City’s bike plan gets thumbs up
By Mark Wineka
Dr. Mark Beymer grew up in Eugene, Ore., which was proactive in trying to provide places for citizens to ride their bicycles.
He recalled recently how much he relied as a graduate student on his bicycle, riding 7 miles daily to work and school.
Now a Salisbury resident, Beymer learned then that bicycles can mean more than recreation and exercise, and he thinks future U.S. energy challenges could lead to people everywhere, including Salisbury, finding that out.
At a recent Planning Board workshop on a comprehensive bicycle plan, Beymer commended the city for its vision.
“I’m very positive about it,” said Beymer, a Planning Board member. “… It’s one of those build-it-and-they-will-come.”
Salisbury cycling enthusiast Jerry Shelby also expressed strong support for the city’s bicycle plan, though he acknowledged some frustration that it has taken this long. The idea first surfaced at a City Council meeting in June 2001, Shelby said.
“It appears we may be getting closer,” he added. “This is a good start.”
Salisbury received a $45,500 grant from the N.C. Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation to come up with the comprehensive plan, meant to assist in the future expansion, promotion and funding of safe and efficient bicycle facilities and programs.
The plan is supposed to serve as a handbook of sorts for city staff and council members when they look to spend money on a bicycle transportation system.
Over the past two years, a steering committee has held four meetings. There also have been two public workshops and an online survey.
Wilbur Smith Associates has served as consultants for the plan. Its recommendations fall into three categories: programs, policies and facilities.
Under facilities, the plan encourages a bicycle network to connect parks, schools, greenways, residential and commercial areas. It should serve beginners to experienced cyclists, the consultants say.
The plan also calls for ó and maps out ó six bicycle loops that could eventually be used in Salisbury:
– A 6.6-mile Historic Districts Tourism Loop.
– A 4.4-mile Friendly Family Loop.
– A 5.1-mile Park Loop.
– A 6.9-mile Southern Connection Loop.
– A 4.3-mile YMCA Loop.
– An 11.7-mile Crescent Loop.
City policies could ensure that adequate bicycle facilities are provided as Salisbury grows, according to the plan.
And some of the programs the plan might foster could be bike share; bike racks on transit vehicles; elementary and middle school cycling curriculums; bicycle route maps; signs designating bicycle loops; a bicycle Web site; redesigns of lanes for city streets; safety events; guidebooks and more.
“The implementation of a plan like this takes time,” cautioned Terry Snow, a lead consultant for Wilbur Smith Associates and a licensed traffic engineer.
Some of the long-range projects identified are things that could take place more than 10 years from now, if ever. And each bicycle facility considered will have to factor in things such as length, cost, public support, barriers, connections and the impact on children.
Dan Mikkelson, head of engineering for the city, stressed that citizens shouldn’t look at the bicycle plan as something that will cost millions of dollars, because that’s not how it will be implemented.
A strong cycling enthusiast himself, Mikkelson said he sees the plan as a tool.
The priorities identified are really opportunities, he said, and when or if they come to fruition might often depend on when other things are happening, such as road resurfacing ó a time when bike lanes could be lined off.
At the first public workshop in 2007, citizens identified Salisbury’s challenges as a lack of existing bicycle facilities, narrow streets, traffic congestion, unsafe conditions, poor street maintenance, distracted drivers and limited space and places to store bikes once cyclists reach their destinations.
Snow said he was surprised at the strong support citizens showed for requiring new developments to provide bicycle lanes.
Overall, Snow added, he was excited about the plan and Salisbury’s proactive approach.
There would be some challenges. Mikkelson said nothing exists in the foreseeable future to make Jake Alexander Boulevard bicycle friendly.
It’s the only street or highway in Salisbury he won’t travel on his bicycle, Mikkelson said.
Beymer, who works at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, expressed concern that none of the loops identified in the plan make a connection to the college.
Andrew Pitner, a Fulton Heights resident, said railroad tracks in Salisbury represent a clear barrier for cyclists and pedestrians, and he wondered if a planned underpass to connect Mooresville and Klumac roads will help open up the city’s southern end.
Pitner also questioned whether there had been much communication between the bicycle plan consultants and what the city Parks and Recreation Department has laid out in a rewrite of its Master Plan.
The plan and its proposed loops can be viewed online at www.salisburync.gov/planningboard/bikeplan.html.
The Planning Board will make its recommendation on the plan Aug. 25. Salisbury City Council is supposed to review the document in September.