Trail through city of Peoria gets update page

According to the Peoria Park District, the project to extend a trail through the city along the Kellar Branch line, a now-vacant railroad right of way, “has taken nearly 30 years from the first construction on the riverfront until today.”

That’s nearly 30 years and counting.

Updates on funding and construction of the “backbone of Peoria’s bike trail system” are now available online from the Peoria Park District. The page includes construction updates, contact information and an FAQ, which leads off with the obvious question, “Why is it taking so long to build? It’s just a bike trail!”

Warning, opinion ahead: I can only assume the question came from someone unfamiliar with Peoria and the one-paragraph answer from someone who didn’t really want to write a book on the topic. But let’s broaden that question to ask why Peoria is so ineffective at accommodating bicycle use.

For all intents and purposes, Peoria set potential trail users against a failed railroad for three decades. The struggle helped ensure that very little progress was made in bicycle accommodation. Improving the lot of people on bicycles in Peoria was largely viewed as the responsibility of the Park District, and the Park District had/has one solution: the Kellar Branch. The Peoria City Council, which directs the city manager who oversees the Public Works Department in charge of streets, effectively used the potential of the non-existent trail to justify its lack of interest in other bicycle-related infrastructure improvements. Fortunately, the mayor has issued a National Bike Month proclamation, which will change everything, just like it did in 2001.

Back to the story: Interestingly enough, the multi-use trail (“Rollerblades, strollers, bikes, wheelchairs [both manual and electric] and children’s non-motorized scooters are allowed”) doesn’t have an official name.

According to the FAQ: “The naming of Park District facilities is a Board prerogative, and so far the Board has not voted on a name. For the past 17 years we have called it the Rock Island / Pimiteoui Trail Extension on internal and draft documents, but the final decision will be up to the Board.”

Read on: Here’s the link.

UPDATE: Ken Kiley, a member of the Friends of the Rock Island Trail, recently imagined Peoria’s “missing link” after completion for InterBusiness Issues.

About 16incheswestofpeoria

Former bicycle mechanic, current peruser of books, feeder of birds.
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5 Responses to Trail through city of Peoria gets update page

  1. Janice says:

    Amazing how East Peoria completes repaving in less than a month, while Peoria seems to have lost steam on its trail progress. Sad, very very sad.

  2. Thanks for your note, Janice.

    To be fair to all parties, the East Peoria project was delayed a few weeks by all the rain we had in central Illinois, so it came in at closer to two months. The Fon du Lac Park District in East Peoria also had the benefit of having an existing trail to reconstruct.

    After years of simply fighting for the Peoria trail, the Peoria Park District is now in the midst of the actual project, which includes more than simply paving the existing roadbed. The June 15 update at has pictures of an impressive culvert extension project to fight erosion along the right of way.

    That being said, even after the Peoria trail is completed there will remain so much that could be done within Peoria to better support the bicycle, a mode of transportation that should be perfect for exploring, connecting and reconnecting the community. Right now, the Park Districts in the area are fans of the bicycle. In terms of bicycle “maturity,” that puts us about 20 to 30 years behind cities like Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis.

    Unfortunately, “door to door” or “door to trail” transportation by bicycle in Peoria depends on roads. (Driving a car to ride a bicycle negates a lot of the community benefits of the bicycle, including its ability to reduce oil use, cut air and sound pollution and alleviate traffic congestion.)

    If you thought building a trail was tough, imagine trying to break through the entrenched automotive engineering paradigm to better accomodate a vehicle that uses no foreign oil for its movement. Even in more bicycling-mature communities, improving road access is a continual challenge.

  3. Garth says:

    Just clearing the trail has been a massive undertaking. This is an old, overgrown rail line that first required removal of rail ties, trees, etc. What is more bothersome to me is that two sections are still marked as “proposed project,” and that those two sections disconnect the sections that are currently under construction or complete.

    I do not consider this trail to be much of an improvement of Peoria’s biking infrastructure. The focus remains mostly recreational. What we need are, as Sam points out, “door to door” connections. I believe we will not see much transportation biking until there is solid, segregated infrastructure connecting residential areas with individuals’ daily destinations and necessary services. The desultory attempts to date are laughable and best avoided. For instance, they just opened Hamilton back up last year, and included a bike lane that extends only halfway up the hill and then simply stops. The lane itself is too narrow and poorly placed, alternately between the through/turn lanes and between the turn lane/curb. Coming down the hill, a bike is going as fast as a car, and the cars are often stopping and turning unexpectedly across the bike lane into the parking structures, a recipe for disaster. It is far safer to simply take the lane there, at least on the downhill. Of course, my opinion may be slightly influenced by the truck that hit me in that bike lane the first week after it opened 🙂

    It is disappointing to see the only efforts in Peoria by those few interested in cycling directed at recreation, rather than basic daily transportation connections, while the city continues to exacerbate its autocentric land use by encouraging more northwestern sprawl.


  4. Thanks for writing, Garth.

    Just got back from Columbia, Missouri. They use a lot of paint down there to mark bike lanes and sharrows. Sharrows are painted indications of bicycle direction that signal to road users that bicyclists may use the full lane. Leaving aside their effectiveness for a moment, I did notice several downhill sections that may have been better served by a sharrows indicator than a bike lane. If you can hit 30 or 40 miles an hour going downhill, markings shouldn’t indicate the proper path is next to the curb.

  5. Garth says:

    There is a section of the bike lane on Hamilton that is between a through lane and a right turn lane, but the bike lane is barely wide enough to keep your handlebars between both white lines, let alone remain a safe distance from a car on either side. Maybe they were trying to drum up business for the adjacent emergency room? 🙂

    There are good arguments in favor of fully segregated infrastructure, either adjacent to the road but above a curb, or separated from the road. Such improvements sadly seem impossible to obtain in the current climate. The restriping of Main Street seems to provide the only possible route for improving Peoria’s connectivity in the near term.

    The information I have seen on the effectiveness of sharrows has been mixed. Also, motorists around here often do not seem to notice even bike lanes, which at least mark out some kind of separate space, and thus seem like they should be more noticeable than a sharrow. It would be interesting to see if sharrows affected motorist behavior here at all, since so many motorists seem to be actively aggressive and confrontational when encountering a cyclist. The bike route signs scattered about certainly do not seem to help. The main problem is lack of familiarity. Motorists are not accustomed to seeing bikes on the roads, and have no idea how to react to them. Unfortunately, without infrastructure, we cannot encourage the increased ridership required to improve visibility and safety. The benefits to safety, for both cyclists and pedestrians, created by bike infrastructure and higher numbers of cyclists is dramatic.

    Another option is to include some road narrowing with sharrows, particularly at intersections, to slow traffic and allow pedestrians an easier crossing. If going beyond repainting, this can be combined quite effectively with curb extensions that incorporate vegetated swales to improve stormwater management, which Peoria is also in desperate need of. Of course, I would appreciate seeing even just a few sharrows around here as an experiment.


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