Creating a Connected Columbia

Creating a 21 Century System for Biking and Walking

As I’m sure most of you are already aware, Columbia Association (CA) maintains more than 93 miles of pathways around Columbia. Many residents enjoy using CA pathways for recreation, fitness and transportation purposes. In an effort to create a connected and comprehensive pathway system that will encourage residents to bike and walk around town more, CA is in the process of developing an Active Transportation Action Agenda (ATAA). As well, and soon, the Howard County government will begin to develop a Bicycle Master Plan; and CA and the county have agreed to work cooperatively on the two projects to minimize gaps and overlaps in the analysis.

CA and Howard County Working Side-By-Side
CA is mainly focused on improving the CA pathway system, but to really improve connectivity for biking and walking, we will also include recommendations for the county roadway and sidewalk connections and crosswalk and intersection investments that may be needed to improve connectivity and safe routes. While CA is already at work on the ATAA — commonly known as Connecting Columbia, the county anticipates it will start the Bicycle Master Plan this spring, just at the time we are drafting recommendations. That is why it will be even more important that the county and CA staff meet regularly as the studies move forward. As a first step, county staff will be meeting with the ATTA task force this month to brief the group of 16 volunteers advising CA on Connecting Columbia on the scope and schedule of the master plan. County and CA staff have long-standing and good working relationships and recently applied jointly for a state grant to undertake a feasibility study for a bike sharing program in Howard County.

Prior to beginning the Connecting Columbia project, CA team members spent time examining the existing paths and searching for areas where there are disconnects in the system, needed curb cuts to improve biking transitions between pathways to roadways and opportunities for improved linkages. During this assessment process, CA began to identify main pathways that could help residents get across Columbia with ease. CA provided the results of the preliminary field work to Toole Design Group, the consultants for this project. Nationally-recognized experts in pedestrian and bicycle planning and design, they also know Columbia — the company president Jennifer Toole lives in Hickory Ridge.

Next Steps
The Connecting Columbia project aims to improve the CA pathway system and increase the amount of bicycling and walking throughout Columbia by developing an implementable agenda of priority projects, including plans for a pilot signage project to make it easier to navigate the pathway system. Toole will also be making recommendations for roadway connections needed to create a more usable, convenient and safe system for biking and waking.

“I think there’s great interest in this project because with higher energy prices and the focus on fitness these days, we’re thinking about how we can use our infrastructure so people can get around Columbia or short trips, without cars ” says Jane Dembner, CA’s director of community planning.

The Connecting Columbia project will culminate in an implementable action agenda that establishes priorities for improvements to Columbia bicycling and pedestrian network. The project is anticipated to be completed by early summer. Learn more by visiting ColumbiaAssociation.org/ConnectingColumbia.

 

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