The Middle Susquehanna Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan (Bike+Ped Plan) is an important development for our communities, but with a name that could compete with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, most of us are probably thinking: what does that even mean?
The long and short of it is that the Bike+Ped Plan seeks to make our communities more bike and pedestrian (walking) friendly. It sets about this goal by focusing on three key components:
- Improve safety such as revising dangerous intersections and crosswalks.
- Grow our network of infrastructure by adding trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks that connect communities to each other and to key destinations such as schools, parks, and the Susquehanna River.
- Educate our region on the positive impact walkable and bikeable communities have on our local economies and healthy lifestyles.
Many of our towns and neighborhoods grew from the human scale where it was common to go about our daily business on foot. Towns were built around a central square or main street—creating a core that was a mix of commerce, residential, public buildings, and places of worship. Residential neighborhoods surrounded the core and spread outward on a grid street system.
With the invention of the automobile, however, things began to change. The town’s basic infrastructure shifted to accommodate this new form of transportation. People could now easily navigate between towns and this increased mobility fueled the rise of the suburbs resulting in a decline of town centers.
This sprawl also resulted in a reprioritization of the car over the pedestrian. This change meant that walking and biking to your destination grew ever more dangerous and less central to daily life.
In the last several years, however, this trend has been reversing throughout the country. Walkable and bikeable communities are becoming increasingly more popular. Today revitalizing urban design and putting a focus back on creating spaces where people can walk, ride, and explore their communities is becoming more widespread and desirable.
Here in the Middle Susquehanna Region, which includes Clinton, Lycoming, Union, Northumberland, Snyder, Montour, and Columbia counties we are set up well to embrace this trend, thanks in part to our past.
Most towns of the region still retain that core walkable and bikeable infrastructure. Incorporating active transportation back into that system, improving what is existing, and adding new corridors of connection help make our communities more walkable and bike-friendly.
With the onset of COVID-19, these outdoor opportunities, connections, and trails proved their worth as methods for staying active and healthy in a time of uncertainty.
The Bike+Ped projects that arise from this plan will also provide numerous benefits to residents and visitors. The result will be more attractive and vibrant places to live, work, and explore.
Here are just a few of the ways that these projects can benefit you and your community:
- Property values. Several studies have shown that being located near an open space, like a trail, have positively impacted property values. Being located near a trail has also become a desirable factor for younger generations when purchasing a home. The proximity to easy recreation provides values in terms of improved health, access to downtown centers, and a safe corridor to work or school (not to mention, a great outlet for kids to run around and blow off some steam!).
- Safety. New projects will have to consider cars, bikes, and pedestrians as transportation factors, making the streets and sidewalks safer for everyone, especially children who walk or bike to school.
- Physical benefits. According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 155-pound person can burn 446 calories in just 30 minutes cycling at a speed of 16 to 19 mph. The same person burns approximately 232 calories walking at a moderate (3.5 mph) pace on a flat surface for one hour.
- Mental health. In addition to physical benefits, walking and cycling also improve mental well-being. A study from England shows that cycling improves self-confidence and tolerance to stress, while reducing sleep issues and tiredness.
- Passive recreation. Trails are not only great for active exercise, but also passive activities like outdoor photography or even enjoying the scenery from a trailside bench, both of which are great for mental health as well.
More and more people want to live and work in places that are walkable and bikeable, and this Plan pushes our region in a direction that will foster recreational connectivity within and among our communities. It will allow us to step outside our homes and walk or bike from town to town, making for a more connected Middle Susquehanna Region.
SGP looks forward to seeing the exciting new developments the Middle Susquehanna Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan and Active Transportation Committee will bring to our river town communities and beyond.
The action items of the Bike+Ped Plan are begin implemented by the Middle Susquehanna Active Transportation Committee (MSATC). This committee’s membership represents County Municipal Planning Organizations (MPOs), PennDot, Bike+Ped advocacy groups, healthcare affiliates, visitors’ bureaus, and nonprofits within the Middle Susquehanna region. The goal of the committee is to bring life to the action items outlined in the 2019 Bike+Ped Plan.
The MSATC is open to new members who are interested in becoming a part of the initiative and welcomes ideas for implementing the plan. The full Middle Susquehanna Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan can be found here.