Roughly 20 residents attended the first of two public meetings about a municipal bike-and-pedestrian plan. Spearheaded by the Department of Development Services, the plan seeks to implement directives from Tupelo’s new comprehensive plan.
The plan, adopted last year, recommends the city develop more alternative transportation. It calls for bike paths, walking trails and public transportation.
Participants at the Monday session included residents from various neighborhoods who enjoy running, cycling and walking for leisure, recreation or function. Many said Tupelo’s biggest challenge is a lack of awareness toward non-motorists.
“As a bicyclist I know the rules, but driver’s don’t,” said Tupelo resident Allyn Bryson, who said she often encounters motorists who act as though she has no right to ride her bicycle on the street.
City Planner Pat Falkner highlighted the problem with his own experience of walking from his East Tupelo home to downtown City Hall. He lamented the lack of sidewalks and of fellow pedestrians, saying he’s often the only one on foot in a sea of vehicles.
“It’s not so much the distance, as the safety,” Falkner said, explaining why many people choose not to walk or bike.
Participants studied photographs and maps of the city and identified numerous obstacles that prevent safe non-vehicular travel. Included in the list of grievances were lack of sidewalks, lack of signage, lack of crosswalks, lack of bike lanes, lack of off-road bike trails.
The suggestions will be folded into the city’s bike and pedestrian plan, but avid runner Lynn Holland said he wants more than a plan; he wants action. He urged participants to form a committee and raise money and awareness, and even suggested their mission be incorporated into that of the Major Thoroughfare Committee.
The Major Thoroughfare Committee oversees large road-improvement projects using special tax dollars. Its chairman, Greg Pirkle, attended the meeting and said his group will willingly accept that responsibility if the public wanted it.
Tupelo residents will vote in 2011 whether to renew the Major Thoroughfare Program for another five years. They can also vote to include bike paths in that plan, Pirkle said.
Another idea came from Development Services Director BJ Teal, who suggested the city start a new capital improvements fund for sidewalks and bike paths.
While it’s unclear exactly how the effort will be funded or implemented, city Senior Planner Renee Autumn Ray said she has no doubt it will happen.
“We can do it,” she said, “and we are going to do it.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.