In a town like Carlisle where driving takes center stage, where do other forms of transportation fit in?
Riding a bicycle fits the transportation niche between driving and walking, and has been facilitated in the borough through its Bicycle and Pedestrian Network. The borough has a 13.8-mile network of trails and enhanced streets for walking and biking between parks, schools and downtown.
Brenda Landis, who serves on Carlisle Borough Council, lives in the northwest area about 5-6 blocks away from her office at Dickinson College, so she walks or bikes most often, but sometimes people will see her truck in the parking lot.
It’s no surprise, then, that she’s become an advocate for walkability and bikeability in town.
Overall, Landis finds the borough to be fairly walkable in that it already has a dense grid of streets that provides for easier access to a number of amenities. “I think this town is actually doing a really good job on multiple levels, but I also think that it’s important to continue to evaluate as we get more people biking or walking,” she said.
To that end, the borough’s recently approved comprehensive plan has set goals related to improving the bikeability and walkability of the town. For example, the borough aims to raise the awareness and use of bicycling as a "low-cost, low-impact and high-value” way to travel by encouraging police to use bike patrols more regularly, increasing bike safety programs, updating trail maps to focus on benefits and reasons to bike or walk and creating a bicycling-pedestrian app.
There have been campaigns in other areas that support walking and biking by putting signs at specific intersections to let people know how long it takes to walk to certain landmarks to break down the notion of "it’s too far," Landis said.
“The places that have been very successful in encouraging walkability and bikeability, not just because of the way the town is structured, but the culture of the people, is teaching … the notion of swap out one car trip for a walking trip,” Landis said.
That’s not to say the borough isn’t looking at structure. The comprehensive plan also calls for biking and walking infrastructure improvements such as enforcing design and maintenance of clear sight triangles at intersections, improving the gateway corridors into the borough with bikers and walkers in mind, encouraging businesses to install bike racks and working with PennDOT to improve biking and walking facilities when projects are planned.
Landis said there may be lifestyle reasons that people can’t make a leap from focusing on cars to using their bikes and cars more often. Making an attempt to change and adapt over time is likely more attainable for most.
“Swapping that out one at a time, it’s not making you commit,” she said. “It’s just about changing a little bit and then that’s one less car on the road.”