The Village of Oak Park, Ill., isn’t just home to the world’s largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes. It’s also where 57 public works employees are setting the bar for environmentally friendly services for 52,000 people living just west of Chicago.
Programs include monthly collection of electronic materials, twice-a-year exchanges where residents can drop off and pick up unused paint, paper shredding events, and an annual Green Expo. In 2012, 500 residents began composting food scraps.
Fleet Services has worked out of a LEED Gold facility since fall 2007. The 250 police, fire, park district, and other vehicles under the division’s care include dump trucks that run on bio-diesel. Twenty pool vehicles and two pickup trucks use compressed natural gas. Other pool cars include an electric vehicle and three hybrid vehicles.
So it’s only natural that in 2008 division employees would find a way to repurpose a dozen or so abandoned bicycles the police department had collected over time: Fix them up and encourage village employees to use them for work-related transportation. An initial $500 investment paid for new tires, tubes, bike racks, and other miscellaneous parts as needed. Helmets were supplied and paid for by a $1,000 federal grant to employees who use the fleet.
“It's hard to say how much has been saved, but the cost to operate a vehicle is $0.75-$1.00/mile which includes fuel, maintenance and repairs, and purchase cost,” says Public Works Director John Wielebnicki.
In addition to Wielebnicki, the village engineer, traffic signal technician, and water operators regularly use the bikes to get to meetings, pump stations, construction sites, and traffic signals. Every time they do, they’re saving fuel while improving their health and fitness. Bicycles also give them direct contact with residents as they ride through neighborhoods in the 5-square-mile community.