For the past five years, Davidson officials have sought to become not just a bicycle-friendly community but one that looked after its walkers, joggers and runners as well.The Davidson Town Board of Commissioners last week took a step in that direction, hearing a report on a comprehensive bicycling and walking plan.The report, “Davidson Walks and Rolls: Active Transportation Master Plan,” by Davidson-based consulting firm Alta Planning + Design, concluded that having the infrastructure in place for both bicyclists and pedestrians “will ensure that ... (the) town’s civic/social, environmental and economic health goals are supported.”“It goes without saying that walking and biking are fundamental to the way Davidson sees itself today, and what it aspires to be,” John Cock, Alta’s southeast region principal, said during his presentation to the town board.“The town is putting its money where its mouth is. What we heard from its citizens is that this issue of health and wellness is one of the primary reasons, if not the primary reason, people are interested in having more walking and biking room.”The report recommended developing a comprehensive master plan covering both bicycling and walking, and attempt to tie together all neighborhoods with a series of bicycle paths, walking trails and sidewalks.The town took its first step nearly five years ago, adopting a bicycle master plan in October 2008. However, funding wasn’t available to produce a complementary pedestrian plan until earlier this year, when commissioners approved an $8,000 partial match to a $22,000 grant from the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization.Alta, which has worked with towns and cities worldwide on pedestrian transportation planning projects, wrote the report with the Davidson Pedestrian Master Plan Steering Committee, composed of members from the town’s Livability Board; and staff members from the planning, parks and recreation, public works and police departments.Initial feedback on Alta’s report came during a public workshop and open work sessions in early April, as well as talks with civic groups and an online survey that drew responses from more than 750 Davidson residents.The results of the survey showed that 96 percent of participants supported Davidson officials funding pedestrian facilities such as walking trails, and 88 percent backed funding bicycle facilities such as greenways and dedicated cycling paths.According to Cock, the report also showed that the number of pedestrians and cyclists in Davidson was comparable to similar towns in the state. Only Chapel Hill rated higher in percentage of population that actively walked or ran (11.15 percent to 6.13 percent), while three towns – Carrboro (4 percent), Chapel Hill (2.09 percent) and Wilmington (1.27 percent) – had higher percentages of active bicyclists. Davidson was .87 percent.Yet Cock said that town officials could do more – feedback from residents and steering committee members recommended that the town not only develop a dedicated pedestrian plan, but that biking and walking should be encouraged by improving major pedestrian crossings, improving and increasing secure parking racks for bicycles, improving the town’s current Safe Routes to School program and developing a range of bicycling facility choices.“When you compare where Davidson is to some other nationally-known college towns, we’ve still got some rungs on the ladder to climb,” he said. “But you’ve got some great potential.”According to public information officer Cristina Shaul, the report will now go to a stakeholders group, composed of four members of the town’s Livability Board, plus some town staff members, for additional feedback and refinement. It will then be sent to the full Livability Board and the town’s planning board for their recommendations before going back to the Board of Commissioners at a future meeting, possibly as early as September.
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013
Town considers pedestrian plan
Kiser: 704-358-6043; Twitter @BKiser_CLTObs
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