Steve Nelson envisions a way for Bucks County to provide residents with a better place to live, to help small businesses thrive, and to attract workers and tourists.
He can sum it up in two words: bike paths.
Nelson, a professional planner and chairman of the county’s Bicycle Task Force, recommends doubling Bucks' 240 miles of paths, creating a network connecting towns, parks, train stations and other destinations.
“The benefits are recreation, health – there’s a study that one in seven children is obese – and economic, a boost to tourism,” Nelson said recently.
“Bucks County has villages, scenic routes, creeks, the Delaware River, downtowns, and parks that are close to lots of people,” he said. A connected bike path “can really add to Bucks County as an attraction.”
Nelson and the task force have developed a master plan that they will present at an open house from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Bucks County Community College’s Newtown campus “to make sure we got it right.”
The plan “tries to address all ages and skill levels, from guys in Spandex to families with little kids,” he said.
The 280-page report calls for the creation of north-south and east-west “spines,” or main paths, with networks of “bike sheds” – like watersheds – sprouting off of them. All routes should connect towns, parks, train stations or other destinations, according to the report.
The plan could take 15 to 20 years to implement, and the cost of acquiring land and building 238 miles of on- and off-road trails has not been determined, Nelson said.
For a realistic start, the plan recommends three spines:
- Doylestown-New Hope. An on-road route, about 10.5 miles, along Buckingham Pike and York and Lower York roads.
- Woodbourne-Levittown. On- and off-road route, about 5.3 miles, along Woodbourne and Oxford Valley roads and Levittown Parkway, connecting SEPTA Regional Rail stations.
- Quakertown-Lehigh County line. On- and off-road route, about 5.1 miles, eventually connecting to the Saucon Valley Trail.
Other spines include State Bicycle Route E, which connects Morrisville Borough to Philadelphia, and can use improvements; Cornwells Heights-Newtown Borough; Route 413 from Newtown to Buckingham; Quakertown-Washington Crossing; and Upper Bucks to Northampton County.
The plan provides a blueprint for the county and its 54 municipalities to develop the network, Nelson said.
Routes on roads and shoulders make safety a big issue, he said. The plan recommends the education of bicyclists and drivers about routes and the rules of the road.
For example, drivers must give cyclists at least 4 feet of safe passing distance, and they may cross double-yellow lines to do so, Nelson said.
After the public meeting, the 10-member task force will present the plan to the county Planning Commission and the county commissioners. Nelson said he hopes it will be adopted by early next year.
Then they can take the next step, estimating the cost, he said.
To read the Master Plan and see maps of proposed paths, go to www.BikeBucksCounty.com.