If you’ve ever strolled down Batavia’s River Street woonerf on a beautiful fall afternoon or visited Elgin’s new promenade during the Fourth of July holiday to see the fireworks, you know how much these streetscapes have added to the general beauty and quality of life of two Kane County river communities.
Now, the appreciation for these two sites is formal, as each project has been honored with the Complete Streets design award presented by the Active Transportation Alliance.
The award is a big deal in part because it comes from the ATA, a member-supported, nonprofit transportation advocacy group that is considered the Chicago area’s voice for better biking, walking and transit.
Complete Streets are streets that are designed to accommodate all users of the roadway, regardless of age and abilities, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders.
The city of Batavia received the Complete Streets Design Award for its installation of a woonerf on North River Street. It’s a European-style “shared street” that looks like a brick plaza that cars are allowed to drive on. It has no curbs, no sidewalks and is designed for people driving, walking or bicycling on the Fox River Trail that runs through it — all accommodated by designs that effectively slow cars down.
Most on-street parking has been removed, and the design invites people to wander or cross the area wherever they desire. It is pedestrian and bike friendly, invites street closures for various activities, and the absence of curbs adds more space for planters, seating and art. An arch incorporating Batavia’s historical building materials not only separates this area from a busy arterial downtown street, but has created an outdoor room which contributes to a new sense of closeness and intimacy, some of the most important aspects of a community. It is also strategically located at the edge of an area ripe for redevelopment activities.
At the north end of the county, the city of Elgin received a Complete Streets Design Award for its Riverside Drive Promenade. This new project in downtown Elgin highlights the beautiful Fox River while rolling out the red carpet for people walking and biking downtown and arriving in Elgin on the popular Fox River Trail.
The recently completed Riverside Drive Promenade slows car traffic significantly while offering dedicated spaces for cyclists and pedestrians. The 1,500-foot-long street project completes the river walk that begins at Elgin’s main library to the north and ends at the riverboat casino at the south. The Riverside Promenade is loaded with environmentally friendly features, as well as river overlooks and shady spots to sit down and linger while enjoying the river and the attractive streetscape.
Batavia’s woonerf and Elgin’s Riverside Drive promenade are two recent streetscape projects that balance the functional need for movement of people and goods with the basic desire we share as individuals and communities for opportunities for social interaction and cultural exchange.
SOURCE: Kane County Division of Transportation