Bicycle connectivity and public input were the hot topics at an open house showcasing the Centre Region bike plan Wednesday.
Hosted at the Council of Governments building, a crowd of more than 30, including residents, students and a few township supervisors, gave open comments and ideas on the state of cycling in the region and how it might be improved.
For two hours, anyone wishing to review the existing and proposed bike paths throughout each municipality were welcomed to do so and encouraged to write on the maps recommendations for improvements. Visitors drew desired paths, highlighted dangerous areas and indicated areas where paths could be upgraded.
Part of the push for a regional bike plan comes from the region’s recognition as a bicycle-friendly community in the state.
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In 2012, the League of American Bicyclists named the State College region as a bronze-level bicycling area, Centre Region Planning Agency senior transportation planner Trish Meek said. As part of the award, the league provided feedback to the region, recommending the development of a comprehensive regional bike program.
“That sent the signal to anyone interested in biking that we as a community that cares about having the infrastructure in place and are moving forward to try to provide and accommodate for cyclists in the community,” she said.
State College is one of five recognized communities in Pennsylvania, she said, along with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, York and Franklin.
Forty-seven miles of shared-use paths, bike lanes and bike routes wind around the region, Meek said during a presentation. And there are 16 miles of BicyclePA routes in the region that connect New York to Maryland.
Attendees voiced their concerns regarding a number of cycling issues. One commenter questioned why shared-use paths — paths for cyclists and pedestrians — are so prevalent in the region when, in his opinion, they are more dangerous when trying to commute.
“(Cyclists) want to feel safe,” Meek said “Paths are one of the places to do that.”
The idea is to get more people interested in using cycling as transportation, she said. The more people ride, the more comfortable they become. When more people ride, more drivers become accustomed to seeing people riding and cyclist safety increases.
Finding an easy path to the stores and restaurants on North Atherton Street is also challenging, some cyclists said. With no bike path along the street itself, some veteran cyclists have taken to riding the back roads — a navigation challenge for less experienced riders.
Providing route signs, maps or even a mobile app could help new riders find their way from downtown State College to the commercial area of North Atherton, they said.