We suggested recently that more people will be inclined to spend their vacations close to home this summer, given the mounting costs of getting away. And while it is fairly easy to get to Evanston by public transportation, it is not always so easy to get around Evanston without a car.
One aspect of the City’s strategic plan is to encourage lifestyles that encompass sustainability practices, and bike-riding comes easily to mind. We know there are bike paths for leisurely enjoyment and bike routes for serious riders to use getting to and from places.
What is missing is something for what we would term the “casual commuter.” Nearly 41 percent of Evanstonians who work, work in Evanston, according to figures from the Chamber of Commerce. Many who work outside Evanston take commuter trains. Heavy traffic on major streets is a detriment to bike riders who have only a mile or two to travel to their job in Evanston or to a commuter train station. Rather than face the roar of those engines and the heavy traffic on streets that contain either narrow or nonexistent bike lanes, many people still resort to their cars.
We know the City has just recently adopted a bike plan, but it does not create bike-friendly paths for the “casual commuter.” We suggest the City look at doing so with a creative eye and explore ways to create bike-paths that people would feel comfortable and safe using to travel to work or a commuter station.
Another practical way to encourage bike riding would be to add a few more thoughtfully placed bike racks in or near our major commercial areas and at commuter train stations: Central Street west, Central/Green Bay, downtown and West Davis Street; Dempster Street, Main Street and Howard Street. We understand that an enlarged area will be provided at the new Howard Street station to encourage people to ride their bikes to that station. It should be done at other locations as well.
Finally, we urge the City to reconsider its parking restrictions in residential areas near commuter stations. Banning street parking (without a residential sticker) before 9 a.m. limits the number of parking spaces for commuters and discourages people from taking public transportation to work. Perhaps this is an unintended consequence of neighbors’ desire for on-street parking, but in any case, given the oil crunch and the likelihood of even more ozone-alert days this summer, we feel it is imperative that the City do all it can to help residents minimize oil consumption and to encourage people to take public transportation. That way perhaps we can all breathe a little easier in the fall.