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home : opinions : columns   April 29, 2016

7/29/2014 9:31:00 AM
Column: Peru seems off track on routes for bicycles

Craig Sterrett
News Editor

When something truly tragic occurs, it’s not very nice to dredge up the past. But I can’t leave this one alone.

Just this month a bicyclist was killed by a van on narrow and bicycle-unfriendly North Peoria Street, and just last summer the Peru City Council failed to apply for a grant to help pay for a network of safe bicycle and pedestrian routes.

Let’s be clear: This summer I have not heard public complaints from anyone who wanted to apply for the grant. Mayor Scott Harl wanted the city council to apply for it last year and, I must note, even if the city council sought and received the grant, the full bike trail project could not have been completed this year.

Regardless, the city has not taken steps in the right direction.

Right now, I believe the mayor would hate to be the one to say “I told you so” to people who halted the grant application last year. Aldermen who listened to some of the most vocal constituents in the city, proponents of building a $2 million swimming pool, helped stop a vote on the grant.

What the city was seeking was $900,000, with the city’s share around $450,000 for easements and its portion of routing costs.

As it is now, several neighborhoods are without sidewalks. Few routes linking the cities of La Salle and Peru could be considered safe for inexperienced cyclists, and other than the ones at Shooting Park Road, no suitable crossing areas link neighborhoods and shopping districts separated by Route 251 on the north side of Peru.

Most important, between Peoria Street and Route 251, there is no approved, safe route for riding a bicycle north to Peru Mall, the theater and restaurants in the portion of the north shopping district west of 251. Yet, that shopping district tempts bicyclists and pedestrians. All too often, I see people riding bicycles on busy North Peoria Street, which has an extremely narrow shoulder and deep ditches. Some appear to be on their way to and from work, or the homeless shelter.

To be honest, the only safe way to take a bike from the southwest side of Peru to the mall area is to ride into a quiet, residential neighborhood to the north end of Plum or Rock streets, walk your bike about 50 yards through a playground and into a strip mall parking lot, riding through that lot and eventually to the road that passes Hy-Vee, Buffalo Wild Wings and two banks and dead-ends near the old Kmart. Somewhere along that “only safe route,” the cyclist or pedestrian likely is trespassing.

At some point, the state’s likely to mandate that the city improve its bike routes. And, if the city of Peru — and neighboring towns — had better bicycle routes, that just might make the community more attractive to prospective businesses and employers.

Why wait to fix a problem?

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