The Stevens Point Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee: An introduction and a report from the 9/15 meeting

The city of Stevens Point recently created a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to offer guidance to city staff about how to improve bicycling and walking in Stevens Point. This 5-member committee is comprised of residents appointed by Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza who have shown interest in making biking and walking better in the city.

The committee members are Tori Jennings (Chair), Trevor Roark (Vice-Chair), Liz McDonald, Jim Menzel, and Marlene Pohl.

The BPAC has met a few times over the past month or so, primarily focusing on the mechanics of getting the committee started. The most recent meeting was yesterday. (See below for a report on this meeting.) The committee is still in a formative mode as they learn the rules that dictate how a city committee should operate to remain in compliance with Wisconsin state law.

BPAC members

The scene at yesterday’s BPAC meeting. Clockwise from left: Trevor Roark, Logan Beveridge (partially hidden), Scott Schatschneider, Tori Jennings, Liz McDonald, Jim Menzel, and Marlene Pohl.

One key item that the BPAC has yet to settle on is a vision statement. It is expected that a primary function for the BPAC will be to advise city staff on how to implement the portion of the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan that is pertinent to the city. (Adoption of this plan was approved by the Stevens Point Plan Commission last week, and the Common Council is expected to have the final say on adopting the plan this Monday.) Once a vision statement is drafted, other functions for the BPAC should become more clear.

I expect to regularly attend BPAC committee meetings and to report on the PPSP blog about their actions. Since this committee is still in its nascent stages, meetings in the near future may make few substantive decisions. But as the committee matures, the BPAC is expected to have substantial influence on the biking and walking environment within Stevens Point.

For this reason, it is important for Poky Pedalers to remain aware of what the BPAC is up to. This is why I plan to report on their proceedings. Beyond this, the BPAC will be a body that listens to concerns and requests from residents regarding biking and walking within the city. Poky Pedalers are encouraged to communicate such feedback to the committee. The BPAC is still considering the best methods for receiving such feedback.

The formation of the BPAC is a major development towards improving bicycling and walking within the city of Stevens Point. I look forward to reporting on their recommendations to city staff.

Report on the September 15 BPAC meeting
The September 15 BPAC meeting was attended by all five committee members as well as Stevens Point Director of Public Works Scott Schatschneider, City Attorney Logan Beveridge, and three members of the public. The agenda was split between procedural topics and those topics more specific to biking and walking issues.

The procedural topics included the following:

  • Robert’s Rules: City Attorney Beveridge led a discussion of Robert’s Rules of Order, which is the basic mechanism that city committees use to organize discussions and decision making.
  • Website: The committee discussed having a BPAC website. This discussion included ideas for how to allow the public to send electronic comments to the committee.
  • Vision statement: The committee brainstormed on what should be included in its vision statement. A draft is planned for an upcoming meeting.

As for biking and walking issues, the committee deliberated on the following topics:

  • NorthPoint: The possibility of adding bike lanes and additional marked crosswalks on NorthPoint Dr between Division St and N Second St was discussed. This is the section of NorthPoint that passes in front of SPASH. Director Schatschneider stated that he intends to take traffic counts and perform other analysis of the morning and afternoon traffic flow. With that data, he said he can then work with the school district to identify how best to improve the bicycling and walking environment in this area.
  • Clark/Main couplet: The possibility of adding bike lanes to Clark St and Main St between the downtown area and Park Ridge was discussed. The bike/ped plan recommends sharrows for these routes, but sentiment was expressed among committee members that bike lanes would be a more appropriate treatment to better convey to the broader public that bicycles are appropriate vehicles to travel along these commuter corridors.
  • Ellis: Discussion of designating Ellis St as a bicycle boulevard took place. This conversation was exploratory towards understanding the appropriateness of such a designation.
  • Bike parking time limits: The city recently installed new bicycle parking infrastructure, known as bike hitches, along Main St. Their purpose is to provide quality bicycle parking for those doing business downtown. Experience shows that some nearby apartment dwellers may lock their bicycles to these bike hitches for days, weeks, or months at a time, which is undesirable. Ideas were floated about how to address this problem. After discussion, the best approach seemed to be to draft an ordinance to limit how long a bicycle may be locked to public bicycle parking. Once Common Council approves such an ordinance, then a tag-and-remove policy can be adopted to remove bicycles in violation of the ordinance. The committee will look at similar ordinances adopted by other communities and present a draft ordinance at an upcoming BPAC meeting.

As I mentioned above, the BPAC is still in its formative stages. Although nothing substantive was decided, the committee’s activity at yesterday’s meeting demonstrates that it is laying groundwork for meaningful future action.

The BPAC set their next meeting for October 20 at 10 AM in the City Conference Room of the County-City Building. Once the agenda is available for that meeting, I’ll post an announcement on the PPSP blog.

 

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