Cape Girardeau area bicycle & pedestrian plan open for public comment: Your comments needed; Our reaction and suggestions

A few years ago, serious regional bicycle and pedestrian planning was the domain of a few of our largest cities--Columbia, St. Louis, Springfield, St Joseph, and (most recently) Kansas City.

But no more--right now we have serious bicycle and pedestrian planning or implementation initiatives going on in far southwest Missouri (Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council), in Joplin, in Jefferson City, in Rolla, in the Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission (Warsaw area), and several other areas around the state.

To that list, add the Cape Girardeau region, as the Southeast Metropolitan Planning Organization (SEMPO) has been working for some time on an extensive, detailed, and comprehensive regional bicycle and pedestrian plan.

Public feedback on the draft Cape Girardeau area Bike/Ped Plan requested by January 14th

Now SEMPO has released the draft plan, is asking for public feedback on the plan, and is planning a public open house on the plan January 9th, 2018.

If you live, work, bicycle, or walk in the Cape Girardeau/Jackson area of Missouri, please take a few minutes to give feedback on the plan.

Suggested comments:

  • A comprehensive bicycle & pedestrian plan for the region is long overdue and you strongly support it
  • Please work to implement the plan as quickly as possible
  • If you have any suggestions or updates for the plan, based on your knowledge of local conditions or routes, please include those
  • The Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation submitted detailed comments in support of the plan, and suggesting needed revisions and additions (see below). If you agree with any of the points we have made below, you could include those in your comments.

SEMPO asks for public comment and feedback on the draft Bike/Ped Plan

The Southeast Metropolitan Planning Organization (SEMPO) has released a draft of the Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan for public comment.  The SEMPO Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is the first plan in Southeast Missouri specifically focused on coordinated regional planning of non-motorized transportation systems such as bicycle facilities, trails, and sidewalks. The plan is available for public viewing on the SEMPO website at www.southeastmpo.org.  Persons without internet access may request to view the plan online by contacting SEMPO staff by phone at (573) 339-6327, by email at cityplanning@cityofcape.org, or by stopping by the Cape Girardeau City Hall at 401 Independence Street, Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63703.  Questions and comments may be submitted using the below link to the plan on the website or by contacting SEMPO staff.  The public comment period closes on January 14, 2018.

Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation support for, comments about, and suggestions for the Cape Girardeau regional Bike/Ped Plan

SEMPO,

I am writing today on behalf of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation and our statewide membership.  The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation is a statewide membership organization established in 1994 that works on behalf of the 6 million Missourians who regularly walk and the 2 million who bicycle.

We really appreciate the work that SEMPO and regional leaders have done to create the draft Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.  Clearly, the time is ripe for this plan in the Cape Girardeau area, and the plan looks detailed, comprehensive, and generally moving in the right direction.  We and our members from the Cape Girardeau area and across Missouri strongly support adoption of the plan and encourage every agency and municipality involved to take the steps needed to implement the plan in the fastest possible timeline.

Some suggestions and considerations for making the current draft plan even better:

#1. The Strava cycling and walking/running heatmaps are very helpful tools to evaluate and hone the plan

Strava cycling and walking/running heatmap data for the bike/ped plan region is here. This data shows very clearly which roads, routes, and trails in the area are well used by people who bicycle, walk, and run--and which are currently avoided.

It may be worthwhile to purchase the detailed Strava data for the region to help with planning.  But just a quick glance at the publicly available heatmap data shows:

  •  That a very significant amount of bicycling, walking, and running is happening in the region; the need for the comprehensive regional bicycle and pedestrian plan is very evident.
  •  "At-a-glance" comparison of cycling and walking/running in this region compared with others in the area shows how the SEMPO region stacks up with similar regions across Missouri, the U.S., and the world.
  •  Which routes people are currently using--and which they are avoiding.
  •  Where people walk/run vs where they bicycle.  Generally, bicycling, walking, and running are all common within populated areas and on designated trails, but bicycling is different in that high bicycle usage areas extend beyond the populated zones well into the rural countryside around the populated areas.
  •  Which routes are proposed for bicycle or sidewalk treatments in the draft plan vs which routes people are actually using for bicycling and/or walking.

The last point brings us to our second major recommendation:

#2. No proposed bicycle facilities in the draft plan for some of the most-used regional bicycle routes; Strongly consider adding to the plan some reasonable form of bicycle accommodation for these highly used routes

A comparison of Strava bicycle usage data with  Map 27. Proposed On-Street Bicycle Facilities shows that a large number of the most-used bicycle routes in the region do not appear on the Proposed On-Streets Bicycle Facilities plan at all.

This is the Strava heatmap for the area. 

