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Thursday, April 1, 2010 03:54 am

A better future for two-wheelers

The wheels are in motion for Springfield area bicyclists, who after this spring will have several new opportunities for expanded routes and services.

The Springfield Bicycle Advisory Council, set up in September 2009 to help create a more bicycle-friendly city, recently announced its plans to work with the Springfield Area Transportation Study and Leadership Springfield on two projects that will promote bicycling as a safe, convenient method of recreation and transportation.

The Springfield Area Transportation Study, represented by members of the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission, City of Springfield, Sangamon County, Springfield Mass Transit District, Illinois Department of Transportation and the Village of Chatham, will incorporate area bicycle and pedestrian pathways into its 25-year transportation plan.

SATS has traditionally focused on roads, says Linda Wheeland, senior transportation planner with the Regional Planning Commission, but decided to add plans for alternative transportation in order to meet the public’s needs.

“We did a few things differently in the development of the plan this time, and we had several opportunities for citizen input,” Wheeland says. “There was an overwhelming indication that there needed to be more bicycle and pedestrian planning than there had been in the past.”

SATS will attend the BAC’s next meeting on April 12, Wheeland says, to seek members’ ideas on how to better accommodate the area’s bicyclists and pedestrians. The group plans to set up a steering committee and begin developing the new plan by the fall.

Wheeland adds that connecting current bicycle lanes and pedestrian pathways will be a main priority.

Members of Leadership Springfield, an eight-month leadership training program offered to local professionals by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, have also reached out to the BAC as part of their service initiative.

Laura Sakach, an engineer with Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, Inc., and a member of Leadership Springfield, says the group will conduct a 10-question survey to identify the needs of both novice and avid bicyclists. They plan to distribute it through Springfield-area running and bicycling shops, and it can also be found on the city of Springfield’s Web site or at www.surveymonkey.com/s/W3WLRTQ.

The group will also present the BAC with other recommendations, such as safe routes for biking to school or to work and contacts for other resources.

BAC Chairman David Sykuta says he hopes that the survey will gather input from a larger slice of the community. The council has heard from bicycle advocacy groups that safety and the connection of the Wabash, Interurban and Lost Bridge trails is needed, but now members want to hear from the general public.

“We’ll get the responses and use those as an integral part of the plan development,” Sykuta says. “It’ll make people feel like they have ownership and give us ideas on what we need to stress.”

Sykuta adds that it will be easier for the city to approve money for alternative routes or for bicycle lane striping or signs if the public has been involved through the new SATS or Leadership Springfield initiatives.

“Where we’re headed with all of this is to get a master plan on the fast track,” he says.

Contact Amanda Robert at arobert@illinoistimes.com.
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