Pedaling Toward a Plan
effort aimed at making the Chippewa Valley better for bikes and pedestrians
Public input is being sought regarding the Metropolitan Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which is being developed by the Chippewa-Eau Claire Metropolitan Planning Organization and an advisory team of local governments, state agencies, and advocacy groups with the goals of “improv(ing) safety and comfort for bicyclists and pedestrians, expand(ing) the connectivity of the bicycle and pedestrian transportation network, and increase(ing) the number of people walking and biking,” says Jason Duba, assistant transportation planner with the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.
“Bikes bring people together for work, school, and play without being a drain on the economy or the vibrancy of cities that accommodating the automobile with more parking and more traffic lanes does.” – Jeremy Gragert, Wisconsin Bicycle Federation
Jeremy Gragert of the Wisconsin Bicycle Federation reports the growing number of Chippewa Valley residents biking or walking for transportation and recreation has created the need for a plan and collaboration among neighboring communities to improve their infrastructure and ensure safe biking and walking. “The expanding bike culture is part of the Eau Claire revival we are seeing downtown, and park development beginning in Altoona and Chippewa Falls,” Gragert says. “It’s part of a shift to a more positive attitude that people are feeling. Bikes bring people together for work, school, and play without being a drain on the economy or the vibrancy of cities that accommodating the automobile with more parking and more traffic lanes does. Not to mention the drain on people’s own pocketbooks from car payments and gas. Safer and more accessible bike paths and streets needs to be a bigger part of our future in order to continue the momentum to become a more healthy, happy, vibrant, and economically and environmentally sustainable community.”
Gragert adds that he’s concerned with transforming streets to be inclusive of the needs of bikers, walkers, and bus riders. “It is the concept of ‘Complete Streets’ – whether the street is designed with sidewalks, and with bike lanes, and/or designed for slow speeds so that people can bike safely on or across a street safely,” he says. “We have places like the State Street hill that are barriers from a geographic standpoint, but could really be less of a barrier of we had bike lanes or separated paths for people biking. We have major gaps in our trails system, and entire parts of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls without any trails are all.”
Citizens are encouraged to assist with the plan by sharing their thoughts about walking and biking in the area in person at two upcoming public meetings. They can also do so online through a WikiMap which allows users to add their walking and biking routes to a community-generated map. They also can complete an online survey about their walking and biking habits and make suggestions for improving walking and biking in the area. “We are hoping to learn about people’s experiences walking and biking and their ideas about what is going well and what could be improved,” Duba says, “i.e., where they like to go and where they would like to go if it were easier to do so, for what purposes they walk and bike, and how comfortable they feel walking and biking and what improvements would help them feel more comfortable.”
Learn more about the Metropolitan Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan by visiting wcwrpc.org/bikepedplan.html or by attending one of the open houses: Monday, Aug. 29, at Chippewa Falls City Hall (30 W. Central St.) from 5-6:30pm with a presentation at 5:30pm; and on Thursday, Sept. 8, at Altoona City Hall (1303 Lynn Ave.) from 4-6:30pm.
What is the metro planning organization?
The Chippewa-Eau Claire Metropolitan Planning Organization includes the cities of Altoona, Chippewa Falls, and Eau Claire; the village of Lake Hallie; and the towns of Anson, Brunswick, Eagle Point, Hallie, Lafayette, Pleasant Valley, Seymour, Tilden, Union, Washington, and Wheaton. Its purpose is to carry out a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive urban transportation planning process for the area.