Bicycle ordinance pedaling forward

The city Planning Commission Monday began to review a proposed bicycle ordinance that would make it safer for those on bicycles to navigate throughout the city.

The proposed ordinance includes possible bicycle routes and suggestions for safety improvements that could be designed by engineers.

“If we have a complete streets ordinance, one that includes bicycle improvements and designated routes, the overall safety of bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians will be improved,” said David Stone, who was appointed a year and a half ago by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana to coordinate the committee.

Marvin Staiman, commission chairman, said the committee views these progressive ideas as positive and they should be further explored as a means of improving safety for the motoring public, those on bicycles and pedestrians.

Stone said he couldn’t agree more.

“What we want to do is get a framework established,” he said. “Part of it is a designated route to connect and build bridges (figuratively) between neighborhoods,” he said.

“A lot of the neighborhood streets are fine for biking on, but there are places in the city where it is dangerous to get from one area of the city and the other,” Stone said. “That’s what the routes are and we want to identify the more arterial routes across town,” he said. “That would give the city a means to look for engineering solutions.”

The other part of the framework is a national concept of complete streets, an initiative occurring throughout cities in the nation, one that educates individuals that city streets are not only for moving vehicles, but for bicyclists and pedestrians who have to cross them.

Scott R. Williams, a county transportation planner, said more than 500 people recently completed a survey, the results of which were returned to the county planning department in October. Some 67 percent of those surveyed supported a bicycle route map and 96 percent believe the city should provide infrastructure enhancements on the streets to make it safer for bicyclists, Williams said.

“We can designate the routes,” he said. The next step will be to enact in the city ordinance steps to make is safer for bicyclists.

“No. 1, it’s a starting point,” said Mark Murawski, county chief transportation planner. Among the more important facets of the plan moving forward is educational, he said. “We’ve got to educate both bicyclists and motorists and pedestrians on the rules of the road,” he said. “We have to see that the city ordinance is consistent with state law and there is an appreciation and respect for all users of the road.”

Jerry Walls, volunteer chairman of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, said whatever changes occur are to be consistent with the River Towns revitalization efforts.

The city has been designated a River Town and bicycling routes and bicycling amenities are among the goals for river towns.

Active and healthy lifestyles are linked to lowering costs of health care, with many insurance plans escalating, largely due to individuals who choose a sedentary lifestyle, Walls said.