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Town of Leland Comprehensive Bicycle Plan

(updated: Oct 1, 2007)

Last Tuesday the town of Leland held a meeting to present a comprehensive bike plan and seek public comment. Seems people want bikes to be a part of Leland's future. In fact, their vision is:

"To establish bicycles as a viable, convenient, and safe choice throughout Leland."

On a recent survey the consultants conducted, bicycling were the number one choice of what the citizens wanted more of.

What???

I felt like I needed to pinch myself just to see if I was dreaming. I had been told that they wanted cycling, and knew about the bike parade they held in June, but it didn't hit me until the meeting. This was a big meeting for Leland. These folks see the value of a cycling friendly community. They care about the future of their town, and they want to build a vibrant and interactive community. And they understand the opportunity of acting now, while much more can be done at lower cost, than later after the area is all built-up.

Contrast this with Wilmington's Parks Dept, whose consultant-run survey listed bikes all the way down the bottom. Soccer, tennis, and even frisbee golf beat out cycling. Everything we've done for cycling up to this point has been self-funded. It remains to be seen whether we will receive any money from the Parks Dept.

It seems that a lot of folks in Leland at least are fed up with the way they live in this country. They hate the commutes, they hate having to book "playdates" for their kids because you can't let kids walk along a 4-lane limited-access 55 MPH collector road to the park, they hate having so many car trips, they hate the growing congestion and unsafe conditions. They hate not being able to get to scenic areas except by car.

The difference in attitude between Wilmington and Leland seems striking. I keep bringing up the Porter's Neck Growth blog as an example, but it's typical of Wilmington residents. The attitude is "Just keep the traffic flowing so I can continue to drive unimpeded and leave me alone with your conservation and alternative transportation". It's an attitude where the only solution they've left themselves open to is more roads and more congestion. I've been noticing a lot of new Escalades and Land Rovers on Wilmington roads lately.

In Leland they primarily want cycling as a recreational activity. But to do that they plan to connect neighborhoods together via bike paths, that in turn connect to other loops, parks, and stores. There was a lot of concern about people who didn't have cars and had to bike or walk along some of the busy roads there.

It is a comprehensive plan, meaning that existing and all new development would have to adhere to it so that you get a connected community rather than sporadic pockets of lanes and paths that lead nowhere. The words they used were connectivity, coordination, continuity, and quality of life.

Having a comprehensive bicycle plan is all well and good, but how will it be implemented?

The plan calls for a Bicycle Coordinator position that would work with developers and review plans to ensure the standards set for bikes are implemented to established specifications. Zoning codes may need to be updated.

And who is going to pay for it?

Based on the survey results, 60% said that they are for a bond issue, and 20% said maybe. It remains to be seen if or when it actually goes on the ballot whether people will put their money where their mouths are. But based on what I heard from the people in the meeting room, they do not need to be convinced of the importance of cycling, and they seem well educated on what needs to happen to make it a success.

I'm trying to get a copy of the presentation slides so I will have more details to come.

Going back to Wilmington, what baffles me is why Wilmington wants such a car dependent county. It can't be because it's large, because New Hanover County is one of the smallest counties in NC. You can get around pretty quickly here if there was a way on bike without putting your life at risk. If the county would issue bonds to add separate bike lanes down Market St. and College you could transform the entire community into something worth caring for. I don't think it would cost more than $100 per resident. But the economic return would be tenfold. Let's get alternative transportation subsidized for once instead of oil and autos.

Let me point out the recent study by the Chicago-based CEOs for Cities that demonstrated that Portland’s multi-modal streets saves $2.6 Billion annually: Less driving is more cash for Portland.

From this perspective, Wilmington is throwing money away. Not only that, once we get further into this energy crisis, it's going to lose a whole lot more economically. Too bad, land-use planning around cars only in the name of maximizing short-term return ends up leaving us worse off economically in the long run, which goes back to my comment in a previous post about the true cost of things. Just because you don't include a cost (or it's subsidized) doesn't mean it's not there.

In Leland they have purchased land for conservation and open space and the plan is to put trails in one of those areas. That's right, soon we will have another place to mountain bike. And we are going to help build them. See the map below. The trails will be where the big green splotch is labeled Proposed Town Creek National Park. We're talking a 900+ acre park. I haven't checked the area out yet, but hopefully with the river running along the southern end there will be some decent terrain.

Coming soon... new trails and places to ride


I might want to conduct an economic impact of Blue Clay by collecting signatures and some quotes from some of the folks who ride Blue Clay just to have data on how many people use the park, where they're from, and what they think of it. Maybe I can put up a sign-in sheet when we build the trail kiosk. This information could be used to establish bikes parks in other counties and to start a 4+ mile uninterrupted recreation path project that I want to get going. More on this later.

It was refreshing to see such enthusiasm for bikes and a town that gets it. After all, who wouldn't want to have cycling opportunities down here where the weather is nice and it's flat - easy for people to do. Let's hope they don't go the way of Wilmington.

-SBA



Filed Under: General Entries > North Carolina > Wilmington



1 COMMENT:

1. MoreSatori said...

The upcoming local election would be a good time to get cycling in the spotlight. Anybody know if there will be any Q&A forums or anything with the candidates? I sure would like to have more bike lanes around here. If there were lanes like the short one on Eastwood all over town, I'd never use my car.

Sep 30, 2007 @ 8:21 PM


 

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