PPSP comments to the Portage County Board of Supervisors regarding the bike/ped plan

(Note: The following is a transcript of a statement I made at the April 22 Portage County Board of Supervisors meeting as they took action to adopt the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.)

My name is Bob Fisch and I am the Chief Bike Fun Officer of Poky Pedaling Stevens Point. At the March Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, I spoke of the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan as a blueprint for making our county a better place to live.

Today, I want to comment on how this countywide plan can benefit tourism in rural Portage County.

Our county is blessed with outstanding rural scenery, superlative county parks, and a broad network of paved roads, many of which see low traffic volumes. Together, these have enormous potential for attracting tourists who enjoy bicycle recreation.

Here are two examples to illustrate this potential.

In June, the Great Annual Bike Adventure Along the Wisconsin River will spend the third of its six overnights in Amherst. One thousand bicycle riders are expected. Amherst merchants can entice these hungry and thirsty riders to spend money at local businesses in the late afternoon and evening they arrive as well as the morning they depart.

In July, the Bike Northwoods Tour will spend the fourth of its six overnights in Stevens Point. The 400 bike riders on this tour will also be eager to buy food and drink.

These are notable examples of what is happening now. But I want you to envision even greater potential.

Although the scenery, parks, and roads of Portage County are good for attracting bicycle tourism, there is still much room for improvement. Gaps and uncomfortable connections in the routes between county destinations limit the appeal of Portage County to bicycle tourists. Lack of bicycle-specific signage and route maps further dissuades those looking for a bicycle recreation destination.

The need for such improvements is reflected in bike/ped plan policies that support specific plan goals in Chapter 5. To cite two examples, policy A1.2 says to “Create bicycle accommodations on prioritized County Roads where space is currently available or when they are reconstructed.” Policy D2.2 says to “Create priority corridors and loop rides throughout the County and create a recreational guide and online mapping materials.” Specific rural roads needing improvements are listed in Chapter 7.

By implementing the plan recommendations, Portage County can position itself as the premier bicycle tourism destination in Central Wisconsin. It is not far-fetched to think we could become the premier bicycle tourism destination in all of Wisconsin. Think of the positive economic benefit such tourism would bring to our villages.

Alternatively, we could rest on our laurels and do nothing. But don’t think for a second that Marathon, Wood, and Waupaca Counties aren’t trying to become more bicycle-friendly. The future of doing nothing would convince organizers of week-long tours to route their hoard of hungry and thirsty riders through those counties. I don’t think anyone in this room wants to create that future.

I ask you to share my vision to make Portage County a premier bicycle tourism destination. Your next action in support of this vision is to vote unanimously in favor of the Portage County Bike/Ped Plan.

Thank you for listening.

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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