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Cyclists, pedestrians needed for city plan

Just how future road projects on the Island will accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and a skateboarder or two is currently up in the air. City planners are now hosting public workshops to hear ideas from Islanders, as the City Council is expected to update the Island’s 12-year-old Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan next year.

Steve Lancaster, the director of the city’s Development Services Group, said the current plan lacks focus and planners need direction from the City Council to incorporate into future projects.

“There’s a lack of a clearly articulated focus of the plan,” said Lancaster. “We need to identify where we want to be in 10 to 20 years if we adopt the plan.”

The City Council decided to gather public input on the plan’s update and has scheduled two public workshops. One took place last week at the Community Center at Mercer View. Numerous cyclists and Island residents attended, according to Joy Johnston, the city’s communications coordinator.

On Tuesday, the first of two public workshops took place so that city planners could hear Islander input. The city hopes to hear from Islanders about which routes and destinations they want.

“We will be showing graphics maps asking people to identify improvements they use or future improvements that may be important to them; additional connections and facilities may be in place,” Lancaster said to the Council last month.

While many cyclists have encouraged the city to update the plan, other Islanders have expressed concern that some cyclists ride too fast on the pathways shared with pedestrians. Part of the workshop’s purpose is to find ways to get the two different types of users to coordinate and respect one another.

During a City Council meeting in early October, Deputy Mayor El Jahncke said he wanted the planning director to make sure that the update didn’t “get carried away” by adding bike lanes or a pedestrian facility to every future street project on the Island — something he said that he feared could be very costly.

“For the foreseeable future, the primary mode of transportation for the Island will be the automobile,” Jahncke said. “I think that needs to be part of the vision. I’d like it [the update] to incorporate and recognize that reality.”

Councilmember Dan Grausz asked Lancaster to orient the plan’s update “to give the future vision of what transportation might look like one day if light rail came across the North end.” He also suggested that the update look at how to the city could help get people from the South to North end without having the parking to accommodate it — for instance, using bike racks instead.

“Update how [the plan] serves the Island as a whole,” Grausz said, “not just from neighborhood to neighborhood.”

In a preliminary draft, the city identified 10 goals for the update, including expanding and enhancing opportunities for cyclists and walkers, and increasing the visibility of the city’s system that also links different trails or paths together. City planners have also identified five potential projects in the preliminary draft. The fifth project is the enhancement of the “Safe Routes to School” program that looks to improve common paths, sidewalks or roads used to walk or ride to Island schools. The Council has already prioritized this plan and directed city staff to develop easy, “low-hanging fruit” improvements.

The second workshop will be an opportunity for city planners and their consultants to present a draft update to the public and solicit comments. The Planning Commission will also get a look at the plan before the final draft is presented to the Council.

For more information or to submit comments online, go to www.mercergov.org/PBF.

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