Montco commissioners approve countywide plan to boost bike infrastructure

Jody L. Holton, the executive director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission unveils the early stages of its “Bike Montco” plan in June. County commissioners have voted unanimously to approve the plan.

The Montgomery County commissioners this week unanimously approved a plan to create 800 miles of “bike infrastructure” in the county.

Bike Montco, a project steeped in data and analysis, was unveiled in late June by members of the county Planning Commission.

“As we’ve seen cycling increase on trails, we know people are biking more, and more will be on our roads,” said Matthew Edmond, transportation section chief of the Planning Commission. “We’re trying to be proactive and increase safety for folks who we know are out there now and the growing number of people that will be out there in the future.”

Edmond said his office had received a modest amount of feedback since the plan’s unveiling. It was formally approved Thursday.

And while he noted that officials can now begin to implement the plan, residents won’t see changes immediately.

“However, I can say, confidently, that within the next five years, citizens will start to see more on-road bicycle structures,” he said.

Using mapping software, the commission identified roadways that are prime candidates for cycling infrastructure, whether a protected bike lane or a mixed-use trail. These roads have relatively lower speed limits and less congestion, making them less intimidating to casual cyclists.

The new bike paths would connect to existing paths, creating a comprehensive network. Ultimately, the plan calls for installing 583 miles of bike paths on roads operated by the state Department of Transportation, not only to ease logistics but also to take advantage of the agency’s recent commitment to paving the more heavily traveled roads in the county.

The county’s approach to cycling has already garnered at least one result: During recent maintenance of King Street in Pottstown, PennDot, working with the Planning Commission, installed a bike lane in an area long requested by residents.

“Improving the roads in the county for bike infrastructure doesn’t have to be expensive,” Edmond said. “We’re looking to make this a smart government program, not a big one.”

This fall, members of the inter-agency committee that developed the plan – including representatives from the county, SEPTA, and PennDot – will sit down with regional planning commissions and municipal groups to garner further feedback, Edmond said.