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Biking, walking survey identifies positives, challenges of amenities in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks

A plan aiming to improve and expand pedestrian and bicycle paths in the Greater Grand Forks area continues to move forward, now with resident input included.

Residents surveyed as part of an effort by Grand Forks and East Grand Forks planning officials to update a pedestrian and bike plan gave positive feedback for existing amenities but did identify several areas where they see challenges.

“We have an amazing number of sidewalks and bike paths compared to other cities,” a respondent wrote.

In all, more than 100 people took the survey created by the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization. The survey results are included in the joint city pedestrian and bike plan, which helps local officials plot future projects and identify funding for them.

“The objective of the survey was to assess existing bicycle and pedestrian conditions and needs,” Jairo Viafara, senior transportation planner for the MPO who is spearheading the plan update, wrote in an email.

For bikers and walkers in the community, maintenance of existing paths and sidewalks is an area of importance as well as more paths, better lighting and developing more connections between trails.

“Please focus attention on commuter trails and making connections so bicycling can become safer for those who want to use them for more than just recreation,” wrote one survey respondent.

Those suggesting improvements specifically for children who walk and bike in the city noted widening sidewalks near schools and parks, creating traffic calming infrastructure near schools and crossing guards as important measures that could be taken.

Survey takers also gave other information, such as why they walk or bike and what conditions make doing so challenging in the two cities.

“The information collected will assist in the determination of current levels of use for bicycling and walking transportation trips; and in the evaluation of the existing transportation infrastructure (including on- and off-road facilities),” Viafara wrote. “In part, the information will help to determine current conditions and capacities and to identify gaps or deficiencies in terms of accommodating potential and existing bicycle and pedestrian travel.”

The current version of the pedestrian and bike plan was published in 2013 and identified a total of about $13 million in potential projects for both cities in the coming decades.
With updates expected every five years, the MPO and its partners — an advisory committee made up of city officials and residents — are in the process of creating the next version for 2017.

That process is set to wrap up in the next couple of months with a final version of the draft expected in December. The MPO will seek comments from the public on a draft version of the plan next month.