Portage County Bike/Ped Plan: Excellent discussion on final plan document concludes with committee approval

On Wednesday, about 50 people gathered to discuss the final draft of the plan document for the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Project. These folks included members of the Portage County Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Committee, members of the three committees – the Urban and Rural Steering Committees and the Technical Committee – that guided the effort in creating this plan document, project staff from the Portage County P&Z Department, project consultant Tom Huber of Toole Design, and interested citizens.

Throughout the two-hour meeting, as well as the half-hour open house that preceded it, there were scores of excellent constructive comments about the plan document.

The meeting opened with Huber presenting an abbreviated yet thorough overview of the approximately 400-page plan document. This set the tone for continued discussion on a variety of topics. Much of the discussion centered on issues of education, enforcement, and encouragement. Safety was a common thread that many of these issues touched upon.

In response to comments and concerns that were raised, committee members and project staff often elaborated on how such issues were addressed by the plan document. Examples of efforts already taking place to address such issues were also frequently mentioned.

The overall tone of the discussions acknowledged that there is much to do to improve bicycling and walking in Portage County, while also demonstrating that there is a great deal of interest in working to make such improvements. Time and time again, as these discussions took place, the plan document was heralded as an outstanding blueprint for how to proceed.

Once these discussions were complete, the Urban and Rural Steering Committees unanimously recommended adoption of the final plan. This recommendation will be passed up to the Portage County P&Z Committee. This committee will vote on Tuesday March 25 to recommend the bike/ped plan document to the Portage County Board of Supervisors. The county board is expected to consider approval of the plan at their April meeting.

Wednesday’s meeting was an opportunity for the P&Z committee to learn about the plan in advance of their meeting next week. Committee members heard substantial commentary about the thoroughness of the plan document. They were exposed to the expertise and commitment of those who have worked on this document. The message should be very clear that this is a well-conceived plan that can move Portage County towards becoming an even better place for its residents.

After approval by the steering committees, there was further discussion about how to maintain the momentum of the committees that worked on the plan. Several ideas were proposed regarding the continuation of some sort of bike/ped committee to drive progress on plan implementation. Staff from the P&Z department will consider these ideas to identify what might work best within the existing county governmental structure.

This bike/ped planning project started in October of 2012. A great deal has been accomplished over the 17 months since then. Approval by the county P&Z committee and by the full county board would bring a successful conclusion to this effort.

As satisfying as this outcome would be, it is important to remember that this is only the beginning. Once approved, all the hard work of implementing elements of the plan begins.

For Poky Pedalers, there will continue to be plenty of opportunities to tell elected officials what you want to see built to make bicycling better. This bike/ped plan will be an excellent tool for guiding us all on how to accomplish this.

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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