Getting around town: Franklin focuses on making town more walkable
Franklin has sidewalks, bike trails and a beautiful greenway to encourage residents and visitors to walk or bike around town, but those assets aren’t as valuable unless the town can find a better way to connect them.
More than 50 Franklin residents gathered together last week at the first Bike Walk Franklin workshop to begin discussing the possibilities for building new infrastructure and connecting the resources already in place.
“People want to be able to walk and bike more, but it doesn’t seem like the pieces are put together enough,” said Kristy Carter, a transportation planner who facilitated the workshop.
With the guidance of transportation planners and project engineers, community members literally mapped out the challenges people may face when trying to get from point A to point B in town.
Franklin was one of 10 towns in North Carolina to receive a $36,000 grant from the Department of Transportation last year to create a bicycle and pedestrian plan. Once the plan is in place, it will be used to guide future investments in transportation and pedestrian projects.
“The team here is not going to build sidewalks, but you’re going to help us know where sidewalks and bike lanes can go — you all can carry the plan forward,” Carter said.
So why should Franklin focus on making the town more accessible for pedestrians and bicyclists? Carter says the benefits are endless — improving quality of life, a healthier community, improved safety and economic vitality.
Franklin Mayor Bob Scott said the long-range planning to make the town more pedestrian-friendly is just one more thing the board is doing to make Franklin an outdoor destination.
“Unfortunately, most towns were founded on moving automobiles around — not people,” he said. “But now that trend is changing a bit as more people are concerned about their health and getting outdoors. Walkability and biking is becoming as important as moving vehicles.”
When prioritizing a list of projects to improve the walkability of town on a limited budget, Carter encouraged residents to look at where current infrastructure could be better connected. For example, there are spots in town with sidewalks on one side of the street and a crosswalk to the other side but then no continuing sidewalk. There are sidewalks without handicap accessible ramps, which makes it unsafe for disabled residents using wheelchairs. Carter said the goal should be to meet the 8-80 principle — designing infrastructure that is safe for elderly and children.
“If we plan for children and elderly, the rest of us can take care of ourselves,” she said.
While Franklin could definitely benefit from new pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, Carter said the town also needed to look into the other proponents of successful planning, including educating people on the resources already in place and enforcing rules of the road to make it a safer environment for walkers and bikers.
This is just the beginning of the planning process and it isn’t too late for residents to get involved. Residents are encouraged to complete an online survey that will allow the transportation planners to prioritize the needs in Franklin. More than 300 people have already completed the survey and it will be available for another month at www.bikewalkfranklin.wordpress.com.
• A Bike Walk Franklin event will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 12, when the team of planners will lead a community walk around town in order to pinpoint some problem areas. Meet at Town Square.
• A community bike ride will be held Saturday, April 2. Visit the Bike Walk Franklin website for more event details and also an interactive map of Franklin. Residents can add routes and point out areas of concerns using the Wikimap, which will then help the planners identify where improvements need to be made.