A local bike-advocacy group and a federally mandated planning agency have worked together on a proposal for a network of bicycle routes covering Kalamazoo County and extending into Van Buren County.
In an interview with WMUK, Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study (KATS) Senior Planner Steve Stepek describes the steps involved in making the network a reality and other ways KATS wants to make the area friendlier to bikes and feet.
KATS doesn’t have the highest profile among local governmental groups. But it’s been around for nearly fifty years, since the federal government decided that every metropolitan area with more than 50,000 people needed to have a long-term plan for how those people would get around.
KATS is responsible for that planning in all of Kalamazoo County, and a few townships in Van Buren County extending to Paw Paw.
These days, its plans reflect a nationwide movement toward making it easy to get from A to B on foot, on a bike or in any case without a motor.
“We’re kind of doing this as a holistic planning effort,” Stepek says.
He says KATS and Bike Friendly Kalamazoo will now work to determine which of the proposed routes are truly viable. Then they have to go to municipalities and other road authorities to ask about posting "bike route" signs.
“Ultimately it comes down to those road agencies with their right of way, whether or not signs would be allowed. And each of the individual cities, villages, et cetera have the ability to do that,” Stepek says.
“Our approach is to lay out what we see as the overall kind of that best network.”
KATS also plans to develop a “gap analysis” of existing routes, Stepek says. If there are places where they’re “missing a bike lane for a mile that may end up making an eight to 10 mile stretch of bike lane,” or just a small piece of trail, they want to fill them in.
“All of those will then get rolled into our plan,” Stepek says, “so that hopefully we have some of that low-hanging fruit to offer funding for when projects come up for the roadway.”