New paths: Local residents evaluate the city’s proposed bicycle and pedestrian plan

A sign welcomes guests to a community open house for the City of Columbus Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Update in the Cal Brand Meeting Room at Columbus City Hall in Columbus, Ind., Thursday, June 20, 2019. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

A steady flow of local residents turned out at Columbus City Hall on Thursday evening to give input and feedback about bicycle and pedestrian travel in Columbus.

The event, in the Cal Brand meeting room, offered the public a chance to give feedback that will be incorporated into the City of Columbus Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Update.

“We really wanted people to provide comments about our existing network and what they think our network should aspire to be and what the future conditions should be,” said Emilie Pinkston, a senior planner for the city of Columbus. “We want to know where people feel comfortable, where they don’t feel comfortable and why that is. That should give us clues as to what we should be building in the future. Hopefully, we’ll gain ideas about how we should be prioritizing future expansion and programs as well.”

That update is to identify ways in which the city could expand the local network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and make them more convenient, safe and comfortable, city officials said. The plan will update the city’s 2010 bicycle and pedestrian plan.

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About 24 people had showed up within the first 40 minutes of the event. City officials estimated total attendance at around 40 for the three-hour workshop.

The public workshop featured several interactive activities designed to encourage the public to give feedback. One activity allowed people to select the types of facilities that people would feel most comfortable using, including buffered bicycle lanes, unpaved walking trails, sidewalks, among others. People would then place 11 round red stickers on a board to indicate how comfortable they were with the facilities.

Another activity required the public to vote on which of 20 incomplete projects they would most like to see completed, including the Clifty Creek Trail extension and the Talley Road bicycle lanes. Twenty buckets with different labels were placed on a table and visitors used five round tokens to cast their votes.

Many of the people who attended the workshop are avid bicyclists who said they were, in large part, happy with the city’s trails and facilities. But they also wanted to offer some wide-ranging ideas for improvements.

Christopher Bartels, 35, Columbus, a dentist at Tipton Lakes Family Dentist LLC, said he came to the workshop because he hopes the city could make some improvements to get more people interested in the city’s network of trails.

Bartels, who lives on the north side of Columbus, said one of the best parts of his day is riding his bike around 4.25 miles each way to work.

Bartels said he would like to see a bicycle route along County Road 325W and Lowell Road and a bicycle path or sidewalk along State Road 46 between the CVS Pharmacy and Tipton Lakes Boulevard.

“It’s just about connecting all the little segments we have started (around the city) and making them seamless,” Bartels said.

Emily Morton, 23, Columbus, said she came to the workshop because she and her fiancé are new to Columbus and were interested about what the future of the city’s bicycle and pedestrian trails might be.

Morton, who said she and her fiancé recently purchased a home on 15th Street, said she would like to see some wider bicycle lanes and more guidance on alternative routes if bicycle and pedestrian trails are flooded.

“One of the things that we run into trouble with is flooding of the People Trail. If we want to get around it, we have to figure out how to get around it or what are we supposed to do in this situation?”

Next, city officials will compile the information from the workshop, as well as the feedback from an online survey and mapping tour that will be available on the project’s website until June 28, and formulate draft recommendations for improvements sometime this fall.

Once the recommendations are made, the city will hold another public workshop to gather more feedback. The date of the next workshop has not been determined.

“There’s a steering committee with local residents and stakeholders who are helping to guide this process,” Pinkston said. “After we get all the input tonight and through the survey and WikiMaps, we’ll sift through all those comments and then we’ll start grouping similar comments and then start working through what our recommendations should be.”

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Visit for more information about the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Update, including links to the online community survey and mapping tool.

Local residents may also contact Emilie Pinkston, a senior planner for the city of Columbus, at 812-376-2550 or [email protected] for more information.

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Those who couldn’t attend the public workshop may give feedback by going to the project’s website or email Emilie Pinkston, a senior planner for the city of Columbus, at [email protected] with comments.

The project website contains a survey focusing on current bicycle and pedestrian conditions and what can be done to improve existing facilities.

The website also features a WikiMap, where people can mark and comment on routes and intersections the city could improve, among other feedback.

The survey and WikiMap will be available until June 28.