Salisbury leaders have approved a Bike Network Plan — the first for the city – to the delight of Matt Drew, chairman of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, and with the support of Mayor Jake Day.
The master plan for biking promotes the physical, environmental and social benefits and explains how the existing 18 miles of bike paths in Salisbury can be increased to 80 miles, at a cost of $4.2 million.
Although the document doesn’t specify a target date for completion, Drew said he sees it as a five-year plan and believes that is achievable, since the City Council plans to budget $750,000 each year.
Grant money will also be used.
“We have been building momentum since 2012 when a bike advocacy group was organized. The mayor is very supportive of this,” said Drew, who would like to see Salisbury become known as a bike-friendly community.
“I don’t think we know enough about what we want the bike facility to be to plan any further ahead than five years. Our thought is, let’s work on the plan in the next five years. When 2022 rolls around and we’re ready to do an update, we will know a whole lot more about what we want,” Drew said.
Salisbury has areas void of biking facilities, but the goal is to extend marked bike paths from Salisbury University, through downtown and into the northern part of the city. A map in the Bike Network Plan outlines the route, Drew said.
“One of nice things is, by having a plan in place the community can become more deliberate about how to build bike lanes and not have just short segments that don’t have connectivity or a destination. We want that so we can be intentional about the way we build these bike paths,” Drew said.
Biking is not only enjoyable, but beneficial for the environment, the biker’s health and social life. Even real estate values increase when homes are near bike lanes, since they enhance quality of life.
“We want to be a community that attracts not just millennials, but also empty nesters. We want to be able to differentiate Salisbury from other communities 30 miles away and say that here, we make it easier to ride a bike,” Drew said.
A cyclist for 30 years, Drew, an engineer with AWB Engineering, pedals for fun and also from his home near SU to his company on Northwood Drive, a trek he makes in 20 minutes, only five minutes more than it takes by car.
“It definitely puts you in a much better mood when you take your bike to work,” he said.
Even those who aren’t avid bikers can benefit from biking, he said.
A study found about 1 percent of the population, known as the fearless, will ride on any kind of road in any condition. About 67 percent will roll onto most any road except a major interstate. Another 30 percent won’t bike at all, Drew said.
The largest portion, that 67 percent, is known as interested but concerned. Those in that category understand biking reduces traffic congestion and has environmental and health benefits, but don’t know how to get from where they live to where they work and arrive safely.
Plus, they want a place to lock their bikes and to shower and comb their hair once they arrive.
“This Bike Network Plan is the first step to converting people,” he said.
“There’s no reason you can’t ride to work with a $150 to $200 bike. This is a pretty easy place to ride a bike, because it’s so flat. And to get people used to the idea of biking we have been doing a Slow Roll Ride. It will begin again in April. There will be monthly rides at a slow pace as an introduction to biking. A group will ride from the Downtown Plaza at 5:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month, when the weather is nice,” he said.
Salisbury is on the right track. The League of American Bicyclists, based in Washington, D.C., has a certification program and in 2015 Salisbury was awarded the bronze level.
“We’re the first community on the Eastern Shore with that certification,” Drew said.
“The thing this is going to do is, it’s going to represent a plan for our whole community. We want to build these bike facilities in a coordinated way. We want to make it easier and safer to ride a bike.”
Reach Susan Canfora at email@example.com.