Portage County Bike/Ped Plan: Report on July steering committee meetings

On July 8, both the Urban and Rural Steering Committees for the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project met. The two main topics at each meeting were Safe Routes to School and the statement of plan vision, goals, objectives, and policies. As expected, both meetings stimulated a great deal of lively discussion.

Safe Routes to Schools
Tom Huber, a consultant for the bike/ped planning project from Toole Design Group, informed both committees that the Safe Routes to School effort is largely complete. For each of the 26 K-12 public and private schools in Portage County, site assessments regarding bicycling and walking conditions have been completed and recommendations for improvements for each school have been compiled. (There are 1 or 2 schools where the site assessment could not be performed because those schools did not allow the consultants to access those school grounds.) Each committee was presented with one set of recommendations: the McKinley Center for the urban committee and the Almond Schools for the rural committee. Accompanying the recommendations were a biking and walking audit map, a site assessment map, and a site improvement map for that school.

These materials were samples of the compilations completed for all the K-12 schools. The recommendations were organized into the “5 E’s”: Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering, and Evaluation. Mr Huber mentioned that there are many similarities in these recommendations across all the schools and that it is primarily in the Engineering section that the recommendations are specifically tailored to each school’s traffic environment.

The final bike/ped plan document will include in its appendix the assessment and recommendation information for each of the 26 schools. This appendix section will comprise well over 100 pages and will be a major part of the final plan document. Any individual school interested in improving the bicycling and walking environment around their site will be able to reference the pages specific to that school in the appendix.

Mr Huber stated that Safe Route to Schools efforts typically revolve around school-specific committees. With 26 schools in the county, school-specific committees are impractical for the current effort. The intent for the recommendations is to provide a starting point for any individual school that is looking to implement improvements to their bicycling and walking environment. Some schools may simply want to accept these recommendations and identify which to start working on now and which to implement later. Other schools might want to refine the recommendations; those schools might form their own committee and use the assessment maps and recommendations as a starting point for making changes they feel are more suitable to their site.

Mr Huber also informed the committees that the collection of recommendations made as part of the Safe Routes to School effort will also feed into recommendations for the broader bike/ped plan.

Safe Routes to School is a significant part of the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan. The near-completion of this effort is a major milestone for the project.

Statement of Plan Vision, Goals, Objectives, and Policies
Mr Huber provided the committees with a draft version of a statement of vision, goals, objectives, and policies for the bike/ped plan. This document is included in the meeting packets available on the bike/ped plan website.

The definitions of these four terms are included in the document. Conceptually, the vision states in the broadest manner what is hoped to achieved by the plan. Goals are more specific and express general priorities. Objectives are even more specific and are attainable through strategic planning and implementation activities. Policies are the most specific actions that help achieve objectives and goals.

The discussion of these in each committee meeting turned into brainstorming sessions on the draft document. Both committees were generally happy with the overall content of the document. Although the focus of each committee’s discussion was different, each engaged in lively dialog and produced many ideas for the consultants and project staff to consider.

The Urban Steering Committee focused on the statements of vision and goals. Consensus was that it was important to generate a more dynamic vision statement that would more effectively market the plan to residents, visitors, and local governments. Numerous suggestions to that effect were made. The discussion of goals suggested a desire to create a longer list of more targeted goals expressing clear direction rather than vague priorities.

To move forward, it was agreed that the consultants and project staff should revise the statements of vision and goals based on this discussion. Once complete, the Urban Steering Committee will again meet to review that revision.

The Rural Steering Committee focused mostly on the statements of objectives and policies in the document. This discussion included some proposals for additional objectives and policies. It also touched on some strategies for how to achieve several of the stated objectives and policies. This latter set of discussions reinforced the appropriateness of such objectives and policies, even when funding is expected to be scarce.

The Rural Steering Committee was informed that the urban committee will meet again to review a revised version of the document. Consensus was that it would be beneficial for the rural committee to also meet again to review that revision.

Next Steps
Another round of committee meetings will take place to make final comments on the statement of plan vision, goals, objectives, and policies. No timeline was confirmed for when those meetings will take place. As soon as I become aware of the schedule for these meetings, I will post that information on this blog.

For Poky Pedalers who want to catch up on what has happened to date on this bike/ped planning project, select Speak Your Poky from the menu bar and choose the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project link. You will find links to all my past posts on this project, as well as other information to help you stay informed and express your opinions.

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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