The Urban and Rural Steering Committees and the Technical Committee for the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan each met over the past few days. Below I provide a summary of what was discussed at these meetings.
The agendas for each meeting were similar. For that reason, my comments are a conglomeration of the discussions at the three separate meetings.
I was able to attend the Technical and Urban meetings, but was unable to attend the Rural meeting. Fortunately, I received input from two members in attendance at the Rural Steering Committee, Neil Prendergast and Brad Mapes-Martins. I want to thank them for enabling me to include content discussed at the Rural meeting in the summary below.
Discussion of Bicycling and Walking Issues
The meetings had open discussion among the committee members about challenges, barriers, and other issues for those who bike and walk in Portage County. Many of the themes brought up for discussion are outlined below:
- upcoming street and other Public Works projects expected in the next few years that are opportunities for improving bicycle and foot traffic infrastructure
- Division/Church/Post corridor
- North Reserve
- Bukolt St
- Hwy 54/Maple Dr intersection (roundabout being considered)
- County J
- Stevens Point bicycle network
- recently implemented bike route signage
- problem crossings of Division near UWSP
- good bike network links on Prais and Indiana
- urban area connections to outlying areas
- Hwy 10 crossing of I-39 to Target/Fleet Farm area
- Hwy 10/Brilowski/County R intersection
- HH between Hoover and Crossroad Commons area
- Hwy 66 (Stanley) under I-39
- County B under I-39
- Okray Ave connection to Plover
- paths to Galecke Park
- N Second to County X in Hull
- Green Circle issues
- Clark St bridge crossing
- HH crossing in Whiting
- Hwy 66 crossing in Hull
- awkward crossing of NorthPoint/Division intersection
- awkward crossing of Post/Porter/Tommy’s Turnpike intersection
- airport fence project which now looks to be constructible while keeping Green Circle path available
- plans for foot and bike traffic counts on the Green Circle
- creating rural bicycle networks to connect villages to each other and to county parks
- Lake Emily
- Standing Rocks
- Ice Age Trail area
- Mead Wildlife Area
- safety concerns for transitions from Village of Amherst to the surrounding rural areas
- identification of rural roads that are suitable for safe travel by bicycle
- removing dangerous gaps for people on bikes traveling west of the urban area
- improving routes to Wisconsin Rapids, Junction City
- sidewalk gaps
- near Washington School
- HH in Whiting west of Hoover
- north side of Main/Hwy 10 in Park Ridge area and east of I-39
- access to bus stops
- political obstacles to building sidewalks where influential private landowners do not want them
- safety efforts and concerns from Stevens Point and Plover police
- enforcement of traffic ordinances as they apply to people riding bicycles
- bike safety rodeos at schools
- crashes involving people riding bicycles
- funding/staffing limitations on safety efforts
Overall, these discussions provided good input to the project consultants about biking and walking issues in Portage County.
Base Maps, Heat Maps, and Bicycle Demand Corridors
A series of maps were presented by the project consultants, Tom Huber and Kevin Luecke of Toole Design Group. To start, a Base Map of the county showing existing bicycle routes, multi-use paths, and bike lanes was presented. This included small insets of the rural villages and a separate map of the Stevens Point/Park Ridge/Whiting/Plover urban area.
This map was the starting point for the interactive WikiMap that has been available for public comment since January. The WikiMap provides a convenient way to mark locations and routes and to comment on both positives and negatives with regard to traveling by bike or on foot. For more background on this interactive WikiMap see this PPSP post.
To date, a total of about 550 comments have been entered on the WikiMap. Roughly 400 comments mentioned bicycle issues and 150 comments mentioned walking issues. Comments continue to be added to the WikiMap, and the consultants indicated that they will continue to gather WikiMap comments for another 2 months or so (mid-July timeframe).
The WikiMap comments indicate the popular routes which people tend to travel on by bike and by foot. A map highlighting these routes was shown. The consultants then pointed out the similarities between this map of popular bike and foot traffic routes and a separate map indicating streets with high motor vehicle traffic volume. The takeaway from this is that the places people tend to drive motor vehicles are the same places people want to ride bicycles and walk.
