Harford continues efforts to encourage more walking, biking

"This is going to be a long process. It's not going to be quick and easy."

That was the message Janet Gleisner, chief of land use and transportation planning for the Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning, delivered to members of the Harford County Environmental Advisory Board after she presented the draft of the county's Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan during the board's latest meeting Nov. 20 in Bel Air.

The overall goal of the plan is to "create an environment where people will choose to make riding a bicycle and walking a part of everyday life," Gleisner explained.

To do this, the final plan will call for educating residents of the county about the benefits of walking and biking. It also will outline the existing conditions that cyclists and pedestrians face and will help determine their future needs through various projects and studies. Different policies and strategies will help to implement the plan.

The impetus for the new plan came from the county's annual Bike to Work Day, which has grown in recent years, Gleisner said.

"We had 50 people attend the first time," Gleisner said. "Now, it's close to 280."

Among the policies and strategies for the plan are programs to make people aware of the benefits of walking and biking, and to encourage cyclists, pedestrians and motorists to coexist with each other.

Possible program ideas include working with Aberdeen Proving Ground to have a bike share lane for traveling from Aberdeen's train station to the post, as well as a designated path for Harford Community College students traveling across campus, Gleisner said.

"We talk about education between drivers and cyclists, but we also need to talk about education between cyclists and pedestrians," Paul Magness, a board member who is chief of capital planning and development in the Department of Parks and Recreation, said.

Magness referred to potential problems on the county's most popular hiking trail as an example.

"On the Ma and Pa Trail, if you're biking under the [Bel Air Bypass] overpass there, you better hope there's nobody walking towards you," Magness said, referring to the trail's narrow clearance between the overpass abutment and Tollgate Road.

The next steps in the plan call for it to be released for public viewing in December, with a public input meeting in January. From there, Gleisner expects the plan to be introduced to the Harford County Council in February, with a public hearing by the council in March. Adoption of the plan would occur in April at the earliest.

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