For example:

  •  Southern Expressway east of Minnesota and continuing north on Giboney, Aquamsi, Main, and Big Bend
  •  Broadway St.
  •  Independence Rd
  •  Perryville Rd
  •  State Hwy W north of Kingsway Dr Bike Lanes
  •  Bloomfield Rd between County Rd 205 and Pacific
  •  Mt Auburn Rd
  •  Spring St
  •  Several others that are obvious in comparing usage data on the heatmap with the planned maps

Our concern here is that where plans deviate from actual travel demand and actual usage is where they are most likely to fail.  People are already using these routes for bicycling to a very significant degree.  You may not understand why people are using these routes to bicycle, and community leaders may wish that bicycling occurred in some other, more convenient location.  Nevertheless, that fact that a significant amount of citizens are currently bicycling on these routes--without the provision of any special bicycle facilities--tells us that these are very desirable and usable routes and that they connect desirable destinations.

Other routes do not make these same connections.  If they did, people would be bicycling in those other locations instead!  For that reason, the omission of these highly-used routes from the plan plan would be a serious defect in the plan.

And for that reason, we feel strongly that some acknowledgement and some accommodation must be made in the plan for these currently highly used routes.

Presumably these routes offer some challenge to the easy inclusion of bicycle accommodations, or they would be included in the plan already. Even if these routes do not allow provision of 'traditional' bicycle facilities, such as full width bicycle lanes, please give strongest consideration to inclusion of some type of accommodation for bicyclists, even if it simply the use of shared lane markings, "share the road with bicyclist" signs, slight changes to the current road striping to create shoulder space or a wider outside lane, bicycle route signs, and/or similar low-cost accommodation that can be used on nearly any road or street.  Please look at the techniques other communities have used to include bicycle accommodations on more difficult routes, and build those into the long-term plan for these roads.

The argument that these routes do not meet some abstract engineering criterion for bicycle routes is no reason to deny accommodation on these routes for the people who are actually and already bicycling there.  People are legally allowed to bicycle on these roads and they actually are bicycling on these roads in far greater numbers than most other roads in the area.  Engineering and planning must bend to this reality of actual use, not to abstract engineer principles.  

The plan should do what it can to provide safety and contiguous routes to existing, legal users of the system--which means, including these existing high-usage routes in the plan in some reasonable form.

Another possibility is that these roads are reasonably accommodating for bicycling in their current condition--perhaps they simply have some combination of relatively low traffic counts and slow traffic speeds--and so no particular additional bicycling accommodation is needed.  Still, it is well worth considering formal inclusion of such streets in the regional bicycle plan, if they have a high amount of current usage.  In many cases, addition of simple bicycle route signage is all that is needed to make these routes a functional part of the bicycle transportation system.

#3. Regional rural bicycle touring routes and loops are evident in the Strava data and should be integrated into the plan

Most bicycle trails and routes in the plan are provided in populated areas, which is reasonable and sensible.

But a quick glance at the Strava data for bicycling in the area shows that many regional bicycle loops and routes on rural roads in the region are highly used--many of these more highly used that routes within the boundaries of the cities.

The opportunity here is to map and sign a selected number of the most popular rural bicycle touring routes and loops.  

We suggest creating maps of suggested regional bicycle loops and making them available on city, parks/rec, and regional tourism web sites.

Create a route numbering or naming system and sign routes with these numbers or names.

For a few thousand dollars, an extensive regional bicycle touring network can be established.

This provides two significant benefits, at very low cost:

  • Mapping and marking routes that are already currently established and used encourages more local cyclists to use these routes, helps cyclists use the routes with confidence, and gives motorists notice that cyclists consistently use these routes.
  • Creating and publicizing these local cycling routes is a very effective local tourism initiative that has very low cost and a very high return on investment.

An example of a similar, very successful program is Project Road Share in Walton County, Georgia.

This program was created as a dual-purpose local health and regional tourism initiative, and has been very successful on both counts.  And the cost of implementation was incredibly low.

#4. Consider the need for regional bicycle connections outside the SEMPO planning area and integrate these into the plan as appropriate

A glance at trava cycling data for the larger region indicates that commonly used bicycle route connection exist, or are needed, between the Cape Girardeau/Jackson area and all nearby population centers.

These population centers include:

  •  Sikeston
  •  Dexter
  •  Poplar Bluff
  •  Carbondale, IL
  •  Paducah, KY
  •  Perryville
  •  Ste Genevieve
  •  Farmington

Planning these regional routes in detail goes beyond the SEMPO boundaries, but in this plan careful consideration should be given to which roads and routes cyclists will use to travel to each of these nearby destinations.

The Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council in southwestern Missouri is currently working on a comprehensive regional bicycle route plan that creates just these types of regional bicycle connections in SW Missouri.  It may be worth reaching out to HSTCC for their lessons learned and recommendations for creating regional bicycle touring connections in SEMO.

Even if these regional bicycle routes are outside the scope and designated area of this particular plan, including as part of the final plan a recommendation to proceed with these regional bicycle connections and to integrate them into the SEMPO plan would help set up the next logical step in regional bicycle route planning.

#5. Adventure Cycling Association's Great Rivers South Bicycle Touring Route passes through Cape Girardeau and should be integrated into the plan

The Adventure Cycling Association's Great Rivers South Bicycle Touring Route passes through Cape Girardeau and should be both acknowledged and planned for as part of the regional bike/ped plan.

