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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Public forum addresses biking, walking options

Saturday, July 14, 2012

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Dyersburg Alderman and Pioneering Healthy Communities Dyer County Steering Committee member Bart Williams welcomes residents to a community forum on complete streets, bikes and trails. Complete streets are streets that feature safe passage for automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians. The meeting took place in the Dyersburg Activity Center's Activities Building on Tuesday, July 10.
The Complete Streets, Bike and Trails Citizens Committee had much to discuss in its meeting on Tuesday evening.

The meeting was the second public forum to request involvement from the residents interested in creating bike lanes, walking trails and sidewalks in neighborhoods throughout the community. The forum took place in the Activities Building of the Dyersburg Activity Center at 6:30 p.m., on Tuesday, July 10.

Members of the Pioneering Healthy Communities Steering Committee scheduled the meeting to collect input from residents and encourage those interested to look for projects in their own communities.

Approximately a dozen residents attended the meeting. The group was passionate about expanding healthy transportation initiatives throughout the city, with several initiatives and projects discussed. Those attending also agreed on the importance of focusing on a few simple projects and bringing residents, businesses and government agencies together to move them forward.

But choosing which avenues to pursue might be its own challenge.

Dyersburg Alderman Bart Williams welcomed residents to the meeting, with fellow PHC member and University of Tennessee Extension Agent Beth Bell summarizing the topics discussed at the group's first meeting in May. Bell's summary opened additional discussion on several projects.

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Pioneering Healthy Communities Dyer County Steering Committee member Jim Stark demonstrates how many miles of bicycle lanes can be instantly added to the community by striping the Highway 51 Bypass.
Bell said at the May meeting, Director of Dyersburg City Schools Neel Durbin offered to allow his Advanced Placement Geography students to help survey and map sidewalks throughout the community. She commended Durbin on the idea and shared her enthusiasm for engaging the next generation in planning and implementing projects enhancing the future of their community.

Durbin said he is working with the city engineering/GPS department to allow the students to use and update existing maps.

Bell asked local attorney John Lannom if he would like to comment on the map he and his colleague, Patrick Gray, have studied since the last meeting.

Lannom said creating a sidewalk on the campus of Dyersburg State Community College along Parkview would do much to connect downtown to the rest of the community. Lannom said just a few small sections of sidewalk could help link destinations as far away as the Lake Road shopping district and the Main Street Farmers Market.

"Parkview is already pretty connected (with the exception) of the campus lawn," said Lannom. "It is a pristine lawn that someone has to mow. It might be beneficial to add a sidewalk. We envisioned creating a three-mile route, a two-mile route and perhaps a one-mile route, adding benches here and there and designating those routes (with color coding). At 5:30 in the morning, there are a lot of people walking, biking and jogging in Dyersburg. We could expand on that to pull the whole town together."

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Local attorney John Lannom shares an idea for increasing connectivity throughout the Dyersburg community and offering color-coded routes in one-, two- and three-mile segments for residents who enjoy walking, jogging or biking.
The citizens committee was very receptive to the idea of creating color-coded routes for residents who wish to keep track of their mileage.

DSCC Director of Public Information Jane Pate said the sidewalk Lannom is proposing might just align with DSCC's long-range plans to encourage bicycles onto their campus. Pate suggested Lannom and representatives of the committee schedule a time to speak to DSCC President Dr. Karen Bowyer about similarities in the two visions.

Durbin said the city school system's long-term plans also include introducing sidewalks throughout school campuses.

Committee members agreed on the importance of creating a strategic plan for the community, especially on the city and county level. Pate said it would be beneficial for citizens committees to 'marry' their long-term vision with larger entities to ensure the most progress in the shortest amount of time.

PHC committee member Jim Stark suggested the committee actively pursue adding bike lanes to the Highway 51 Bypass, a project he said would add the most "bang for the buck" and provide the most attention for local residents. Stark suggested the committee get the city on board and visit the TDOT office, anticipating he could get the project moving within a year.

Stark stressed how important it is to get city officials involved in the complete-streets initiative. Bell suggested the committee consider following the lead of Hernando, Miss., a community that first introduced a 'soft' complete-streets vision and used land trusts to create green spaces from abandoned lots. Once the idea gained momentum, the vision became a written policy.

Williams offered his services as alderman and chair of the city of Dyersburg Parks and Recreation Committee to be a voice for complete streets, sidewalks and bike lanes.

Committee members will likely request a meeting before the parks and recreation committee and the full board to discuss the importance of the complete-streets vision and relating policies. Committee members will first request city officials accept a conceptual master plan connecting the entire city with bike lanes and walking paths.

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City of Dyersburg Parks Director Andy Baker said this bicycle rack in front of the Dyersburg Activity Center is usually full. Unfortunately, the streets immediately surrounding the center do not offer bike lanes or sidewalks for youngsters who travel to the busy center. Residents discussed many options for creating safer and healthier transportation options for residents throughout the community at a public forum on Tuesday evening.
Williams also suggested focusing on a grassroots initiative to engage civic organizations and businesses to improve sidewalks in poor condition by 'sponsoring' a section. He suggested investigating the price to repair or create sidewalks in certain lengths or locations and allow clubs, businesses and even Eagle Scouts to participate in the project.

"People love to have their name attached to things," said Williams. "We could put a little brick at the beginning of their section that says 'This walk made possible by ... The Kiwanis Club.'"

Williams also suggested adding a four-way stop and a crosswalk between the Dyersburg Mall and Walmart on Mall Boulevard to encourage residents to walk across the street to continue their shopping instead of getting back into their car to navigate the busy street.

Stark said he spoke with a representative of Sweet Peppers who said it might be possible for the restaurant to partner with the mall to add a bicycle rack at the mall's main entrance.

The next citizen's committee meeting will take place in September. Until then, members of the committee will pursue meetings with Bowyer, the parks and recreation committee and TDOT.



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