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

On October 1, both the Rural and Urban Steering Committees of the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project met. The project consultants from Toole Design Group were not present. Instead, Jeff Schuler and Sarah Wallace from the Portage County Planning and Zoning Department led the discussions and shared relevant content of recent conversations they have had with the consultants.

The two committee meetings took place separately. I attended both meetings and will present below a composite report of what happened at these meetings.

Most of the discussion in both meetings centered on the Vision, Goals, Objectives, and Policies document. A copy of this document can be found in either of the agenda packets available in the blog post announcing the October 1 meeting on the project website.

This document was significantly altered from the version presented at the July meetings. The changes were guided by feedback the consultants received at those meetings.

To start the discussion of this document, Schuler and Wallace explained that the original intent of having separate bike/ped plans for the urban and rural areas was being reconsidered. Based on the substantial overlap of content in the two plans, coupled with the urban-rural transition zones which would need to be treated in both plans, the consultants feel that it would make more sense to simply create a single county-wide bike/ped plan that addresses both rural and urban issues. The Vision, Goals, Objectives, and Policies document we reviewed merged the urban and rural items, which was one of the organizational changes from the document presented in July.

At the urban meeting, there was unanimous support for a single combined plan document. At the rural meeting, there was also strong support for combining the plans, but there was some concern expressed that a combined document might weaken the presentation of the rural plan components and could potentially make the plan less useful to the rural regions in the county. Schuler and Wallace listened to the feedback from the committees and will consider this while continuing discussions with the consultants in order to make a decision.

Turning to the specific content of the revised Vision, Goals, Objectives, and Policies document, the vision statement abandons its earlier bureaucratic tone and has a more people-oriented flavor. Yet there was strong agreement in both meetings that the new vision statement is too lengthy.  A great deal of time was spent wordsmithing to arrive at a terser statement which conveyed the same sentiments. Different versions were created in each meeting, and Schuler and Wallace will reconcile these to come up with a suitable vision statement to suggest to the consultants.

The list of goals, objectives, and policies were also reviewed. Overall, there was general satisfaction with these. Minor edits and some suggested additions were proposed by both committees. Wallace stated that there was an inadvertant omission from the final goal (Goal G) in the document provided in the agenda packets. The objectives of encouraging municipalities to apply for bike-friendly and walk-friendly community status, which were present in the July document, are still present in the revision even though they do not appear in the packet documents.

One additional topic was briefly discussed. Wausau and neighboring communities recently created a network of signed and numbered bicycle routes to help bicycle riders find suitable routes for navigating among these communities. A map of these routes (available in the meeting packets) was also discussed. Schuler and Wallace explained that this route-and-signage effort was driven by public health organizations, rather than by local transportation departments. This was presented to the committees as a possible model for creating similar route-finding guides in Portage County.

Wallace mentioned that the next set of steering committee meetings would probably be in the first or second week of November and that a draft version of the full bike/ped plan would be presented for discussion. These November meetings should prove to be extremely interesting. When more details of the November meetings become available, I’ll post that information on this blog.

My understanding is that there will also be an open meeting soon after the next round of committee meetings to get feedback from the public about the draft version of the plan. This open meeting will likely be the best opportunity for Poky Pedalers to influence the content of the final plan document.

If you haven’t been keeping up and want to know what happened at past meetings, this PPSP website has a page devoted to the bike/ped plan project. Just 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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