Portage County Looks Out for Pedestrians
Sarah McQueen

bikelane-2-color-srebers.jpgPortage County is currently undergoing a planning process to help improve biking and walking conditions for pedestrians.

The county has been gathering information on areas that could use improvement or change by publically posting an interactive map where users are able to indicate the routes they use the most often, and point out any issues they feel need attention. The map was developed by Tool Design Group out of Madison and is built on Google Maps. The map can be located on Portage County’s blog for County-wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning’s site, www. portagecobikepedplan.wordpress. com.

“All the comments and all the information is going to be utilized by our consultants,” said Sarah Wallace, Associate Planner. “They are going to review everything that is input—all the comments, questions and concern—and that is going to be part of our identification of route, destinations and needs. It is one more way for public involvement.” 

The county has held meeting in the past where citizens could come in and discuss these issues, as well as mark their biking and walking routes and issues they’ve encountered out on a large paper map. They hope that the convenience of this online map will draw in more feedback.

“The planning process is going to identify for the rural area and the urban area very specific facilities, whether they are on-road accommodations, offshoot accommodations, shared use paths, bike lanes, intersection redesigns or sidewalks,” Wallace said. “They are going to be very specific recommendations with timelines. And they are also going to specific funding mechanisms for that.”

After the consultants, a group from Madison made up partly of Toole Design, complete their recommendation, it will be up the City Planning department to figure out how and when they want to implement the suggestions. The funding will come partly from money they were awarded from the Wisconsin Department of transportation, as well as a 20 percent match from the County budget.

The county also hopes to gather information through a bicycle and pedestrian count on May 7 from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. The count will be conducted by volunteers standing at various intersections around the county.

“We as a society do traffic counts for vehicles,” Wallace said. “Those traffic counts on roads filter into the equation of funding criteria for design, based on the volume of the vehicle traffic. We do not do bicycle and pedestrian counts, so it’s hard to understand or get information for what you would specifically need. So we started doing the bike and pedestrian count so we would have a better handle on the amount of use that we are currently having.”

They have been trying to count the same intersections for a few years so they can identify trends or patterns in traffic. If they were to do a redesign or reconstruction, Wallace said that information would be loosely tied to the bicycle and pedestrian count.