Connecting Lansing: thoughts on bike paths, parks, strollers, neighborhoods, and businesses

36

Lansing Voices

Cameron Harvey

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes to our daily lives. For me, one bright spot in this season is spending more time with my son. Like many families, one of the first ways the pandemic impacted us was the loss of child-care. My wife and I are grateful that both our jobs can be done remotely, though balancing work and parenting can be challenging. We found a good routine of taking turns working and taking care of our toddler.

As the pandemic progressed and the weather warmed, we were relieved to emerge from our home for more outdoor activity. Walking or biking on the Pennsy Greenway trail soon became our daily routine. I believe the Pennsy Greenway is one of the more amazing resources for our town. Some days we would walk down to Indiana and back; other days we would walk north on the trail from Winterhoff Park. While on the trail, I find myself appreciating the long sections lined with trees and the landscaped beds with native plants — while also imagining ways this trail might be even better.

For example, just one or two well-positioned benches in a shady spot would give people a place to pause and take a break. And while the trail itself is an easy walk, getting to the trail can be troublesome — there are stretches of broken sidewalk between my house and the trail entrance that are difficult to navigate with the stroller.

I suspect the best city trails are not only smooth and scenic, but also lead to great destinations. I would love to see greater connections between the neighborhoods, parks, and the Pennsy Greenway. Lansing’s dog park is a short distance from the Pennsy Greenway — it should be easy to exit the trail on Chicago Avenue and walk to the dog park in Bock Park. But an overgrown fence line and low-hanging tree branches are another obstacle; and then, reaching the dog park, we found that there is no sidewalk connecting to the other side of Bock Park. Further north, one of the Districts newest playgrounds, at Potts Park, is adjacent to the Greenway. However, the paved bike trail ends and we cannot easily bike over to the playground from the trail.

Lansing’s dog park is a short walk from the Pennsy Greenway trail, but there are obstacles.

I wonder about the trail’s economic impact, because shops and restaurants can also be destinations along the trail. Can we use the Pennsy Greenway to draw people and revenue into Lansing? Are local businesses aware of the families, cycling clubs, and walkers who pass through on the trial — who might need refreshment, a tire patch, or a snack for their kids? Are passersby aware of what businesses are a short distance away on Ridge Road?

There are many empty storefronts right now. What kind of businesses might do well if they leveraged the asset of the trail? How could the trails more fully connect the different neighborhoods, parks, restaurants and shops?

Just over 10 years ago, the Lan Oak Park District created a bicycle plan (PDF) with the goals to:

  • “Maximize access to its planned regional trail connections and their impact on quality of life and the local economy”
  • “Encourage…residents to bicycle for transportation, recreation, and good health.”

These are great goals for our community. A comprehensive plan (PDF) adopted by the Village in 2014 re-iterated many of the goals and ambitions of the bike plan from the Lan Oak Park District. The range of priorities from near-term to long-term included signage, on-street bike lanes, bike parking, education programs, a district map, and road diets. Also included, suggestions for creating more access points to the trail and an even larger ambition to put bike trails along the ComEd power lines to develop a nearly 8-mile trail loop within Lansing. While some of these priorities were completed, many remain unfulfilled after 10 years.

I am still learning who to connect with in Lansing about opportunities to be involved. I wonder if others feel the same. Can more events like the Lansing Overnight On Pedals (LOOP), hosted by the Lansing Area Chamber, be used to promote community participation on the trails? Are the connections between the Village, the Park District, the Chamber, and the many volunteer-oriented civic organizations like L.A.C.E., the Lions, the Women’s Business Association able to push fresh energy into this community development?

If you haven’t travelled far on the trail, I would encourage you to check it out and explore more of Lansing. I am interested to meet folks in our community who are eager to see the trails and parks connect people with each other and to the shops and restaurants in Lansing.

Let me know if you feel the same way.
Cameron Harvey
Email: [email protected]


Lansing Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Ok Cam! I love this entry of Lansing Voices. Honestly, the only time I’ve gone on the trail is with Megan and Zachary & it’s always so peaceful & beautiful—I want to explore it more now after this read! I could definitely lend my expertise as a dietitian to Lansing for path signage on “road diets”. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  2. It would be wonderful to see more attention go to providing Lansing residents with a family friendly, health conscious, space/activity. It’s exciting to hear that the parks department had/has plans to put trails under the com-Ed lines! I think being able to have a closed loop on the trail would be a huge asset, I have biked on the trails before and felt that it lacks direction, like you said it’s important to have a destination or even a loop would provide some kind of goal to reach. I am definitely interested in seeing what else I can do as a resident to support the bike path movement!

  3. The bike trails are one of the main reasons my husband and I,who are currently retired, choose to stay in Lansing. We love the fact that we could just open up our garage door and go down the street and hop on a bike trail that connects up with many more. We could bike the trails to Centennial Park and beyond, finding connections all the way to Crown Point. Or head towards Wicker Park & ride their trail around the golf course. Heading a little further east going into Highland, and that trail will take you all the way into Merrillville. Or we have the option of heading south on the trail towards Calumet City. I’m very hot days we choose to go down 186 street towards the Forest preserve and ride the trails through there because it’s much cooler. Our only complaint with that is the sidewalks along 186th are so full of rocks and gravel. Nobody keeps their sidewalks swept and the city evidently does not do the upkeep either. We really look forward to spring time so we can begin our treks through many towns for our enjoyable exercise!

  4. I have often thought Lansing’s bike trails could be one of our greatest assets. I knew millennials at UChicago Urban Labs who biked from Chicago’s north side neighborhoods all the way down to Three Floyd’s (a weekly hipster pilgrimage of sorts). I bet Lansing could be a solid route or even pit stop—maybe even adding a One Trick Pony stop—for trips like this.

Comments are closed.