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Bike plan results presented to city

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The city of Roswell’s Bike and Pedestrian masterplan passed its halfway mark and public input through questionnaires and an interactive map is available for analysis.

Aaron Sussman, Bohannon and Houston Inc. (BHI) planner and project manager, said 74 questionnaires were completed and the project’s website (bhinc.com/roswell-bike-ped-plan/) had over 200 “unique visitors.”

From the interactive map, Sussman said 108 pieces of data were submitted to address issues with trails and sidewalks, including significant gaps or poor maintenance and riding/walking surfaces.

The questionnaire and map were open for comment for about three months. Though both are closed for input, Sussman said comments on the map can still be read on the website.

Councilors and committee members, Juan Oropesa, George Peterson and Jeanine Corn Best were present at Monday’s Infrastructure Committee meeting where no action was taken on the plan. Councilors Barry Foster and Judy Stubbs were also present for the discussion.

“That’s not even a drop in the bucket of Roswell’s people,” Best said for the response to surveys. “It is normal, but those 74 people are going to tell the rest of Roswell how they’re going to have their bike paths. …”

In the presentation, Sussman said the factors for “barriers for biking” were high traffic speeds, lack of bike lanes and trails, and concerns about safely crowding major streets. He said the top three concerns for pedestrians were similar and these barriers can be addressed through basic design interventions or small roadway improvement projects.

While bike and pedestrian routes are already identified, Sussman said it was important for design purposes to understand the comfort level of bicyclists and pedestrians using those facilities. Sussman said Roswell has “a good system to build off” to address the needs of those navigating the city without a vehicle by necessity or choice.

Sussman said BHI found that “hardcore cyclists” are comfortable, not the “casual cyclists” who want more space from vehicles. He added that this could be addressed by reducing speeds in important areas and through infrastructure, separation can be created between users and motorists.

“… Along these designated bike routes, we see some places we’ve got nice wide shoulders and other places they’re just wide roads, but we don’t have necessarily a lot of infrastructure or signage and pavement markings that really indicate that this is a comfortable place for a cyclist to travel. …” Sussman said.

Atkinson Avenue was used as an example of a local street with “wide shoulders,” but Sussman said “conditional pavement markings” and better common striping can create boundaries for those less confident pedestrians and cyclists. He used 13th street as an example of a low-traffic, low-speed existing street that is ideal to add simple bike markings and a low speed like 18 mph to expand the network.

Some general recommendations from BHI that were gleaned from the surveys were more funding for trails, bus stop improvements, better regular maintenance and safety improvements to crossings.

In general, Sussman said the feedback showed a desire for general bike parking and wanted more access to the Spring River Zoo, schools and Eastern New Mexico University, parks, downtown, businesses, churches and recreational facilities, including the existing Spring River and Hondo River trails. He added the access was not just limited to recreation, but also for “utilitarian purposes” like going to work or shopping.

Some of the comments also called for increased funding and safety improvements for trails, connections near Pecos Trails Transit bus stops, regular maintenance for sidewalks, trails and bikeways.

At the public meeting later on Monday night, around 10 residents, Councilor Best and some city employees were present for Sussman’s presentation.

Sussman and City Engineer Louis Najar emphasized that having a complete plan will give the city an advantage to apply for grants for such improvements.

At the committee and public meeting, Councilor Oropesa and a community member asked about the costs associated with the plan. Najar emphasized the final product is “just a plan” that would be prioritized by city councilors with the city’s streets, engineering and parks departments’ budgets.

“By early next year, we’ll have a full draft of the plan and we’ll hold one more public meeting, and then by spring 2020, this plan should be finalized,” Sussman said.

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.