Community / News / February 29, 2012

Biking for change

For students with bikes on campus, getting around Galesburg might become easier over the next few years due to a new bicycle advocacy group in Galesburg.

Students involved with the new group Cyclists for Galesburg (COG), formerly known as Galesburg Bicycle Advocacy Group, hope that the new group will help break down the Knox bubble.

“It will integrate Knox and the community more as a whole. It will make it easier to navigate some of the more interesting places in Galesburg,” senior Elizabeth Cockrell said. “I think a lot of students feel confined to campus because bike travel isn’t as safe as they would like it to be.”

The group, which was founded by Alderman Jeremy Karlin, has seen success both in gaining community support and support from the city.

“I was a bit skeptical at first,” senior Erin Lahti said. “It’s actually developing surprisingly well for [Galesburg] never really having a very bicycle friendly community.”

Karlin and the two students currently active in the group believe students will become more involved soon because they will likely see a lot of benefits.

“Technically, there’s so many people at Knox who would prefer to bike to Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee for small things, but there’s no set infrastructure right now,” Lahti said. Lahti has been studying the effectiveness of bike advocacy groups and has been helping COG with research.

COG has five “action areas” to focus on over the coming years. The list includes growing the bike path infrastructure, increasing bike education, growing bike tourism and economy, increasing advocacy for bikers and facilitating a biking community.

Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Alderman Peter Schwartzman believes the bike paths will benefit a wide range of citizens.

“The main reason [for the bike paths] is to get people from place to place,” Schwartzman said. “They should not have to risk their lives to get to work.”

The group hopes to have bike paths within three years and grow the knowledge of bike safety over the next 12 months.

The group has also seen support from outside bike advocacy groups, such as Trails for Illinois and League of Illinois Bicyclists. There has been some resistance to the new bike lanes due to the $1,000-$2,000 per mile price tag.

“I think naturally people question if this should be a priority of the city. We only have finite funds,” Karlin said.

One of the most drastic changes that both cyclists and drivers will likely see with the bike lanes is the reduction of Main Street traffic.

“Essentially, it would do what they call a traffic diet,” Karlin said. “And what that will do is then put bicycle paths in places where they want to be.”

South Street will also likely see bike lanes, which will benefit both bikers and students trying to cross the hazardous street.

“By narrowing the road, it has a traffic calming effect,” Karlin said. “Pedestrian safety on that road is of strong concern to students. By putting lanes on there, not only are you slowing down traffic, but you’re also reducing the amount of space they have to cross in harm’s way.”

Karlin hopes to get more support from the Knox student body due to the large number of bikers at Knox.

“We’d love to see more [Knox involvement],” Karlin said. “The advantages of a bicycle friendly community are probably best enjoyed by younger individuals.”

He added that students who want to provide research help would greatly benefit the group.

The group hopes to have a critical mass ride on a Friday in April to help raise awareness of the unsafe biking conditions around Galesburg.

 “What we want to do is ride on all the routes around Galesburg to just show how ineffective and not safe they are,” Lahti said.

Any student wanting to get more involved in the group can find the group on Facebook or contact Karlin at jkarlin@alcornkarlin.com.

John Williams


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