Wilmette, Illinois: Bicycle Safety Goes Beyond the School Year


Wilmette, IL, is a town near Chicago with a population of 28,000 people. With the combined efforts of its Bicycle Task Force and the local law enforcement, Wilmette implemented an encouragement program for bicycling around the town and to and from school.


Children and a Wilmette law enforcement officer hold good behavior coupons.The Bicycle Task Force began in the 1990s to advocate safe bicycle practices in the community. In 2003, the law enforcement department approached the task force to assist them in spending $3,000 of the grant funding on youth safety issues. Until this time, the elementary schools had volunteer run bicycle safety day for the second grade. With the grant, the task force hired bicycle ambassadors from the Chicagoland Bike Federation to improve the program. The program later expanded to include in-class trainings for fourth and sixth graders. The funds also went to biannual community bicycle events promoting bicycle safety and to lessons in proper helmet fittings. Another student activity was a poster contest that was designed for students in kindergarten through fourth grade from both public and parochial schools in Wilmette. The children created posters promoting proper helmet usage and bicycle safely. As of 2008, the program continues to receive local funding and support from local organizations to sustain their existing activities.

The Bicycle Task Force also initiated a Bike Hike to Highcrest Middle School. Each May, when fourth graders at Harper Elementary and McKenzie Elementary School prepare to move to Highcrest Middle School, they are taught how to bicycle safely to the middle school. Any fourth grader who wants to bicycle from the elementary school to the middle school completes an insurance form, puts on a helmet and joins their classmates and dozens of parents for the bicycle ride. Before leaving, the students participate in a quick safety lesson, and they stop to meet the crossing guards during the bicycle ride. Upon arrival at the middle school, students are told where to find the bicycle racks and are introduced to the teachers who will meet them at the bicycle racks every morning before school.

In Wilmette, bicycle safety enforcement is not confined to the school year. In 2002, the volunteer Wilmette Youth Commission partnered with the Wilmette law enforcement office to encourage bicycle safety during the summer. When law enforcement officers saw a child wearing a helmet while bicycling, they could award the child with a coupon for treats, such as pizza, ice cream and soda provided by local merchants. Since 2002, officers have distributed about 2,000 coupons each summer. Case Study Children and Wilmette law enforcement officer hold good behavior coupons.


Wilmette successfully has encouraged its children to bicycle safely around town. When the weather is nice, more than 200 children bicycle to Highcrest Middle. Both the helmet and law enforcement programs are inexpensive, receive positive feedback and continue to grow. If interested, coupon designs, press releases, tally sheets for merchant recruitment, thank you letters and other items are available for use from the Wilmette Youth Commission. To receive information on these various materials, please send an e-mail request to youth@wilmette.com.


Contact for Wilmette Bicycle Task Force

Linda Reilley
Phone: (847) 853-7621
Email: Rilleyl@wilmette.com

Contact for Wilmette Youth Commission

Joe Feldman
Phone: (312) 961-2099
Email: youth@wilmette.com