Carroll County has made a “big step” toward establishing a countywide network of bicycle and pedestrian pathways, according to a county official who has worked on the plan.
The Carroll County Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan, an approximately 300-page document that has been in the works for about four years, aims to unite bike-pedestrian projects across the county, according to Clare Stewart, the main county planner on the master plan. The county planning and zoning commission voted 5-0 Nov. 19 to approve a resolution for the bike-pedestrian plan, the county announced.
The plan must still be adopted by the Board of Commissioners before it can be implemented. Stewart said the bike-pedestrian plan will be brought to the commissioners in a bundle with the county transportation plan, which is currently in the works; she could not estimate when it will be complete.
“This is the county’s first bicycle-pedestrian master plan," Stewart said in an interview. “This is a big step for us.”
The goals of the plan include connecting existing bike-pedestrian paths, making them safer, and building new paths to give citizens another way to access residential areas, businesses, downtown, schools, and parks, according to Stewart. Which parts of the plan that come to fruition will depend on funding, but having a detailed plan in place will make it easier for the county to seek grant opportunities moving forward, Stewart said.
The county put the bike-pedestrian plan out for public review and comment from May to September, prior to the planning and zoning commission’s vote to approve, according to Stewart. The county received just one written comment at a Sept. 17 public hearing, but got about 30 private comments from citizens throughout the months the public record was open, Stewart said.
“We received quite a few, and definitely the majority of them were positive," she said.
Many comments were regarding how the paths would be made safe, according to Stewart. Some people asked the county to help educate motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians on the rules of the road, she said, while others wanted the county to consider planning for paths away from busy roads as a safer alternative.
These comments and others did not provoke changes to the bike-pedestrian plan, Stewart said, as the concerns were already addressed in the plan.
“Just about every comment we have already covered in the plan," she said.
County staff plan to help spread awareness about the rules of the road, possibly through a brochure of safety tips or by promoting online resources, Stewart said, but there are no concrete plans in place yet. The county may evaluate certain intersections to determine if infrastructure could be improved to make the road safer for bicyclists and walkers, according to Stewart.
After the September hearing, planning staff compiled the comments for the planning and zoning commission. Stewart said the commission did not vote until November because it needed time for review.
“We wanted to pull all the comments together and give them a chance to see the comments and make any revisions to the plan we felt necessary," Stewart said.
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The plan was also vetted by the Maryland Department of Planning, Maryland Historical Trust and State Highway Administration, according to Stewart.
Municipalities also have the ability to adopt the bike-pedestrian plan, according to Stewart.
The county worked closely with each municipality in developing the county plan so that it is consistent with each municipality’s comprehensive plan, Stewart said. By adopting the bike-pedestrian plan, municipalities would have more opportunities in applying for grants to fund projects, according to Stewart.
She noted the bike-pedestrian plan is not binding, but a “guiding document.” Municipalities could, if they chose, to pursue bicycle and pedestrian projects that are not included in the plan, as could the county, according to Stewart.
An interactive map with existing and planned bicycle and pedestrian routes will be on the county website “soon,” according to county government.
The bike-pedestrian plan is available online at CarrollBikePedPlan.org. Click on the “Get Connected” tab to sign up for email updates. Printed copies of the plan can be obtained at the Carroll County Department of Planning, at 225 N. Center St., Room 106, in Westminster. For more information, contact the Department of Planning at 410-386-5145.