Saturday, July 3, 2010

if you build it they will come

one of the roads to the Chester Valley Trail, rt 30, rider must turn left if coming from the west

Chester County is currently building the Chester Valley Trail. This Trail will link Exton, PA with Norristown and the Schuylkill River Trail. This trail was envisioned in 1990 when traffic was not as bad as it is now on the many roads of Chester County. The CVT crosses many roads on its way to Norristown.

Today I traveled by car to see some of the road crossings. This trail crosses heavily used back roads in and around Frazer and north towards King of Prussia. Most trails are built away from roads and provide safe places for families and novices to bike and run. The CVT does not. This trail traverses through busy areas and has to cross multiple roads

The Chester Valley trail will attract many riders. Because once built, folks will flock to it. Of the three Chester County Commissioners, Carol Aichele, has been dominant in getting this trail completed. It sat in limbo for over 15 years. In her zest to complete this project I am not sure all the dangerous road crossings have been given enough thought.

This trail has the potential to move Chester County into the greenest county around. This trail goes through very high density areas and will ultimately connect the western suburbs with Philadelphia.

But for now, the trail has some obvious shortcomings which I hope can be corrected over time:

1. This trail will currently start on N Ship Road. There is no parking there. The only way to get to it is to bike along Rt 30, a busy highway and then bike along Ship Road. Ship Road is a poor, poor road for cyclists. No shoulders and it is a busy cut through road for commuters.

2. The trail crosses at least four busy roads; Ship Road, Phoenixville Pike, Mill Road and Rt 410.
The trail will eventually have to cross rt 29 and make its way through a large proposed shopping center. Some communites are placing signage but a better alternative would be traffic lights on Rt 401 and Rt 29.

3. There is no access to this trail on Church Road which has a wonderful overpass for the trail but alas there is no way to get on it. Church Road serves a huge population that would love access to the trail. Their only alternative is to get on Swedesford Road and make their way to another access point. Again, Swedesford Road is a poor road for cyclists. No shoulders and lots of curves and hills.

4. This trail is being built from King of Prussia back to Exton hence making access in the Exton area near impossible if cyclists are fearful of Rt 30 and Ship Road. The access from Exton is Phase 3 and I understand this phase is years away.

5. Access from heavily populated Downingtown, West Chester and Coatesville is near impossible unless you are able to bike on 4 lane highways and narrow back roads.

6. There are virtually no safe roads for future commuters to make their way to this trail and on to their places of employment. This should be the final goal of this trail. Making it a viable way to commute to work for suburban folks. We see lots of bike lanes and access in inner cities but almost nothing exists for the suburbs.

The potential for this trail to be a one of kind commuting route for suburban folks is unbelievable. Not only can folks get to King of Prussia but can go on to Conshocken, Norristown and Philadelphia. Bike commuting has been nothing short of hazardous for suburbanites; four lane highways and no safe routes.The trail can be something Pennsylvania and Chester County can showcase as a way to make living in the suburbs livable in terms of being able to bike commute.

So I am asking the Chester County Commissioners to keep going with this trail. Just building the trail is not enough. Think safe routes to the trail. Bike lanes and bike friendly shoulders would be a good first step. Parking at trail heads for weekdays. Right now the trail is depending on weekend parking in business parks. Not a good option for weekday commuters.

Plowing this trail during the winter is another way to keep folks commuting. Keeping the trail clear of downed trees and litter would also go a long way to making commuting doable. And getting the trail finished all the way to Downingtown helps keep this trail available as a commuting route for folks in Coatesville trying to get to work in Exton.

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