“We love to walk and we want to see more of the city that we love,” they wrote in their first post last November. “Pedestrians in Peoria (PiP) is our attempt to walk all the streets in Peoria, Illinois. Yes, ALL the streets.”
In the nine months since, Mary Hosbrough and Jennifer Jacobsen-Wood have traversed more than half of Peoria’s 1,645 city-owned streets. “The city boundaries can be difficult to read, so we’ve done about 20 percent of Peoria Heights and a bit of West Peoria, too,” adds Jennifer, a librarian who resides in Peoria’s Center Bluff neighborhood. Mary, a substance use disorder counselor, lives in Sunnyland, where the two women grew up and initiated a friendship that has lasted four decades.
“We are avid walkers and realized that we would walk the same routes over and over,” Jennifer says of PiP’s beginnings. “Despite living here almost all of our lives, we knew there were roads we had never traveled.” In 2017, she took a community leadership class and visited Peoria Public Works, where a map of snow routes gave her the idea. “We thought we’d notice more on foot, and it gave Mary an opportunity to take photos and me to do research.”
The childhood friends have now embarked on more than 80 adventures across the city, each chronicled on Facebook. They walk once or twice a week, although “sometimes life gets in the way,” Jennifer admits. “Most of our anecdotes are just us being silly.” They’ve run through sprinklers, danced on street corners, and discovered mysterious pathways leading to hidden homes—never once fearing for their safety (although they did once witness a drug deal). Their zest for the undertaking makes their posts eminently readable, while interwoven tidbits of local history add weight to the journey.
Along the way, they’ve met scores of curious and supportive people—the best part of the project, they say. “When we ask people about their neighborhood, no matter where we are in Peoria, ‘We love our neighbors’ has been the universal answer,” Jennifer affirms.
“We know, as middle-class, middle-aged, white ladies, our experience of Peoria isn’t the same experience others may have,” she continues. “We know Peoria has some serious issues. However, we see so much potential—there are so many who care deeply about their neighborhoods.” Follow their adventures at facebook.com/pedestriansinpeoria. PM