Falmouth seeks input on bike-pedestrian strategy

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FALMOUTH — Safety and access for bicyclists and pedestrians are frequent discussion points, but how many people actually bike and walk to get around?

The town hopes to answer that, and is working to update its bicycle and pedestrian master plan to reflect the consensus before the year is out.

Theo Holtwijk, the town’s director of long range planning, said the intent is to “update and integrate” two previous plans, the 2002 Trails Master Plan and the 2003 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

“The plan is to identify goals and policies and implement strategies,” Holtwijk said.

He said the plan would not likely include the creation of more biking and walking trails, since the town already has an extensive circuit of them. Instead, it would look at infrastructure and inter-connectivity improvements, including bike lanes, sidewalks, and other kinds of paths.

He said it may be important to consider how people can “access places in a safer manner” than they can today.

“The interest for the next 10 years may go potentially to a more functional, day-to-day set of improvements,” Holtwijk said.

Holtwijk said a public forum is planned for June 29 at the Lunt Auditorium at the OceanView campus, 74 Lunt Road, to learn what people think should be in the plan. There is also an online survey for people who can’t attend the forum.

The engineering costs, which will total just under $11,000, will be largely funded by a grant from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System. The town will pay 20 percent – or just under $2,200 – to the VHB engineering firm and Sarah Cushman, of Cushman Transportation Consulting. The consulting work has to be done by Dec. 31, after which recommendations will go to the Town Council.

The aggressive schedule is required by the grant, Holtwijk said. He said it won’t be a problem.

“It’s not rocket science,” Holtwijk said. “It’s figuring out how we’re doing today with the network and where we can make improvements.”

Holtwijk said three groups will be providing input along the way.

The first will be Town Hall staff “and other people connected to PACTS” or previous bicycle and pedestrian efforts. The second will be organizations like the Maine Department of Transportation, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and others. And the final group is the public at large.

“If we can get input, we can sort through the advice, come up with a suggested plan formed by the groups and ultimately give it to the Town Council,” Holtwijk said.

Holtwijk said the plan would be geared towards riders of all skill and comfort levels.

“We’re not trying to create a network for just strong and fearless riders,” Holtwijk said. “We want to make it safer and more convenient.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.