Bike plan maps out network of paths


Published: Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 12:56 a.m.
Nets, braids and loops are the keys to turning a tangle of roads and streets into paths for bicycling to work, to school and to improved health, according to a new Alachua County bike master plan.
A workshop will be held tonight by the Gainesville City Commission and Alachua County Commission sitting as the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization to give residents a first glimpse of the plan. It is being developed by University of Florida architecture professors and students.
Professor Martin Gold said the presentation will include maps outlining top roads that can be targeted for improvements.
"We will come away with some very clear prioritization strategies about the network," Gold said. "We looked at where some of the major population areas are and destinations are, including commercial and public spaces. Now we can look at it in an organized way. I hate to say it, but it really is as simple as drawing some lines between the two in a careful and considerate way."
The plan is actually a revision of a bicycle master plan completed in 2001 that advocated increased bicycle usage for transportation, recreation and to improve health.
The revisions group streets and roads into three categories - nets, braids and loops.
Nets are low-traffic roads in neighborhoods or subdivisions. The problem is that in many subdivisions, streets do not connect to other subdivisions. The plan will call for more connectivity - creating paths between subdivisions and neighborhoods to stitch together the net of streets.
Braids are major urban commuter roads that could be improved with bike lanes, wide shoulders, off-street paths or other amenities. Examples would be NW 13th Street or NW 16th Avenue.
Loops are long-distance cycling routes in rural areas that link with urban roads.
Gold said nets and braids will foster bicycling for transportation while loops will primarily appeal to recreational cyclists on rides of longer distances.
The 2001 bicycle master plan was written with the goal of developing a countywide bicycle network incorporating road and off-road paths.
It was developed with ideas from residents who agreed that bicycling preserves the character and quality of life in Alachua County and is a necessary part of the transportation system.
The plan prioritized roads that could benefit from improvements such as bike lanes. Marlie Sanderson of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, which advises the MTPO, said some of the projects in the 2001 plan are very short stretches of street. It did not link those stretches to other parts of the same street or into networks.
Sanderson said planners saw that they needed to group the streets into more of a logical corridor. "We want beginning and end points that make sense as a whole project," he said.
Chandler Otis, a longtime Gainesville bicycling advocate, has been involved in the work of Gold and the students. Chandler said the revisions provide a broader vision of a future bicycling network.
"The original bike master plan made a long list of every conceivable improvement, but it was kind of like reading an accountant's report - all a bunch of numbers. This will have lots of maps connecting it all together to give people an idea that these are networks," Otis said.
The plan would be carried out gradually and it would take years to begin work on some of the projects. Otis and planners said many of the improvements likely would be done in conjunction with road projects such as repaving.
That cuts the cost of adding bike amenities such as paved shoulders. Money could come from a variety of sources, including federal grants, officials said.
Some of the projects touch on hot-topic issues such as road narrowing, punching paths through between subdivisions and turning creek sides into biking corridors.
"We need to look at creating a network that people can rely on," Gold said. "Some of it might be kind of a sour medicine, in a way. I feel we have to take this sour medicine. We can sugarcoat it as much as we want, but it is going to be a little dicey going down."
The workshop will be at 7 p.m. at the Florida Community Design Center at 300 E. University Ave.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at (352) 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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