More than a year ago, the Reading Eagle provided us this written 'endorsement' of the work we hope to accomplish in Berks County. We've been working hard to make the ideas highlighted below a reality, and we think we've made some significant gains in only our first year. Mount Penn has held two successful Walk to School events with our help -- and the funds we received as partners in a Safe Routes to School Academy Grant. Exeter Township Pedestrian and Bicycle Task Force has submitted a Smart Transportation / Pennsylvania Communities Transportation Initiative (PCTI) application with the goal of writing a Township-wide Greenway and Transportation Plan. We have also been supporting the work of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, the Berks County Planning Commission and the RiverPlace Corporation. We are working with Emily Weidner to complete a Bicycle Friendly Community Application for Reading. We would love to have you join us and let us work with you to make your community a nicer place to live. Let us know how we can help you.
Editorials : Fostering better use of roads a good idea
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Fostering better use of roads a good idea
The Issue: A Berks County group is formed to find ways to make streets and highways more inviting to hikers and bikers.
Our Opinion: In this time of expanding waistlines, encouraging any kind of physical activity is commendable.
If the goal of a recently formed group called Walk Bike Berks becomes a reality, area roadways will become multipurpose transportation corridors accommodating not only motorized vehicles, but also bicyclists and pedestrians. The concept is certainly worthy of serious consideration. As gasoline prices rise and waistlines expand, encouraging people to use human-powered modes of transportation is an excellent idea. Michele Barrett, an Exeter Township resident and founder of Walk Bike Berks, said the group is studying ways in which Berks County’s streets and highways can be made more inviting to those who would like to use them for hiking and biking. Barrett said the group plans to promote building sidewalks and adding bicycle lanes to roads and crosswalks. The group has formed an alliance with two national groups — Complete the Streets and the National Center for Safe Routes to School — that are promoting similar issues across the country. Complete the Streets was begun by a diverse collection of organizations including the AARP, the American Council of the Blind, the National Parks Conservation Association and Paralyzed Veterans of America. According to its Web site, Complete the Streets encourages local and state governments to design roadways and re-configure existing ones in order to make them more pedestrian friendly. Last year, through the efforts of Complete the Streets, Chicago issued a policy mandating that transportation projects should accommodate all users of public rights of way, even the most vulnerable, such as the elderly and the disabled. The National Center for Safe Routes to School, created by Congress in 2005, involves a network of more than 300 organizations and promotes exactly what its name implies — making it safer for children to walk or bike to school. The center’s aim, according to its Web site, is to increase the number of students walking and biking to school as a way to fight obesity among children. These days most students are driven by the parents, ride a school bus or drive themselves to school. But that wasn’t always the case. According to the National Household Travel Survey, in 1969 approximately 50 percent of students either walked or rode bicycles to school. Over the next 30 years that figure had dropped to 15 percent. When Congress created the Safe Routes to School center, lawmakers also provided it with $612 million to fund projects across the country. In Bay City, Texas, the center was instrumental in providing a $233,000 grant to establish a three-mile-long trail connecting four schools. In Huntingdon, Tenn., the town and the Huntingdon Special School District were given $250,000 to construct and improve sidewalks, including a bridge over a creek, to connect a primary school with a middle school. In Takoma Park, Md., a $150,000 grant from the Safe Routes to School was used to hold workshops on safe cycling and construct sidewalks around the town’s four public schools and one private school. As for Walk Bike Berks, Barrett has expressed the hope that the group will be able to make a difference in the lives of county residents. “I just want to love the town I live in,” she said. “I want to walk out the front door and feel connected to my community. I do think that people feel more tied to their community if they can freely move about.” That makes sense.