Talk of the Town: Alternative transportation is vital

I am proud to support Prescott Alternative Transportation (PAT).

It is a non-profit organization that is unique in serving our community. Its mission is "working for a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly central Yavapai community" - a mission that is a little more daunting than it first might appear.

The effort to complete our streets and make our community more friendly is a struggle. Just recall the resistance that arose against bike lanes were suggested for Gurley Street, Sixth Street or Copper Basin Road. Bike lanes are but a small part of the overall picture, but they are still important in making our community as friendly as it can be, and they are exceptionally important for the safety of our friends and neighbors who are bicycling our streets now.

Bike lanes are also an effective way to get bicyclists off sidewalks to eliminate conflict with both pedestrians and motorists.

Not all of us are brave enough to ride bicycles on Prescott's dangerous streets, but nearly all of us are pedestrians, and we can all appreciate an effort to make walking safer and more convenient. PAT advocates "complete streets" that serve all users of the transportation system. Complete streets are safer streets that make it and easier to get around our community.

Many of Prescott's "connector" roads have ended up as dividers to those on foot or bike. We must make sure all people can travel their length and safely cross these streets at frequent intervals.

We also can appreciate trails being developed in roadless corridors, and the pleasant escape and great shortcuts that enhancements like our greenways network provide. PAT offers its expertise in street, sidewalk, and trail design. It offers suggestions to improve connectivity, and it looks for ways to bring money for these improvements to our community. PAT has helped to bring in more than $5 million in federal transportation money the Prescott area would not have seen otherwise.

Pedestrian and bicycle lanes are important elements in the foundation of our community; in a sense, they are the canaries in the coal mine. When they are present, it is evidence of a healthy environment. Bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly communities are more attractive to tourists and businesses looking to relocate. The quantity of bicyclists and pedestrians on streets is a measure of the quality of life. Citizens are healthier, air and water are cleaner, and we have less congestion and noise (not to mention more parking for those who still drive). The option to walk or ride a bike is a choice to be more self reliant, and less dependent on foreign oil.

Every once in a while PAT representatives will garner the spotlight as they make an emotional plea in front of city council, but most of their work goes on quietly behind the scenes. PAT representatives are a familiar presence at a variety of community committees. They work with ADOT transportation officials, our public works departments, and our schools. Hundreds of our youths have participated in PAT bicycle safety programs.

After a dozen years, the fruits of PAT's efforts are increasingly visible around town, from the new multi-use paths at the 69/89 interchange to the Peavine and Greenways trails, the Summit crosswalk, and the Merrit traffic light.

PAT was there when the City of Prescott took its first steps toward creating a bicycle and pedestrian master plan, and it continues to provide ides and suggestions for updating and revising it. The town now has 22 miles of striped or signed bike routes where it once had none.

Coming soon, look for road edge and sidewalk improvements on highway 89 heading south from town, and sidewalk improvements around PAT's "Safe Routes to Schools" partner schools.

Prescott is a better community because of PAT, but it still has more to do. It still must overcome safety problems and connectivity problems. Plans are in the works for new roads, transit systems, and developments, and we must take care to accommodate all users of our transportation system, especially the most vulnerable.

PAT's greatest challenge and opportunity is better education of our pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists on how to share our roads safely and to embrace the concept of complete streets. PAT's three-member staff is working hard to keep Prescott a vibrant, healthy and well-connected community that the Prescott Chamber of Commerce can promote, and PAT could use your help.

The most fun way to pitch in and do your share would be to join us at 6 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Prescott College Crossroads Center for Prescott Alternative Transportation's first annual "Pedals and Pumps Gala," a fun and not quite formal fundraising event that will combine a banquet and auction with the opportunity to recognize a few people who contribute to Prescott's quality of life with PAT's "Central Yavapai Community Leadership Excellence" (CYCLE) awards.

Tickets are $75 each. Find more details and buy tickets at www.prescottbikeped.org.

Please join me in supporting PAT.

Jim Knaup, a 33-year Prescott resident, owns Encore Performance and Fabrication and Ironclad Bicycles. He is co-chair of the Prescott Bicycle Advisory Committee, and serves on the board of Prescott Alternative Transportation.