Retired dentist Mel Rittner rides daily with a biking club, bikes to his weekly Alliance Kiwanis meeting and bikes to the grocery store.
It’s not always easy.
“Europe is a lot more bike-friendly. In other parts of the world, they do walk, they do ride their bikes,” said Dr. Rittner, who went on a 10-day bike trip from Munich to Vienna. “It’s the American way to take the car on short trips.”
If a grassroots effort takes hold, that could change in Alliance. Rittner is a member of a group trying to get public support and funding to install bike paths and bike lanes in Alliance.
The biking initiative is an outgrowth of the “Fuel-less Fridays” campaign, launched by the transportation subcommittee of the Mayor’s Green Task Force. (www.greenallianceohio.org)
“Our assignment for the task force was to come up with ways to reduce the city’s carbon footprint,” Martha McClaugherty, chair of the subcommittee, said. “We wanted to raise awareness about different ways of moving from one place to another — walk, ride, carpool, take the bus. The idea is to pick one day a week in which you would try to use an alternative mode of transportation.”
When committee members started riding their bikes on Fuel-less Fridays, they quickly realized it was difficult, even dangerous, to get around Alliance. That led to a push to make the city more bike-friendly.
LOOKING FOR FUNDING
The first step, according to subcommittee member Darrin Petko of the Stark County Parks District, is to find funding.
“We’re having a big push to get a federal block grant to get the engineering design work to come up with bike lanes connecting the schools and the YMCA and some businesses,” Petko said.
Unfortunately, the Alliance request did not make it to the Stark County Regional Planning Commission in time to be considered for the $2.79 million Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant. However, Brenda Sarsany, chief of planning for the SCRPC, said they are waiting for review and approval by the Department of Energy, and if there are extra funds after that review, they would be willing to revisit the request from Alliance.
Meanwhile the task force subcommittee has sent letters to Alliance businesses asking them to consider installing bike racks. Members of the Kiwanis club will install a bike rack this week at the YWCA.
In addition, the park district held a community meeting to explain how Alliance will be connected to the greenway, a proposed bike path that will wend throughout the county.
“It’s a combination of railroad easements, flood plains. We hope to stay off-road as much as possible,” Petko said. (For more information, visit www.starkparks.com).
Page 2 of 2 - Are Alliance residents behind the campaign to make the city bike-friendly? Subcommittee member Derrick Loy is confident they will be.
“We have a lot of people who like to ride their bikes but take their bikes in trucks to other towns, to Cuyahoga Falls, to the towpath, to Lisbon — taking their tax money there, eating there, shopping there,” Loy said. “It would be nice if we could ride across town. At the very minimum, the city parks and schools should be linked.”
Loy hopes the Fuel-less Friday campaign raises awareness.
“It doesn’t have to be Friday. It can be any day. We just want people to take some other form of transportation, think about what they can do differently to make a difference environmentally,” he said. “People say I’m only one person, but our strength is in numbers. If people see me (riding my bike), maybe that will influence them. If 10 people do the same thing I’m doing, that’s an impact.”