The missing link in north suburban bicycling has been found, but it doesn’t exist yet.
It has to be built.
As soon as next month, the Cook County Forest Preserve District and the Chicago Botanic Garden are expected to settle on a pedestrian/bike path designer to draw up the details of a long-awaited, mile-long path. But that path will make a bigger difference than its length indicates, because for the first time, bicyclists will be able to ride between two long, popular trails without having to take their lives in their hands.
The new trail link will meander through Botanic Garden and Turnbull Woods forest, between 50 and 100 feet south of the Lake-Cook Road curb, said Bill Brown, the Botanic’s vice president of facilities and planning.
“Keeping people off of the highway is a major safety improvement in that they don’t have to tough it out on Lake-Cook Road,” he said.
“It could conceivably be constructed in 2012, but that’s the most optimistic” estimate.
Bicyclists have already been waiting a long time for the link.
Ed Barsotti, executive director of the League of Illinois bicyclists, remembers lobbying for preliminary engineering funds so long ago that he’s not sure how long it was. He guesses about 5 years.
“It connects two major trails and I’m sure it will improve the safety to the Botanic Garden,” Barsotti said. “People coming up from the North Branch are looking for a different way to return to their start, and this will help provide that.”
The 12-foot-wide trail now being called the Botanic Garden Bike Path will join 36 miles of existing paths — the 20-mile trail to the west and the 16-miler to the east.
The link is actually only about eight-tenths of a mile. An additional couple of blocks takes it to Metra’s Braeside Station in Highland Park.
Brown said that the Illinois Department of Transportation’s federally-backed Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program’s $1.2 million grant may have been partly the result of the link to the train station, which is expected to bring more riders to the Metra Union Pacific North Line. The total cost of the project is $1.74 million, which includes at least 20 percent local funding by the forest preserve district. All funding is committed, Brown said.