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Consultants: Improving bike trails could help tourism

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An improved network of biking and walking trails and pathways would build on what already exists in the city, such as this portion of the Spring River Trail that runs in front of the Roswell Museum and Art Center. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Roswell residents encouraged to comment on plan

[Note: This post has been updated to clarify website address.]

A plan to improve the city’s bike and pedestrian trails is in a final draft form, and Roswell residents are encouraged to comment on it by March 27 before the Roswell City Council votes.

Funded by a New Mexico Department of Transportation grant, the study and plan by consultants Bohannan Huston of Albuquerque describe several options for making the city more conducive to bike and foot travel, both in the city and by connecting city pathways to regional highways. As the plan was being developed, Roswell residents were invited to participate through online surveys and at public meetings.

The purpose of the study and report is to create a network of safe and useable biking and pedestrian trails to give people an alternative to vehicle travel, something that younger generations often desire, according to the study.

Alan Sussman, a senior planner with Bohannan Huston who was in Roswell Monday for a public meeting about the report, added that improving biking and walking pathways will help to entice people to relocate to the city and could boost tourism, especially if attention is given to trails and roads that link up the zoo, museums, parks or other spots of interest.

The report indicates that about 40% of the 73 survey respondents say they bicycle one or more times a week, while almost 69% of 74 respondents said they walk several times a week. The vast majority of people who took the surveys, about 69%, said they drive alone to work or school. But about 5.5% of city households don’t have access to a car.

If adopted by the Roswell City Council, the plan will help the city obtain state or federal grants for implementation of some of the ideas, Sussman said.

“They are a real set of building blocks in the city of Roswell that aren’t always present in a lot of communities in terms of building a culture of walking and biking,” Sussman said.

He listed those as a favorable climate, flat terrain through most of the city, a good set of recreational trails already established, and a transportation system built on a grid and that often has wide shoulders that can be used to create bike lanes separated by some distance from vehicular traffic.

He did say that challenges include high-speed traffic and poor road conditions that create safety issues. The report includes an analysis of where the most car accidents occur and also asked people to rate the perceived bike and pedestrian safety of certain local streets.

Sussman said that some recommended improvements won’t have to cost a lot of money since existing rights-of-way can be used to create or widen paths. Some changes could entail marking shoulders with paint and using better signage so that people can distinguish car lanes from bike lanes. In some areas, small barriers also could be erected to separate cars from walkers and bikers.

The plan recommends that the city adopt a “complete streets” resolution and ordinance. Those would create binding policies that the city would follow.

The final draft is available on the Bohannan Huston website, roswellbikepedplan.bhinc.com. Comments can be made to roswellbikepedplan@bhinc.com.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.