Voicing desires for better walking and biking can spur city leaders to make improvements

[Note: The following is my response to a letter which appeared in the 10/30 Portage County Gazette expressing frustration about the lack of adequate places to walk and bicycle on the street the authors live on. A version of this letter also appeared in the 10/30 Stevens Point Journal.

My response letter was published in the 11/6 Portage County Gazette on p. 23. A version of my response, edited primarily for word count limitations, was published in the 11/13 Stevens Point Journal on p. 5A.]

A letter in the October 30 Portage County Gazette from Jon and Tracy Cronce stated their concerns about the narrow shoulders and the lack of sidewalks on Green Avenue, the street they live on in Stevens Point. Their letter expressed frustration about the lack of safe and comfortable places to walk and bicycle on their street.

I want to assure the Cronces that there are many people advocating for better walking and bicycling in Stevens Point. I have often spoken at city meetings and written letters to local newspapers about this issue. My voice has been magnified by the voices of others who have done the same.

I also want the Cronces to know that there are residents throughout Stevens Point who share their concerns as they apply to their own neighborhoods. Sadly, gaps in our walking and bicycling network are common.

I wish that by simply making a phone call to the right city official, Green Avenue could be improved immediately to make walking and biking safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, this sort of improvement doesn’t happen so simply.

On a more encouraging note, I have gradually seen increased awareness among Stevens Point leaders that our city must do better at accommodating walking and biking. Momentum on this issue is definitely moving in a good direction.

Let me give two examples illustrating this momentum. In September, the Stevens Point Common Council voted to adopt the Portage County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan as an official city planning document. Although it is a countywide plan, a significant share focuses on Stevens Point.

Specific to Green Avenue, the plan’s Safe Routes to School section on Washington Elementary School identifies walking and biking deficiencies and recommends to “explore opportunities for creating an off-street multi-use path along Green Avenue.” [Note: This is part of recommendation 2.6.19 in the Recommendations table from the SRTS section specific to Washington Elementary School, available here. All plan documents are available from this link off the Portage County Planning and Zoning Dept website.] Adoption of this plan by Common Council is an important step toward implementing recommendations such as this one.

The second example is that Stevens Point recently formed a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). In a statement posted on the city website, this committee “offers recommendations to the Plan Commission and city staff on how to make biking and walking better in Stevens Point.”

Change is often slow. But urgency can arise when enough residents express their desires for better walking and biking. Coupled with current momentum, such urgency is the ticket to fast-tracking accommodations for walking and biking.

I implore city residents to contact their alderpersons and the mayor regarding their desires for better walking and bicycling. Contacting the BPAC with their concerns is also a great idea. Letters to local newspapers are helpful because they reinforce the efforts of others who speak up for better walking and bicycling.

Our individual voices are small, but collectively our voices are difficult to ignore. Once residents like the Cronces make our leaders acutely aware of the priorities of their constituents, then our city will be likely to act swiftly to make walking and bicycling better throughout Stevens Point.


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