Salisbury Rising: City is building a bicycling network

Matt Drew celebrates the placement of a bike lane on Camden Avenue.

Several times every week, Matt Drew rides his bike from his home near Salisbury University, north to the company where he works, AWB Engineers on Northwood Drive.

It’s not only enjoyable, but beneficial. Bikers, Drew strongly believes, help the environment as they exercise for better health.  Even real estate values increase when homes are near bike routes, since they enhance quality of life, said Drew, who is pleased the Salisbury City Council budgeted $761,500 for FY18 to build a biking network around Salisbury.

Salisbury has areas void of biking facilities, but the goal is to extend marked bike paths from SU, through Downtown and into the northern part of the city.

“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.

“Originally, the budget was zero for this project,” said Drew, who is chairman of the Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

“We’ve gone from an ad hoc process to a much more planned process this year. We’ve certainly had some money to work with but it’s been pretty limited. Most of it has been grant funds that we requested from the state of Maryland. This is the first time it’s been a line item in the city’s budget,” he said.

In December, advisory committee members worked with a consultant, completed a six-month planning process, had public meetings to brainstorm ideas, hosted three workshops, solicited feedback and developed a Bike Master Plan for Salisbury with about a five-year projection. Posted on the city of Salisbury’s webpage, the plan calls for from 18 miles of off-street and on-street bike paths to more than 80 miles. A web of biking trails will make Salisbury more vital, as it integrates with the Urban Greenway plan and redevelopment of Downtown, Drew said.

“It represents, if we built it all, a $5 million investment. The mayor is buying into the vision and putting one-fifth of the cost in the budget, with plans to keep funding it at that level for the next five years,” Drew said.

“Yes, I am,” Day said.

“Five of the six phases are scheduled for completion in the next five years. That’s important because it only works when it’s a built-out system. If we took a go-slow approach we would find it wouldn’t be as comfortable for bikers. If you did a bike lane a year you would spend more money than if you did it all at once. More critically, when you build it slowly people don’t have anywhere to go. This is a network. It will go all over town,” Day said.

“A bike infrastructure is proven to bring in economic multipliers of about 1.3 times that of auto commuters, so there’s a direct correlation between economic growth and a bike infrastructure,” the mayor added.

The closest city that has such an ambitious project is Frederick, Md., Drew said, “but this is the kind of thing typically much larger cities go in for.”

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.

“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.

“This Bike Network Plan is the first step to converting people,” he said.

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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