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Downtown Edgebrook Getting Bike Paths Thanks To Grant From County

By Alex Nitkin | August 9, 2017 6:23am
 The project will include a bike rack and a
The project will include a bike rack and a "people space" with tables at Devon and Kinzua avenues.
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DNAinfo/Alex Nitkin

EDGEBROOK — Barely a week after announcing $75,000 for sidewalk extensions around Hitch Elementary School, county officials revealed Tuesday they'll dish out the same amount for another Northwest Side infrastructure boost: a new bike route through the heart of Edgebrook.

Bicycle paths will line Devon Avenue between Spokane and Caldwell avenues, bisecting the neighborhood's business district and hooking up with the newly-extended North Branch Trail, officials said.

While transportation planners have yet to iron out the final details, Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) will push officials to paint shared bike lanes marked by "sharrow" symbols, instead of separated lanes. That way, the crowded street won't be stripped of highly in-demand parking spots, according to Chris Vittorio, the alderman's chief of staff.

Napolitano had submitted the proposal to Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who approved the project under the county's Invest In Cook transportation grant program, the commissioner said.

"So much of the new bike infrastructure that's come online has been Downtown," Gainer said Tuesday. "This brings a lot of that infrastructure to the Northwest Side so people can access the trail, and go all the way up to the [Chicago] Botanic Garden if they want."

Younger Chicagoans have shown a growing preference for two-wheeled travel, and policymakers are racing to keep up, Gainer added.

"People have always assumed the only way people get around is by car, but that doesn't really reflect the population anymore," Gainer said. "People want to have options, and we've seen an increased interest among people of all ages for biking in urban areas."

Still, Edgebrook business owners and neighbors have made it clear that stripping the busy thoroughfare of a through lane or parking spots "won't fly," Vittorio said. The four-lane street has metered parking on each side, and rush hour often brings block-long backups while cars wait for Metra trains to roll through the district.

"The idea is to make a nice flow for bicycle traffic, to get them going through that downtown area safely," he said. "But that area is really limited on parking ... there's just not enough room for a whole dedicated lane."

The project will also see the installation of new bike racks and a "people space" with tables and benches at the corner of Devon and Kinzua avenues, Vittorio added.

Napolitano will likely schedule a public meeting to unveil the details before the end of August, and the project is set to be completed by the spring "at the latest," Vittorio said.