MATTOON -- Approximately 50 community members turned out Wednesday evening to help brainstorm ways for Mattoon to be more inviting and safer for cyclists of all ability levels.
Ride Illinois Chief Programs Officer Ed Barsotti, who led Wednesday's brainstorming workshop, said his nonprofit organization will take this public input and use it to help develop a long term Mattoon bike plan. Barsotti said they will examine potential marked bicycle lane and bike trail routes in preparation for presenting a draft plan to the Mattoon City Council this fall for possible adoption.
The Lumpkin Family Foundation has provided grant funding for Aurora-based Ride Illinois to assist city officials with the bike plan initiative, which is an offshoot of the Mattoon in Motion community planning effort.
Participants in the brainstorming workshop, including several children, used highlighters to mark their bike plan ideas on small, individual maps of Mattoon on tables at Burgess-Osborne Memorial Auditorium. The participants then divided into groups to develop priorities for different quadrants of Mattoon.
For example, participants in a southeast Mattoon group talked about how they feel that safety for cyclists needs to be improved along high traffic, high speed Old State Road and Lerna Road.
"Old State Road, people really fly on it," said participant Rob Colombo, who regularly uses Old State to commute via bicycle to his job at Eastern Illinois University. Colombo also presented his group's suggestion for slowing down high speed traffic on Lerna Road by placing stop signs at its intersection with Old State.
Both Colombo and participant Greg Voudrie said their southeast Mattoon groups suggested providing a direct link from the hotels along Broadway Avenue East directly north to the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail bike path.
Participants from these and other groups talked about the need to improve accessibility and safety for cyclists in the busy commercial area around Walmart.
"There is not an easy way to get there," said participant Rick Hall, who is a member of the Bicycle Committee and the Mattoon City Council. "We don't have good answers on how to get there, but we think it's important to get there."
Hall also discussed providing direct links for cyclists south from the Lincoln Prairie Grass Trail at the Roundhouse athletic complex to Mattoon Middle School and Williams Elementary School along south Ninth Street. Clair Kaye, who met with a southwest Mattoon group, said they talked about expanding this trail west along the old railroad right of way and then providing links to Mattoon High School and Riddle Elementary School.
Barsotti said ideas in Mattoon's bike plan can be implemented as the city's public works schedule and funding allow. He added that having a written plan in place will help the city with state and federal grant applications. Ride Illinois has helped developed a bike plan for Effingham and is finishing up a plan for Charleston.
Those who were unable to attend the workshop but want to submit ideas can contact Hall at email@example.com. More information about the workshop and the community planning effort is available at https://www.facebook.com/MattoonInMotion/.