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Our View: Continue growing DeKalb County’s trail network

Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 10:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014 7:46 a.m. CDT

One item that’s often named on the public wish list is more accessible and useful bicycle and walking trails.

More and more, people want the option to use their bicycles or their own two feet not only for recreation or exercise, but for everyday transportation, be it to work, shopping, or other destinations. There are more than 30,000 people in Illinois who commute to work by bicycle, a number that is growing.

The cost of commuting by bicycle is far less than driving a car, and it also has health benefits. There have been strides made in DeKalb County toward improving the amount of bicycle and walking trails – but there is more that can be done.

For example, the Sycamore Park District’s “Vision 20/20” plan includes $2.3 million for expanding and connecting trails to link some of its parks. Park officials said they hope to secure a state grant to cover about 80 percent of that cost.

There already are many options for traveling great distances by bicycle. It is possible to ride or walk from DeKalb to the Great Western Trail, which goes all the way to St. Charles, for example.

The DeKalb Sycamore Area Transportation Study’s web page includes maps that show the trail network in the DeKalb-Sycamore area.

The maps also show that the system has some gaps, or areas where bicycle riders find themselves sharing the road with high-speed vehicle traffic.

As it happens, the member governments – including the cities of DeKalb and Sycamore, the county, and the Town of Cortland – that created the transportation study are updating their transportation improvement plan of projects for July 1 through June 30, 2019. They’re accepting public comments until June 16 and will hold a public hearing to adopt it June 25.

Public comments can submitted by email to Brian Dickson at brian.dickson@cityofdekalb.com, or by phone at 815-748-2367.

Ideas for expanding the trail network are noted in the DeKalb County Greenways and Trails Coalition plan. For example, the plan calls for adding paved shoulders to roads for bicyclists, with a white fog line indicating the boundaries of vehicular traffic lanes. One area the plan calls for this approach is along Annie Glidden Road from DeKalb north to the county line.

Several areas already include bicycle lanes on city streets, and trails, such as the DeKalb Park District’s Nature Trail, and follow utility right-of-ways. Old rail beds have also been successfully converted to trails in other locations across the country.

These options for creating safe and navigable lanes for bicyclists should be incorporated into future local projects whenever possible.

The demand for people to get around without getting in their cars is growing. Given that the overwhelming majority of DeKalb County is agricultural land, we should plan and seek grant funding for a future where people in rural areas and in towns can easily and safely walk or ride to destinations miles away.

Now that summer weather is upon us, choose a nice day to explore some of the trails near you. 

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