Some rationales for this similarity were discussed:
- Popular destinations are located on these high traffic volume routes, and people on bikes and on foot want to go to the same places.
- High traffic volume routes are often the most direct routes to travel from one place to another, and people on bikes and on foot also want to travel on direct routes.
- People on bikes often are unaware of nearby calm streets and only know the streets they typically drive on when they want to use a bicycle to get to a destination.
The presentation then shifted to a different set of maps called Heat Maps. Heat Maps measure latent demand for bicycling and walking. On a Heat Map, each spot on the map is assigned a color from ‘cold’ to ‘hot’ that indicates how close that spot is to various features that suggest potential for increased bicycle and foot traffic. For bicycle Heat Maps, 4 features are considered: housing and population density, schools, paths and trails, and travel barriers. For foot traffic Heat Maps, these 4 features plus the location of bus stops are used.
Separate Heat Maps for bicycle and foot traffic were generated for the urban area of the county. These Heat Maps are available in the meeting packet here. (This link is to the Urban meeting packet – the other meeting packets have the exact same maps.) Project consultants explained that Heat Maps were not provided for the rural area due to an insufficient number of features for such maps to be useful.
When asked how these Heat Maps are used, the consultants answered that given a collection of recommended modifications to the existing bicycling and walking networks, these Heat Maps give guidance on how to prioritize these recommendations. Improving infrastructure in a warm zone is likely to attract more bike and/or foot traffic than doing so in a cool zone.
The presentation then provided an brief overview of how bicycle demand corridors are developed. Influencing factors for a given street include motor vehicle traffic volumes and speeds, crash data, and destinations. This data coupled with other analysis will suggest a suitable bicycle network for the county.
Plan and Policy Review
A Plan and Policy Review document was created by the project consultants. To produce this document, the consultants reviewed existing plans, policies, and ordinances for Portage County, the city of Stevens Point, and the villages of Plover, Park Ridge, Whiting, Almond, Amherst, Amherst Junction, Junction City, Nelsonville and Rosholt. Items that relate to bicycling and walking were identified, and summaries of these bicycling and walking items were collected into the Plan and Policy Review document. For items that, in the opinion of the consultants, required updates, recommendations of how these items should be updated were made.
The items in this document covered a variety of topics. Some examples are bicycle registration, sidewalk requirements in zoning ordinances, and proposed routes for future extensions to existing bicycling and walking networks. The full 25-page document can be found in this meeting packet. (This is the same meeting packet link as above – the other meeting packets have the exact same document.)
A few items from this document were brought up for discussion. These included
- the general guidelines for sidewalks near schools based on state-level policy,
- the lack of clarity in how Stevens Point regulates Bicycle Ways in its ordinances.
The content of this document and its recommendations will be a piece of the final bike/ped plan.
PPSP Final Comments
I’m quite pleased at the progress I see the consultants making on the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan. I look forward to seeing more of what they produce as they synthesize all the data and comments they have collected.
I learned that the consultants are in the process of doing a survey of selected area streets and paths by bicycle. An over-the-handlebar view is a great way to really absorb the high points and challenges for those who bike and walk.
Poky Pedalers are encouraged to complete a survey assessing county-wide bicycling and walking habits. More background about this survey can be found on a recent PPSP blog post. The deadline for completing this survey is May 31.
Poky Pedalers are also encouraged to continue entering comments on the interactive WikiMap. This PPSP post tells more about this excellent way for you to give feedback on what you encounter when you ride your bike.
The next round of committee meetings will probably happen in early July. I’ll continue to keep Poky Pedalers informed of what is happening with this important planning project.
If you want to learn what has happened on this bike/ped planning project since it started about 6 months ago, select Speak Your Poky from the menu bar and choose the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project link.
Disclosure: Bob Fisch, Chief Bike Fun Officer of Poky Pedaling Stevens Point, is a member of the Urban Steering Committee for the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. Posts about this project appearing on the PPSP website are part of a broader PPSP effort to keep readers informed of bikey news in our area. Nothing posted on the PPSP website should be considered to be official communication from the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. The official website for this project can be accessed at http://portagecobikepedplan.wordpress.com.
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