EVANSTON, ILLINOIS — When developing a regional bicycle plan for Greater Peoria, Tri-County Regional Planning Commission staff knew that they couldn’t ride alone. So they brought along experienced cyclists, community leaders, transportation experts, and hundreds of area residents. Bicycle improvements are rolling along two years after the plan’s adoption.
The Illinois chapter of the American Planning Association likes what they’ve seen. Last month, they gave TCRPC an award for the best health-related plan in the state.
In September BikeConnect HOI: Heart of Illinois Regional Bicycle Plan received the 2019 Healthy Active Community Award. The honor recognizes an effort to create healthy and active communities through a plan or program. The group reviewed active transportation plans, local food plans, and public health plans to pick a winner. Staff accepted the award at the chapter’s annual conference in Evanston.
BikeConnect HOI integrates existing, planned, and recommended bike transportation improvements. The result is a regional bicycle network, connecting communities large and small. In addition, the plan includes design guidelines and strategies to make cities, towns, and rural areas better for bikes.
Bicycling in the Peoria area is not a recent development. The region’s long-range transportation plan includes more projects with bike accommodations than ever before. The City of Peoria adopted its first-ever bicycle master plan in 2013. Similarly, communities throughout the region have worked hard to make their towns better for bikes. Moreover, local advocacy groups like the Friends of the Rock Island Trail, Illinois Valley Wheelm’n, and Bike Peoria amplify riders’ needs.
But prior to 2016, no one had attempted to tie all of those efforts (and groups) together. So TCRPC brought together leaders in cycling, transportation, public health, education, business, and government. Creating a “big tent” for the plan process brought a variety of insights and viewpoints to the plan. It also allowed a multitude of groups to take ownership of implementing the plan. On top of that, hundreds of comments from riders and non-riders helped shape the final plan. From start to finish, the planning process took nine months.
An early success came just one month after the plan’s adoption. One recommendation in the plan was a bike share service for the region. In 2017, the Peoria Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau unveiled City Cycle. City Cycle is a system that allows users to rent a bike from marked stations using their smartphone. Users may ride where they wish and simply return the bike when they are done. Reservation and payment are both done within the City Cycle phone app.
Since then, bike transportation has only picked up speed. More bike lane and trail projects are planned or in progress throughout Greater Peoria. In November IDOT announced major upgrades to the Bob Michel Bridge that will make it easier to cross on foot and by bike. The new eastbound McClugage Bridge will also include a bike path. Germantown Hills and Metamora are planning a trail connection as well.
Bike transportation is vital to the future health of our region, and it looks like Greater Peoria is on the path forward.