Biking, walking plan in motion
Published 9:47 pm Thursday, March 9, 2017
A group of about 60 citizens discussed opportunities and challenges for better cycling and pedestrian infrastructure in Suffolk at a meeting Tuesday.
The city received a grant from the state Department of Transportation to develop a master plan for improvements. The consulting firm of Rhodeside and Harwell is working with the city to develop a plan.
Visitors to Tuesday’s meeting at City Hall viewed interactive exhibits about the city’s current conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, categorized their level of comfort with cycling on the city’s roads and gave suggestions for improvements.
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“We’re looking to explore what makes the most sense for Suffolk,” said Jenny Koch of Rhodeside and Harwell.
The consultants have almost completed evaluating the current conditions. Challenges for the city include its large size, narrow streets, rail crossings and lack of a current network, Koch said.
“Sometimes, sidewalks just end, and there’s nowhere to go after that,” Koch said.
But opportunities include abandoned railways where paths can be constructed, wide public roadways in some areas and a policy mandating construction of multi-use paths with new or reconstructed roads.
“A rural street doesn’t have the same needs as a downtown street, but both should be able to accommodate a variety of users,” Koch said.
Potential improvements for cyclists could include everything from “sharrows” — simply marking a road with a cyclist logo to remind motorists to share the road — to protected bike lanes, separated from the roadway by landscaping or other infrastructure. Bike lanes with less separation, sometimes just a line, could also be considered in some areas.
A goal of the plan is to “formalize” with better infrastructure the routes that cyclists are already using, Koch said. The consultants are seeking a safe route between the city’s two main growth areas.
Improvements for pedestrians could include more and better sidewalks and paths with benches, shade trees and wayfinding signs.
“All this can really enhance the place Suffolk is,” Koch said.
Visitors at the event expressed hope the plan will lead to improvements.
“We are enthusiastic about the hope of safer passage in Suffolk,” said Cynthia Curliss, who often cycles along Pitchkettle Road, near where she lives. She said cars, trucks and construction roadblocks often push her into the road, as there is little to no shoulder on Pitchkettle.
Andrew Hund, who owns a bike shop and lives in Norfolk, said he came out to support the cycling community.
“It’s to change a city for the better,” he said.
“Our goal here is to make sure paths are safe and convenient and comfortable,” Koch said.
Recommendations made as part of the consultant’s report would be planned through the city’s annual capital improvements plan process.
There will be two more public meetings, likely in summer and fall, before the plan is finalized, said Deana Rhodeside of Rhodeside and Harwell.
A survey is available on the city’s website through March 14. Visit suffolkva.us and click on “Suffolk Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.”