Bike Kennett planning collaborative ideas for creating trails, sidewalks and bike lanes
By Richard Gaw
In 2016, an idea began to float around Kennett Township and Kennett Square Borough to create a bicycle advocacy group that would link families with activities, and provide input on behalf of bicyclists in the creation of a master plan of bikeways, trails and sidewalks.
Kennett Borough resident Josie Marsh, a former competitive bicyclist and the mother of two small children, saw the proposal in the context of what she was not seeing: a community without a connective bicycle advocacy organization, and the lack of infrastructure substantial enough to support the enthusiasm that would likely result from starting such a group.
So Marsh began Bike Kennett in August 2016, and in the past two years, she and others in the group have helped connect families with activities, and municipalities with ideas, in order to create safe opportunities for their residents. In the past year-and-a-half, Marsh, working with other volunteers, has developed the group's mission statement on the strength of two actions: Listening and communicating.
She began to receive input from residents who shared with her the need to work with elected officials from neighboring municipalities to improve pedestrian accessibility.
Bike Kennett is collaborating with the Kennett Township Sidewalks and Trails Committee in the development of the township's Active Transportation Plan, which is scheduled to be formally presented in June . A few of the components of the plan include making a trail connection from Kennett Square to Chadds Ford that will ultimately link to the Circuit Trails in Philadelphia; upgrading the Parish Trail from Herb Pennock Park to Hillendale Road, and adding an off-road trail from Hillendale Road to the now-closed Chandler Mill Bridge; creating the Magnolia Trail from Cannery Row to Herb Pennock Park; adding bike lanes on Cypress Street and Old Baltimore Pike between Mill Road and Toughkenamon; and continuing its sidewalk construction project with additional sidewalks to be constructed on McFarland Road and Cypress Street.
Marsh said that Kennett Township manager Lisa Moore and township grants coordinator Mike Guttman have embraced Bike Kennett's ideas, and both have begun to put plans into action.
“I sent this plan to them ahead of time, and Lisa said that the township can get an estimate and see if it can obtain the necessary easements,” Marsh said. “Mike has said that the township may be able to incorporate Bike Kennett's ideas into an active transportation plan that's industry specific, and targeted to providing more transportation opportunities for those who work in the mushroom industry.”
Bike Kennett's work doesn't end there. The group is working with New Garden Township on the development of two projects: To create sidewalks and trails that will link Herb Pennock Park to the New Garden Shopping Center; and creating a trail and bridge system that will connect the Preserves at New Garden development to the Kennett Greenway.
In addition, Bike Kennett is helping to plan multi-municipal projects that will include adding a designated corridor for bikes along South and Walnut streets in Kennett Borough; and widening bike shoulder lanes along Route 52, between Route 1 and the state line.
“What we've done with a bit of help from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, we are working with Pennsbury Township, PennDOT and Kennett Township to widen the bike paths along that part of the Route 52 corridor, and make sure there are newly-paved bike lanes on both sides of the roadway,” Marsh said.
Bike Kennett is also working with East Marlborough Township on the beginning stages of a concept plan that could someday link Unionville to the Kennett Greenway.
“This entire initiative with East Marlborough Township came from an East Marlborough resident who came to me and said, 'What can we do? Why can't we have a trail? We want to be able to walk and bike in downtown Kennett Square,'” Marsh said. “I told her that if she has passion for this, then let's make a conceptual map. I took her concept to the Kennett Township's Trails and Sidewalk committee, who told me that if the concept connects to the township, that they would be willing to obtain the necessary grants to make this happen.”
Moving these projects from concept to completion is more complicated than merely waving a magic wand over a patch of land or a roadway. It's a two- to four-year process that involves six stages: 1) obtaining a concept plan and estimate; 2) applying for grants; 3) receiving grants; 4) obtaining necessary permits and approvals from municipalities; 5) bidding the project and obtaining detailed designs; and 6) overseeing the start and completion of the project.
“We've already pushed these projects into this pipeline, and when the active transportation plan comes out, it will be clearer as to what the next projects will be, from one to the next,” Marsh said. “Many have already received grants, and in the next couple of years, we anticipate seeing a lot more of these projects actually be built.”
While the “big picture” mission of Bike Kennett may involve spearheading the development of transportation projects throughout the southern Chester County community, Marsh said that it begins with providing better accessibility for the part of the population that ride bicycles most frequently: Children and their families. Bike Kennett has created a full schedule of events this year, that will include group rides and events through several local communities.
One of those events is the “Eat, Play, Learn Community Ride,” scheduled for June 23 at Kennett High School, beginning at 6 p.m., in collaboration with the American Heart Association and La Communidad Hispana. Bike Kennett is making plans to acquire 40 refurbished bicycles to hand out to participants who attend the event.
“We started creating rides about a year ago, and it has been great to see people who come out for exercise and recreation, and who later become interested in the advocacy component of Bike Kennett,” Marsh said. “We're for kids and families, and for those people who have a bike hanging in their garage that they never use anymore. We're also for those who would enjoy the possibility of someday being able to ride their bike to work.
“While we're happy to provide them with the social aspect of supporting trails and bike lanes and sidewalks, there is the added bonus of being able to help facilitate change, as well. I'm trying to help people to connect – to create project ideas and get them into the hands of their local governments.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected]
2018 Bike Kennett Events
First and Third Saturdays Hill Ride
20-30 miles, starts at West Fallowfield Township Building at 9 a.m.
Second Saturday Beginner Ride
10-12-mile ride starts at Herb Pennock Park at 9 a.m.
First Tuesday Socials
Meets first Tuesdays of the month at Victory Brewing Company, through Oct. 3, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday Stretch Ride
30-45-mile ride starts at Anchor Fitness, Kennett Square, at 9 a.m.
Tuesday Group Ride
14-20-mile ride starts at Victory Brewing Company, Kennett Square, at 6 p.m.
Wednesday Early Ride
15-20-mile ride starts at 415 Spring Mill Road, Chadds Ford at 6 a.m.
Thursday Airport Ride
16-16-mile ride starts at New Garden Flying Field, Toughkenamon, at 6 p.m.
Biking the Borough Celebration
May 17, 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Kennett Library & Anchor life + fitness
Eat, Play, Learn Community Ride
June 23, 6 p.m.
Four-mile community ride starts at Kennett High School