Is it gasoline or your own heart and muscles? For most of us it’s the first choice, of course. Because how could we choose otherwise? Lots of us live miles away from important destinations like friends, work, play, and family. And we think almost nothing of it.
But have you ever noticed how the invention of the car has changed our built environment? For 99.99% of human history the fastest people normally went was 4–5 miles per hour. For a good chunk of the world’s population that’s still the limit. Horses and carriages enabled increased speed and range, but a very small percent of the population could afford such luxuries. So up until about the last 100 years communities were necessarily compact and self-sufficient. Advances in long-haul transportation—like the locomotive and refrigeration—began changing that picture in the 19th century, but such modes didn’t much affect the pattern of development—people still generally got around on foot or tram or horse. That’s why all towns used to look like the one on the left.
The one on the right is how we build now. Some of this is influenced by hilliness, but you’ll find the same pattern in dead flat areas all over the country. By the way, these two images are at the same scale.
That brings us to bike and pedestrian planning. Although only a small proportion of this town is like the image on the left (maybe 15% of the land area), it contains almost half of our population. Yes, nearly 25,000 people live within one mile of Aggieville. That’s a lot of people and destinations in a pretty small area—small enough that biking and walking are viable modes of transportation.
Public Works and Parks & Recreation departments have been making great pedestrian and bicycle improvements for decades, but some of the older plans we’ve been working from need updating. Using a grant from KDOT, we are working on a new Bicycle & Pedestrian Systems Plan (BPSP) to supplant the 1999 Bicycle Plan. A major focus of the BPSP will be to improve mobility in the core area where half the population lives close to downtown, Aggieville, and KSU. The BPSP will also evaluate and prioritize new multi-use paths and trail connections across the city.
In the next few months we’ll be moving a draft plan through an adoption process, taking it to various advisory committees to get their recommendations to take to the City Commission. Our goal is to have it adopted early next year so we can start pursuing grant funding and allocating City funding specified for such projects.
Find out more about the Bicycle and Pedestrian Systems Plan online at https://cityofmhk.com/1070/Bicycle-and-Pedestrian