A framework for making Alma a better community for people to walk or ride a bike was recently passed by the Alma City Council.
The City Council approved a resolution adopting a bicycle and pedestrian plan for the city during its meeting July 18, Alma City Clerk/Treasurer Wayne Beck said on Thursday. The plan will be used as a framework for guiding the improvements and development of the parks and recreation facilities in Alma.
Alma Mayor Jerry Martin said in an email the final draft of the bicycle and pedestrian plan was completed at the first of this year.
“We want to make our community a safe walkable and bikeable community,” Martin said. “We want to accommodate those who want to live a healthy lifestyle along with those who need a safe alternative mode of transportation.”
A copy of the bicycle and pedestrian plan provided by Martin states the plan was the result of collaboration between the city of Alma and the Frontier Metropolitan Planning Organization in Fort Smith, the latter of which also worked to develop a bicycle and pedestrian plan with the city of Van Buren.
There is a half-mile of bikeways in Alma, which consist entirely of multi-use paths and no bike lanes or signed routes. The city also has 10.1 miles of sidewalks, and some roads have no sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians. This forces many people to walk in the road or on the grass. The plan proposes the city of Alma develop an additional 22.06 miles of sidewalks and 17 miles of bikeways.
Alma residents participated in the plan’s development through Alma Parks and Recreation Commission meetings, an online survey and other public meetings and community events held at various stages, according to the resolution. The plan states a public involvement meeting was held March 28 at the Alma Community Building. About 20 people attended to provide their input. An online survey that was posted for those who could not attend drew 169 responses.
The sidewalks proposed in the plan are estimated to cost $17,474,867.65. The total cost estimate for the proposed bike lanes was listed at $4,069,699.93. Also included in the plan is a list of potential funding sources, including federal, state, private and nonprofit options.
Martin said Alma has already started implementing some of the plan, with sidewalks about to go in on parts of Collum Lane, Cherry Street and Fayetteville Avenue.
“We also have started engineering on a trail near the Boys and Girls Club,” Martin said. “We still need to prioritize the rest of the plan so we can … get a plan of action in place.”
Much like the Van Buren Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, the Alma plan includes three goals and outlines objectives to help achieve them. It also contains policies to serve as guides to city and community members on how to accomplish each objective. These all include the following:
Goal 1: Connect points of interest
• Connect local schools to a bicycle and pedestrian network, providing a safe, healthy, convenient and accessible transportation option for students.
• Connect employment centers, shopping destinations, neighborhoods and other points of interest to a bicycle and pedestrian network.
• Develop an attractive downtown as a quality place to live, walk and commute.
• Introduce a code where every new development must have a sidewalk and bike parking.
• Adopt National Association of City Transportation Officials complete streets policy.
Goal 2: Connect to the natural environment
• Connect residents and visitors to parks, lakes and multi-use paths through a bicycle and pedestrian network.
• Encourage connection to the natural environment through family friendly facilities, safe and healthy streets and the freedom to choose how to get around.
• Ensure every park is pedestrian accessible through sidewalks, multi-use paths or accessways.
• Ensure every park is bicycle accessible through multi-use paths or bike lanes.
• Continue to seek grant funding opportunities such as the Transportation Alternatives Program and the Recreational Trails Program to build such facilities.
Goal 3: Support the local economy
• Increase the prevalence of recreational bicycling and walking in the region to keep recreational spending local.
• Enhance the image of the region to attract workers and businesses.
• Provide citizens low-cost alternatives to motor vehicle transportation.
• Promote safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.
• Ensure businesses accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. Programs such as the American League of Bicyclists offers a Bicycle Friendly Business program.
• Build mixed use development downtown to encourage more people living along Fayetteville Avenue.
The plan states it coincides with a state and regional bike plan to provide connectivity that will benefit both local residents and those in neighboring communities.