridge into Riverside Lawn and toward the Cermak Woods.
When the plan was floated by then-Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica 10 years ago, Riverside officials didn’t exactly embrace it, wary of encouraging more bike traffic (which some in the village view as an occasional nuisance) down Forest Avenue.
In the intervening years, Brookfield’s and Riverside’s stances on bicycle traffic have softened. The villages now welcome the annual Wright Ride, sponsored each summer by the Oak Park Cycle Club, through their streets (Riverside serves as a rest stop). Brookfield just completed its second Bike Brookfield event, inviting cyclists from all over the Chicago area to tour the village on two wheels.
The time appears to be right for both villages to expand their welcome to bicycle traffic, and we encourage the village to maintain good working relationships with each other, Cook County and Brookfield Zoo to increase access to safe bike paths in both communities.