On the move: City seeks public input for bike/pedestrian update

Columbus and local residents are working together to update a plan created in 2010 to help cyclists and pedestrians move through the city with ease.

The city is seeking input from the public on possible updates to its bicycle and pedestrian network. A survey on improvements is available at columbus.in.gov/bikewalk/, and feedback ends Aug. 1.

Members of the public can use the survey to vote on which proposed improvements they feel the city needs most, and the input will be a factor in prioritizing improvements over the next five years for an update to the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

According to the city’s Bike Walk website, the bicycle and pedestrian plan is a long-term vision for the future of Columbus’s bicycle and pedestrian network.

“In the 1980s was when the first People Trails were constructed,” said city/county Planning Director Jeff Bergman. “And then that People Trail network was extended over time with, we’ll say, a loose plan generally maintained by the parks department about sort of where those People Trail connections were going to go.”

The first city-wide bicycle and pedestrian plan was adopted in 2010, he said. It looked at the People Trails while also focusing on the larger scope of “all of the city’s needs, relative to how people move on bike and on foot.”

Since that time, improvements from the plan have been implemented, said Senior Planner Emilie Pinkston, who is the project manager for the update and the city’s bike pedestrian coordinator. The city has also collected input in recent years on improvements that could be featured in the upcoming update to the 2010 plan.

The city is continuing to consider public input as they consider what expansions and improvements should be made, she said.

“Where, for example, do we have gaps in the network where facilities should fill in that gap to create a connection?” she said. “Or as the city grows and residential areas expand, how do we reach those new residents with facilities as well?”

The 2010 plan and the update have involved the city’s parks, planning, engineering and public works departments.

“We also have a steering committee of residents that are heavily weighing in on these documents and providing quite a bit of insight into their use of the trails and helping us, and the whole system for that matter, and helping us develop these draft recommendations,” Pinkston added.

Bergman emphasized the importance of this committee’s role in the process.

This update is currently in development. Proposed improvements and elements of the draft plan can be viewed on the Bike Walk site.

According to the Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department’s website, the plan update will include:

Recommendations for improving and expanding the city’s bicycle and pedestrian facilities

“Detailed design guidelines for all recommended facility types”

Wayfinding and signage systems

Priority locations for trail and street lighting

New trailhead locations

Creating a “recognizable logo” for the People Trail

A “key evolution” from the 2010 plan will be a focus on accommodating the needs of different types of individuals, Bergman said. These include experienced and confident bikers, inexperienced children learning how to ride, families riding for recreation and pedestrians.

“Each one of those groups has a different set of needs, as far as what infrastructure we provide,” he said. “And they can conflict with each other just as much as cyclists and cars can. So this plan tries to be really thoughtful about sort of how the network serves those different user groups.”

Pinkston said that the city hopes to use the survey input to see which projects have a “broad, community-wide interest” and prioritize them in the future.

“Personally, I think a lot of the projects, or the improvements that we’re proposing are exciting and are important for the network,” she said. “I’m excited to hear what the public has to say about that, where they think the greatest need is.”

The feedback will be an “important factor in finalizing the bicycle pedestrian plan update,” she said. The city will create a list of priority projects based on both input and feasibility. Once the updated plan is finished, it will be adopted as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

This process will require review and approval from the Columbus Plan Commission, Columbus City Council and the Columbus Parks Board.

While the city is encouraging people to visit the Bike Walk website for voting, there will also be an advertisement running in The Republic on Sunday on the plan update. Readers can cut out sections of the ad, mark their votes on proposed sidewalk and intersection improvements, and mail their “ballots” to the city.

There are two other voting categories available online: People Trail and other bicycle improvements. However, the city believes sidewalks and intersection improvements have “the most wide appeal and interest,” Pinkston said.

There are also plans to have representatives at the Columbus Farmers’ Market on July 31 with large-scale maps. Individuals will be available for discussions, questions and feedback.

“Our bicycle pedestrian network is so important to so many people in our community,” Pinkston said. “They rely on it to get to work. They rely on it to get groceries and to run their errands. And a lot of people rely on it just to stay healthy, and they use it as a way to recreate and stay close to family. And it’s just a really important part of a lot of people’s lives. And so we want to know how we can make that even better.”