Riverside will approach Cook County about the possibility of establishing an official bike route through the village that would serve as a connector between the Salt Creek Trail and Cermak Woods Trail, but the exact route and when such a connector might become a reality remains unclear.
After getting consensus, July 20, from village trustees to move forward, Riverside Village President Ben Sells said his next move would be to approach Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th), whose support was instrumental in the funding and construction of the bike path on First Avenue from Ridgewood Road to 26th Street.
“We don’t know if any of this is even going to happen,” Sells said. “The next step would be to get in contact with some of the county commissioners and Arnold Randall, [the general superintendent] of the Forest Preserve District, and sit down with them and give them our idea to see if this is something the county would be willing to consider.”
If there is interest on the part of Cook County to use Riverside as a connector, officials will have to agree on a route through the village, which also is no sure thing.
The most direct connecting route would extend east from First Avenue along Forest Avenue and then south of Longcommon Road. That route could continue along Riverside Road to the Swinging Bridge, into Riverside Lawn, and then into Lyons along Shakespeare Avenue, where there’s a crosswalk across Ogden Avenue, connecting with the Cermak Woods Trail.
Alternately, and less directly, the route could head west along Bloomingbank Road to Barrypoint Road and cross the bridge before heading east along 39th Street to Shakespeare Avenue.
At the July 11 meeting of the Riverside Township Board, Township Supervisor Vera Wilt called use of the Swinging Bridge as part of an official route “doubtful.”
Wilt said the township’s risk management insurance firm believes the bridge isn’t wide enough to allow two bicycles or a bike and pedestrian to pass one another.
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel expressed some reservations about bikes using the Shakespeare Avenue crosswalk to cross Ogden Avenue. There is no stop sign or traffic light at that location.
“That Shakespeare scares me over there,” Weitzel told the village board on July 20. “The cars are clipping along at 35 or 40 on Ogden Avenue. I’d say that’s a pretty dangerous way to cross.”
Weitzel said it would be safer if bicyclists crossed Ogden Avenue at Joliet Avenue, where there is a traffic signal. However, that would also mean bikes would head east for several blocks along Ogden Avenue.
Rob Dixon, a member of a Frederick Law Olmsted Society committee studying the feasibility of a Riverside bike route, said the Shakespeare Avenue crosswalk was no more dangerous than other crosswalks across busy streets along the Salt Creek Trail.
“Shakespeare is challenging, but no more than what you see on the Salt Creek Trail right now,” Dixon said.
Dixon and Sells also hoped Riverside Township and county officials wouldn’t discount using the Swinging Bridge as part of a designated route.
“There are a number of crossings of waterways to the west of us that employ mechanisms, for instance walk[ing] your bike if they’ve got a narrow bridge,” Dixon said.