City seeks to improve ‘bikeability’

MARQUETTE – The Marquette City Planning Commission is on board with a local group’s plan to keep Marquette officially recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community.

The commission heard details Tuesday about the Marquette Bikeability Committee’s application to renew the League of American Bicyclists’ designation next year. Marquette was awarded a bronze level in 2010, with recognition given at platinum, gold, silver and bronze levels.

The league’s Bicycle Friendly America program offers the recognition for communities to use as a road map for improving and setting standards for a good bicycle culture. Awards are given in four-year cycles.

The planning commission voted to recommend the city commission endorse the group’s application.

The application, due Feb. 19, is lengthy at about 100 pages, detailing what the city offers in various bicycle-related amenities, such as safety and education.

“It’s more than just an award,” said Mike Beck, a member of the bikeability committee.

It’s also a way for a community to improve area bicycling.

“Planning for bicycling never stops, just like planning for communities never stops,” Beck said.

Dave Stensaas, city planner and zoning administrator, detailed some parts of the application for the commission and pointed out areas in which the city had improved its bicycling efforts.

One was the recently opened section of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail linking Negaunee with Marquette at the Soo Line bridge over U.S. 41. The new section provides a safer crossing of the highway, Stensaas said.

In a Nov. 22 letter to Stensaas, Brad Neumann, bikeability committee chairman, said the extension of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail was the most notable accomplishment since the city earned the BFC designation as the trail now offers 28 miles of connected bike trails and travels through the center of Marquette.

Other noteworthy achievements, Neumann wrote, include the multi-use path extensions in the city, bike routes on Wright Street, reductions in the number of traffic lanes on South Front and West Washington streets and the addition of bike racks to Marq-Tran buses.

“The city of Marquette and the region as a whole has made some pretty remarkable progress expanding infrastructure for, improving the safety of, and building awareness about cycling in the last few years,” Neumann wrote.

He said the committee also is interested in advocating for and helping the city better accommodate individuals traveling by foot, assistive devices or public transit with more of a “complete streets” approach.

A complete streets approach allows for accessibility for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders.

Stensaas told the commission bicycle travel, for instance, normally is included in street-reconstruction plans, plus there is dedicated funding for sidewalk maintenance and repair – efforts that are in line with a complete streets policy.

“That policy is going to have a profound effect over time,” he said.

Neumann wrote in his letter the committee wants to improve its bronze-level status to silver or even gold.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.