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County included in ‘Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan’

LOCK HAVEN — More biking and pedestrian pathways may be coming to the area in the next couple of years.

Clinton County Planning Director Katherine de Silva presented a bicycle and pedestrian plan put together by the Middle Susquehanna Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee at Monday’s county commissioner’s work session.

The plan took two years to come together and was a “partnered effort”, with SEDA-COG, the Williamsport Area Transportation System and Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, among others, de Silva said.

“The Susquehanna Greenway is the common thread,” de Silva said. “The plan includes Clinton, Lycoming, Columbia, Montour, Union, Snyder and Northumberland counties.”

The plan was started because PennDOT and people in Pennsylvania were “envious” of bikeways in other areas, according to de Silva.

“We have made the world more and more vehicle friendly but less and less bike and pedestrian friendly,” she added.

Counties agreed to participate because if they are listed in the plan it is more likely that they will receive funding from the state, she explained.

Regional and local plans often treat walking and biking as primarily recreational, when in fact many residents rely on biking and walking for day-to-day transportation.

“It falls to the bottom of the list, but we are trying to prioritize it now,” de Silva said. “We lost bike and walk friendly culture. People don’t think of going anywhere without their car.”

According to the plan, public health benefits of regular walking and biking are substantial, helping to improve heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

“The focus of the plan for the first 20 years is on existing trails and current projects that can be expanded,” de Silva said.

Research suggested that approximately 8,000 residents in these counties rely on walking or bicycling to get to work.

De Silva also suggested that “sharrows”, or share the road markings, may be coming to the area as a way to notify drivers that they must share the road with bicyclists.

When asked by commissioner Robert “Pete” Smeltz if there was any formal action needed by the commissioners, de Silva said “no” and described the plan as “still being in a very rudimentary stage.”

“As planning director, you will keep the commissioners on task, I assume. I would encourage you to continue to do that. It is a priority of this board, and if we are going to invest time and money into it that means we care,” Smeltz added. “Some in our community might not care, but in other areas I see really nice networks of walking and biking trails that are loaded with people.”

Smeltz mentioned State College and Harrisburg as a few of those areas, but added, “I don’t want to do this if our people don’t support it. Travel around and see it, it is working really well. I support it, and I think others support it. Katie will work on it, and we will continue to update the public on the status. The point is to interconnect with other counties.

The full plan can be found at indd.adobe.com/view/218a1751-1b32-4a72-90e5-817fcd603ce4.

A matrix of bicycle and pedestrian needs, along with a listing by priority level, can be found at seda-cog.org/transportation/Documents/Matrix%20of%20Bicycle%20and%20Pedestrian%20Needs%20

as%20of%205.10.2019.pdf.

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