Two of Missouri's National Bicycle Touring Routes cross in Cape Girardeau
Two of Missouri's National Bicycle Touring Routes cross in Cape Girardeau: The Mississippi River Trail (USBR 45) and the Great Rivers South Route

A map of the route is online here (zoom in to Cape Girardeau to see the details).

This route (west to east) takes this route: Hwy K - 318 - 314 - Hopper Rd - Old Hopper Rd - Mt Auburn Rd - Independence- Lorimer - 146 bridge.

It is no coincidence that this route uses many of the high-traffic bicycle routes shown in the Strava Heatmap for the region--but it is very unfortunate that many of these routes are also on the list (above) of high-traffic bicycle routes that are not in the draft on-road bicycle plan.

Accommodating this national bicycle tourism route is another reason these roads should be added to the on-road system in the plan.

Additionally, strong consideration should be given to marking the Great Rivers South route through the SEMPO region with special directional signs.

The Adventure Cycling Association may consider changing the route through the Cape Girardeau area if a better route is identified through this planning process.  This planning process seems to be the most appropriate platform to consider the local portion of this national route, adjust it if necessary, accommodate it as far as possible, and mark it appropriately within the SEMPO region.

More about the Great Rivers South national bicycle touring route, which is used by some thousands of touring bicyclists annually.

#6. Mississippi River Trail passes through Cape Girardeau and should be integrated into the plan

A second national bicycle touring route that passes through Cape Girardeau is the Mississippi River Trail. A map of the trail in southern Missouri is here.

The route through the Cape Girardeau region: 177 - Hwy V - 177 - William St - Hwy K - 25.

Like the Great Rivers South route, these are all routes through the Cape Girardeau area that show as highly used on the cycling heatmap, but do not show on the draft bike/ped plan.

Like the Great Rivers South Route, this national route should be included in the regional plan and the route should be specially marked as "Mississippi River Trail".  Note that the MRT was marked/signed throughout Missouri several years ago, so some or all of those original signs may still exist.

#7. U.S. Bicycle Route 45 potentially passes through Cape Girardeau and should be included and integrated into the plan

One route corridor of the National Corridor Plan for the U.S. National Bicycle Route system passes through the Cape Girardeau area.  This is the U.S. Bicycle Route 45 corridor, which is intended to follow (or perhaps update) the route of the Mississippi River Trail.

This corridor can be found on the National Corridor Plan map.

Note that the dotted lines for corridors on the map show generalized corridors, and not specific designated routes.  The northern portion of USBR 45 has been finalized (indicated by a solid line on the map) but the southern portion--including the portion passing through the SEMPO region--has not yet been finalized.  The understanding, however, is that USBR 45 will following the existing Mississippi River Trail route, perhaps with updates or changes to various sections if better routing has become available.

The SEMPO bike/ped plan can help ensure that USBR 45/Mississippi River Trail continues to pass through the Cape Girardeau area by planning for the existing MRT Route as future USBR 45, and by making any needed changes or updates to the route through the SEMPO area.

As with the Adventure Cycling Association routes, if the local planning agencies recommends route changes and builds them into the regional bike/ped plan, the national route planners are almost certain to adopt those changes into the national routes.

8. Future suggestions and next steps

We recommend that all communities and regions that are working to adopt bicycle and pedestrian plans take these steps:

 1. Consider adopting Complete Streets Policies at all levels: MPO, RPC, county, and city:

   http://MoBikeFed.org/Complete Streets

 2. Once your plan is underway and progress is evident, apply for both Bicycle Friendly Community and Walk Friendly Community designations:

   http://mobikefed.org/BicycleFriendlyMissouri
  
http://mobikefed.org/WalkFriendlyMissouri

 3. Strongly consider adopting a Vision Zero policy and approach to eliminating all roadway fatalities and serious injuries:

   http://mobikefed.org/VisionZero

 4. Update relevant city and county bicycle and pedestrian laws.  Lee's Summit recently passed a thoroughgoing revision of its bicycle and pedestrian laws that is a great model for other Missouri municipalities:

   http://mobikefed.org/2014/10/lees-summit-passes-comprehensive-bicycle-law-update-anti-harassment-law-4-foot-passing-law-i

Again, many thanks to staff, regional leadership, consultants, and citizens who have helped move this plan forward.  The data it gathers and the case it makes for improving bicycle and pedestrian connectivity throughout the region is powerful.  

The recommendations for improved sidewalk and pedestrian connectivity are on track and much needed.

Overall, this plan is much needed, generally on the right track as far as identifying routes and priorities, and the time is ripe to move this forward in the region.

Please feel free to contact us if we can help in any way now or in the future with information or public outreach to our thousands of members across the state, and hundreds SE Missouri.

Dr Brent D Hugh
Executive Director
Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation
http://MoBikeFed.org
816-695-6736 director@mobikefed.org

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