Building Momentum for Bikes

Matt and Joe Murphy were among those who considered the options for the Door County Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan at a meeting in the Gibraltar Community Center on Aug. 21.

The latest round of public meetings on the Door County Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan encouraged participants to focus on five Es: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement, and evaluation.

On Aug. 21, Sarah Gaskell, Planning Manager for the Wisconsin Bike Federation, led an exercise at the Gibraltar Community Center in which residents consulted informational posters containing a number of working options within each of the Es.

Participants showed their support for each option by placing stickers under their favorite choices.

Gaskell said dividing the plan, which has been in development since February, into five areas of emphasis helps people think about it as more than just putting in new pathways for bikes and pedestrians.

“Everyone thinks about, ‘Oh we want a sidewalk or a bike lane,’ she said. “But it’s much more than that. You can build a path but you also have to look at who’s going to use it.”

Seasonal resident John Murphy attended the meeting with his two sons, Matt and Joe. Even though he’s mainly a driver, Murphy would like to see the county’s roads become a little safer for bikers.

“The county’s full of curvy roads and hills and people out for a nice bike ride can be startled,” said Murphy. “This’ll be intriguing to see how this all works out.”

Door County Bike Tours owner Chet Gerlach placed a good amount of his stickers under the option to become a designated bike friendly community. The League of American Bicyclists awards the designation to communities that make biking and walking part of their everyday culture.

“There’s no reason Door County couldn’t and shouldn’t be a bike friendly community,” said Gerlach. “The potential that’s here is phenomenal.”

Gerlach said working towards becoming an official bike friendly community, and work on the bike plan in general, will hopefully encourage more bikers to come to the county.

“Bikers bring a lot of money into the community, and I think encouraging people to keep doing that makes sense,” he said.

Ann Freiwald is a Project Manager with Alta Planning and Design, the company working in tandem with the Wisconsin Bike Federation to produce the bike and pedestrian plan. She said that 99 percent of the time putting in a new bike path or trail is not the proper response to biking and pedestrian issues.

“Lots of roads here are already comfortable for bikers, besides Highway 42 and 57,” said Freiwald. “If we can encourage people to use other roads to get to their destinations, everyone’ll be happier.”

Freiwald says the final bike plan will put a greater emphasis on designing new programs to encourage bikers to use the resources the county already has.

The planning process will continue in October at the next meeting of the bike plan working group, which is made up of community representatives, citizens, and business owners.

In the meantime, Freiwald said communities could and should begin working on new programs and bike friendly events now, before the plan is complete.

“People need to get excited about the plan now and push for the ball to get rolling,” she said. “If you wait for the engineering projects to start, then you’ll never build up that momentum.”