A new, wide-ranging plan, if implemented, could help more Harford County residents reach goals of biking or walking to work, school and elsewhere.
The Draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was set to be presented to the Harford County Council at its meeting Tuesday, with a public hearing coming later.
"Increasing the levels of bicycling and walking can help to alleviate traffic congestion, improve air quality and improve overall community health while also providing an efficient option for short trips," the draft introduction states. "Nevertheless, the automobile remains a preferred transportation option for the majority of the trips in the County."
The draft plan was prepared by staffers with the county's Department of Planning and Zoning. Janet Gleisner, chief of land use and transportation, said the council has up to 60 days after the public hearing to take action on the plan.
If adopted by the council, "it then just becomes an element of our comprehensive planning process," she explained.
The draft plan notes 82 percent of respondents to the county's 2010 Bicycle Survey said they drive to work each day, but 42 percent of those people "indicated that they would consider cycling to work."
It also stated 90 percent of the respondents thought "building more bikeways would encourage more cycling countywide" and 60 percent might allow their children to walk or bike to school "if there were adequate facilities."
Hurdles to greater biking and walking include major thoroughfares cutting across pedestrian and bike routes, development of housing around cul-de-sacs instead of sidewalks and a lack of links between some communities, other than a road, which forces residents to drive to their destinations.
"Often the desire to accommodate cars has resulted in obstacles to safe, efficient and pleasurable walking and bicycling," the plan states.
Planning and zoning staff put the 80-page plan together with the cooperation of fellow county agencies, state and regional officials and advocates of biking and walking.
The aforementioned individuals made up the Harford County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Advisory Committee, appointed by Harford County Executive David R. Craig in 2011.
A Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Group will be formed if the plan is adopted. Members, who should include county residents, would be recommended by the county executive and appointed by the county council, according to the plan.
The BPAG would be "charged with advising the County Executive on pedestrian and bicycling issues."
The plan also lays out a variety of implementation strategies over the next 10 to 20 years on a short-term – zero to three years – intermediate – three to six years – and long-term basis.
Gleisner said the projects would be re-evaluated after two years, and the strategies after three to six years.
She explained that state law requires the county to revisit its plans every six years.
"All of the planning documents are in the 10- to 20-year range. . . The big picture is 10 to 20, but we'll revisit in six to eight," Gleisner said.
The entire plan can be read online at http://www.harfordcountymd.gov/Downloads.cfm, under the title of Draft Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan - January 2013. It can be found in the Planning and Zoning section.