It had a flavor typical of these public meetings. George Cardwell from the County Planning and Zoning did a good job at setting the context for the plan.
For the most part, people who were there came either to listen and gather information or to air a particular issue in their local area. Since this meeting was at Broadneck, a number of people talked about issues with the (under construction) Broadneck Trail, College Parkway, access to AACC and crossing Ritchie Highway (MD 2) to get to the B&A Trail. Councilman Dick Ladd was also there advocating the County prioritize a ped/bike bridge over Ritchie Highway at College Parkway – something that has been discussed for many years.
These are all valid concerns for that area and to a certain extent are being addressed as projects in the plan, although not to the degree (in scope and timeframe) that locals would want. The projects in the plan really don’t contain much detail and are in there nominally to indicate that a particular area needs improvement (indicated with a few keywords like “sidewalk” or “multiuse trail” etc). It is always the case that people who know the local area intimately have *very* detailed ideas of *how* the projects should be implemented. I know that is true in my case with the Parole area that I know very well.
One thing to consider is that projects identified in this plan (or the Annapolis Bicycle Master Plan) still have to undergo the standard implementation process if/when there is a decision to move forward and a funding source is available. This process always includes some kind of public input during the design and permitting phase. In my opinion, *this* is the time that members of the local area should work very hard to input their solution ideas to the county during the public review process since this is where the rubber meets the road and the understanding of the local context will have the most impact.
One of the things I have learned about advocacy with local government through my wife’s involvement with Bates Middle School, Annapolis High School, Annapolis Education Commission and the county Board of Education, is that it is a long term proposition. As frustrated as it is as a *user* – we want things to be better NOW – the reality is the wheels of government turn slowly and deliberately in this country; I don’t think bike issues are going to trigger a coup d’etat… For those of us who are, uh, more mature in our years, we are really effecting change for the next generation.
With that, one long term part of the plan that I think any land use, developer, planner or architecture professionals (or psuedo professionals) in the crowd can comment on is the proposed changes to the county documents that guide development (section IV): Anne Arundel County Design Manual, Anne Arundel County Code (Subdivision and Development Regulations, Zoning) and the Anne Arundel County Landscape Manual. These documents will determine the long term viability of the transportation (and recreation) biking in the County. If we keep doing what we have been doing for the last 50 years, we are going to end up with the same result. Remember, the first thing to do when you are in a hole is to stop digging. So if you have this expertise, please review this section and provide comments.
There was some discussion of identifying “low hanging fruit” projects in the plan. These would be low-cost, highly effective and highly visible projects. These would help get more cyclists out and visible which helps build momentum. A safer Jones Station Rd. crossing Rt.2 to B&A Trail as a quicker, less costly way to connect to AACC, the Broadneck Trail and B&A Trail than a bridge was mentioned and is a good example.
It also occurred to me that one advocacy piece that is missing is input from the upcoming generation(s) that research is showing are driving less according to a recent report (http://uspirg.org/reports/usp/new-direction). We need to engage these folks to demand that non-auto transportation modes are viable and this should be a focus. The county needs to hear that upcoming generations are willing to trade auto-based for bike/ped (or transit) infrastructure. Until the county officials understand this is the direction the (at least urbanized) population wants to go, change will be slow.
The County is accepting public comments on the draft plan until Thursday, June 20, 2013. There is still time to participate in the process and be heard. Please provide comments via e-mail to George Cardwell at PZCARD44@aacounty.org
Here is the link to the draft plan: http://www.aacounty.org/PlanZone/Resources/DRAFT_2013PedBic_MasterPlan.pdf