While snow and ice in the Inland Northwest may not be conducive for cycling, it doesn’t mean the wheels weren’t spinning on compilation of Spokane Valley’s first bike and pedestrian master plan this winter.
After a series of public workshops last fall, employees with the city’s community development department like Mike Basinger have been working diligently to complete a draft of the document which will be forwarded to DKS, a consulting company hired by the city. Basinger said the handoff will likely occur this week, with DKS eventually emerging with a recommended Spokane Valley bike/ped map that will be distributed to citizens in the final phase of an extensive public input process.
|While the Centennial Trail provides a scenic route for local cyclists and pedestrians, the city of Spokane Valley is working to increase opportunities for nonmotorized transportation through a new bike/pedestrian master plan.
“We’re going to take that map out into the community and see what people think,” Basinger said.
Public outreach and plan refinement is scheduled for May through June with review by the Spokane Valley Planning Commission and City Council set for July. Basinger said there will be one more public workshop, probably sometime in May. The city has until August to approve the document based on the requirements of a federal grant.
Basinger, who practices what he preaches by biking to work each day, said the goals of the BPMP involve “taking an inventory of existing routes and facilities and then identifying new routes and facility improvements that will provide safe places for walking and biking.”
“You have space on both sides of the road to add facilities,” said Basinger, who added that Spokane Valley’s generally level terrain lends itself to walking, jogging and biking.
According to the BPMP January 2011 newsletter, the initial inventory involved an evaluation of facilities such as street lighting, bike-friendly storm grates, on-street parking, curb, sidewalks, existing street widths and current speed limits. Basinger said the abundance of wide roads throughout the city creates “the potential to pave the way to a more bike and pedestrian friendly city without the costs of purchasing extra land for facilities such as bike lanes, shared use paths and sidewalks.”
Among other examples of civic advocacy, Basinger said the BPMP process received a boost from the enthusiastic turnout in support of the Broadway Avenue Safety Project last year. The work includes transitioning Broadway into two travel lanes with a center turn lane and bike paths between Pines Road and Park Road. A considerable contingent of cyclists voiced their support of the project during discussions at City Hall. City Council eventually agreed to move the work forward by a 4-2 vote last June.
While Basinger applauded the cycling community for their commitment to the project, he emphasized that it would be important “to tell the broader story” about the need for quality bike/ped facilities.
“Broadway gave us momentum,” Basinger said. “But we also realize that having parents, teachers and people from the health community talk about this is going to be key.”
Part of the BPMP includes a program called “Safe Routes to Schools” which provides an overview of pedestrian amenities within a mile of Spokane Valley schools. Spokane Valley has been working on the program with groups like the Spokane Regional Health District, local school districts, Washington State University and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.
Some of the same entities are represented on the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Technical Advisory Group, formed to provide input on the programming of existing and proposed facilities. The committee held its first meeting last fall and continues to be integral in a consulting role during the draft and completion process.
“We come from different backgrounds but the underlying goal is to have a walkable community,” said Heleen Dewey who specializes in nutrition and exercise programs with the Spokane Regional Health District.
Cycling enthusiasts like Spokane Valley resident Marc Mims have gone the extra mile to promote additional bike and pedestrian routes throughout the city. Last September, Mims helped organize the inaugural “Pedal with Politicians” event that included Spokane Valley Mayor Tom Towey, Council Member Bill Gothmann and dozens of citizens biking through city streets. Afterwards, Towey called the tour “very informative,” saying he “learned a great deal about bike routes.”
“It was a good starting point,” Mims said. “I think it raised some awareness and got some people involved.”
The information gathering process last year also included a city-sponsored online survey taken by over 350 residents. Topping the list of recommendations were increased north/south routes and connections to the Centennial Trail as well as improved bike and pedestrian lanes along Sprague Avenue.
As the city prepares to wrap up the final stages of the BPMP, Basinger said community feedback will be a vital cog in the collaborative wheel.
“I think when the community participates, it becomes a little more tangible to them,” he said. “We’re hoping to have their support through the rest of this process.”