Planners ask public how to make Indiana biker, pedestrian friendly
Published: Friday, March 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2013 09:03
The Indiana Biking and Pedestrian Plan is taking shape to help students and residents better enjoy the town through alternative means of transportation and enjoy a healthier lifestyle.
At Wednesday night’s public meeting, the public was given time to ask questions and give their input on the plan.
Jeff Grim, the chief planner at the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said the number of people who walk to work in Indiana has dropped from around 40 percent in 1990 to 23 percent today. Twenty-three is still a strong number, he said, but Grim and other officials from the community are giving ear to those who want better safety and comfort when biking and walking.
“Although we are a local community and have some strong assets, what we’re really trying to do is build off of those and highlight them,” Grim said.
Peter Broad, a member of the Indiana Borough Council, said that the Community Development Committee is very interested in implementing this kind of activity as a component of the borough’s own long-range planning.
“We are looking for anything that makes Indiana a friendlier place to live,” Broad said. “We’ve been losing population. One of the things that will bring people back is making it a more pleasant place to be. So anything that comes out of this committee is going to get a good reception at the council.”
Outside help was brought in from Pittsburgh to organize the effort and find out what the most important goals are for the community. Two of the men behind Aspect Data Driven Planning, Jason Kambitsis and Stephen Patchan, put to words the broad goals and issues they have gathered so far. Kambitsis, an Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate, and Patchan described to the public the kind of community planning services they provide and are avid bikers themselves.
Part of their planning philosophy is that “biking and walking are integral to addressing current health, cultural, safety and economic issues. Many plans set up communities to benefit from biking and walking long term, but lack the immediate and clearly defined strategy and vision to allow a community to reap the rewards of a complete and comprehensive bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure,” according to their website, datadrivenplanning.com.
Prominent among the goals for residents was designing an infrastructure to connect the easily bikeable and walkable sections of Indiana without forcing people to travel through congested areas or on roads without sidewalks.
“The ingredients are here,” Kambitsis said. “The idea here is ‘how do we take all of these great elements of the community and put it all together into one plan to move forward?’”
Currently there are only a handful of Pennsyvania communities that qualify as bicycle-friendly communities, according to Kambitsis. They are Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Franklin and State College. Patchan was one of the people who helped make Pittsburgh a more bikeable city. Kambitsis and Patchan said they have been meeting with the Indiana Borough Community Development Committee since last fall and waited until students returned from winter break to present to the public.
Their plan’s wide-ranging mission statement covers students, residents and visitors and focuses on safety and comfort while capitalizing on opportunities for greater growth