Nevermind the NIMBYs: Here’s How to Save Bikeway Projects in Lincoln Park, North Shore

At the Dickens greenway meeting last month, some residents were more interested in keeping people from biking on their street than discouraging speeding. Photo: John Greenfield
At the Dickens greenway meeting last month, some residents were more interested in keeping people from biking on their street than discouraging speeding. Photo: John Greenfield

Anti-bike folks have been on the march lately, opposing the Dickens Avenue neighborhood greenway proposal in Lincoln Park, and the Skokie Valley Trail extension on the North Shore. The good news is that the Active Transportation Alliance is organizing supporters to help keep these short-sighted opponents from torpedoing these good projects, and you can get involved.

Dickens Avenue Neighborhood Greenway

As Streetsblog reported last month, at a packed hearing on the Dickens greenway, which would run between Clybourn and Stockton Avenue, many neighbors spoke out against the city’s proposal to add sidewalk extensions, raised crosswalks, a 20 mph speed limit, and contraflow bike lanes to create a loss-stress, two-way bike route. With seemingly little regard for the fact that the project would discourage speeding and cut-through traffic by drivers, they argued that more people riding bikes on the street would be a threat to residents’ safety. One man actually argued that people move to Dickens to get away from bike traffic, drawing a round of applause from other attendees. There were also plenty of supporters at the meeting.

The Dickens Greenway proposal. Image: CDOT
The Dickens Greenway proposal. Image: CDOT

By coincidence, I encountered local alderman Michele Smith on my Amtrak trip home from a wedding last weekend. Since the greenway route would run through Oz Park on an existing path, some residents at the meeting voiced not-unreasonable concerns about collisions between people on bikes and park users. On the train, Smith told me she recently asked the Chicago Department of Transportation to look into strategies to minimize conflicts in the park.

Yesterday Active Trans announced a new campaign to save the endangered Dickens proposal, spearheaded by Lincoln Park resident and Active Trans Ambassador Stephanie Sims. She’s circulating a petition asking Alderman Smith to prioritize the project, using the organizing skills she learned as an ambassador. If you live in the 43rd Ward, be sure to sign Stephanie’s petition today. (If you’re not sure which of Chicago’s ridiculously gerrymandered wards you live in, use Active Trans’ legislator lookup tool to figure it out.)

Sitting in the Amtrak cafe car, Alderman Smith told me there will be another hearing on the greenway later this summer. We’ll be sure to keep you posted so that Lincoln Parkers who support the project can show up in force.

The Skokie Valley Greenway route. The extension (red) would fill in the missing gap.
The Skokie Valley Trail route. The extension (red) would fill in the missing gap.

Skokie Valley Trail extension

The Skokie Valley Trail extension would fill a 4.5-mile gap (the red line on the above map) in the existing trail through Skokie, Northfield, Glenview, and Wilmette, creating a nonstop route from Chicago to Lake Bluff.

The fly in the ointment is that some Northfield residents are up in arms about the village’s plan to build the trail in some wooded, village-owned land just west of an ComEd easement with abandoned railroad tracks. The neighbors claim they’re concerned about the environmental impact to an unpaved path they call “a beautiful nature trail,” but they have also mentioned concerns that having a bike trail near their homes will bring crime.

They want the bike path relocated to the old tracks, but that would cost the village an additional $300,000 and require an ongoing lease with ComEd. Village officials say keeping the bike trail on the village-owned land would also reduce impact on wetlands. And the local police department did some research and discovered what advocates have know for years: Bike trails have no impact on the crime rate.

Active Trans is encouraging bike riders to attend Northfield’s public board committee meeting on July 16 to voice support for the trail extension. You don’t have to live in the village to attend. The meeting takes place on Tuesday, July 16, at 5:30 p.m. at Northfield Village Hall, 361 Happ Road.

You can provide Northfield staff with additional feedback to be included in the board meeting packet, by submitting your comments to Melissa DeFeo at by July 8.

You can also attend Active Trans’ Northern Cook County Suburbs Trail Coalition meeting on July 2. Staff from the Villages of Northfield and Skokie will give presentations about the trail efforts. The coalition meeting takes place on Tuesday, July 2, 7-8:30 p.m. in the Radmacher Room of the Skokie Public Library, 5215 Oakton Street in Skokie. The library is about half a mile west of the Oakton-Skokie Yellow Line station. RSVP if you want to join the coalition, and come hungry for some free light snacks.

  • PDiddy

    Curmudgeons should not be listened to and should be ridiculed for the donkey brains that they are.

  • PP

    Silly NIMBYS

  • David P.
  • Carter O’Brien

    I sure would like to know what happened to the Wellington Greenway the 35th ward supported in Rosa’s first PB program.

  • Scott Avers

    It’s really goofy about these anti-trail people.
    1. They think the trails are for THEM only. Yes, like they purchased them.
    2. Invading armies of robbers will be arriving on bikes. Those armies will be stealing everything while riding away on their bikes.

    Keep in mind that Northfield allowed corporate offices to be built there, then turned around and said Willow Road needs to stay two lanes. Brilliant!

  • kastigar

    The map, and the discussion on the Skokie Valley trail extension is very hard to see and understand. Google Maps suggest that there are already easy alternatives.

    What should be given more consideration is the missing Chicago segment of the Valley Line Trail, in particular the 2000-foot long segment that has a barrier wall preventing the link between the North River Trail and the Sauganash Trail.

  • Alex

    Pretty sure turning Dickens into a greenway, resulting in less noisy car traffic, would be good for property values. Dickens is way too wide, and this is a pretty common sense proposal that I hope gets through.

  • rwy

    Getting to the Lake County section of the trail can be tricky. You can take the Greenbay trail up to the county line. Then to go west it’s Lake Cook Road, a busy street, or Clavey Road which has sharrows but with a 35mph speed limit. I’m not sure what you mean by easy alternatives.

  • Kathleen

    The com ed / union Pacific property, which the rest of the skokie valley trail uses along its entire length, should be what gets paved, not a public space that’s already being used by both residents and nonresidents as a walking trail. The potential additional cost of the alternative is something the village can afford and is more ecologically sound (the nature trail has a strong community of woodland plant species and the train tracks 100 feet away are a teasel and crown vetch monoculture.) No one is even against it. They’ve been on board with the plan for 20 years as it was originally proposed. Yes, the safety issue is a fear that a few people have raised. But not anyone’s main concern.

  • Kathleen

    Unfettered use of glyphosate by comed over the last ten years has rendered its right of way a mess. That needs to be remedied by the village and a management plan negotiated with comed. A bike path is the perfect way to do that. Also, the village manager of northfield makes 260,000 a year, do not try to tell me that northfield can’t find the money to pave 2 miles of trail on the comed route as all the other villages are doing!

  • Tooscrapps