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5:47 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Bicycle advocates reach milestone; set new goal

PRESCOTT –For five busy years, volunteer labor has fueled Prescott Alternative Transportation's (PAT) efforts to make biking and walking easier and safer in the community.

To be sure, the volunteers made their mark. The need for bike lanes and trails has taken center stage in the community during the past several years. And that awareness helped bring about a number of high-profile victories for bicycle advocates.

But with the recent addition of two paid positions, PAT has hopes of even greater achievements.

Sue Knaup, who has been the volunteer director of PAT for years, now has some help. Not only has Knaup become a paid part-time employee of PAT, but the organization also added a paid part-time administrative assistant, James MacAdam.

In addition, the organization now has a permanent office, with office hours, in the space next to Ironclad Bicycles at 710A White Spar Road.

This week, Knaup and MacAdam were busy working on what Knaup says will be PAT's "flagship project" – the "Safe Routes to School" program.

Knaup is passionate when she talks about the need for kids to have a way to get themselves to school. She points out that 90 percent of students today arrive at school by car or bus. That is a stark contrast to the days of Knaup's childhood, when she said "70 percent of children traveled by their own power."

Not only would increased biking and walking be good for the children's health, but it would also cut down on the traffic that daily clogs the streets around the schools.

Knaup and MacAdam plan to take the program to the schools. Knaup foresees an effort that would get the schools' PTA (Parent Teacher Association) groups involved, as well as administrators and teachers in the classroom.

The first step will involve coming up with maps to show children how they can safely get from their neighborhoods to their schools on foot or by bicycle.

Currently, PAT has about a dozen volunteers who help with the bike rodeos, trail work, and other projects that the organization has taken on in the past. But Knaup emphasized that the group needs a lot more volunteers to make the Safe Routes to School program a success.

She said PAT will work to map where the students live and where they go to school. "Then, a volunteer could walk or ride the route and discover where the major needs are," Knaup said.

In addition, PAT will continue its emphasis on education and safety. "Helmets will be a huge part of that," Knaup said. "For students who don't have access to helmets, we can provide them."

PAT hopes to work with all of the local schools, including charters schools. Knaup said the organization likely will start with about three schools.

MacAdam, a conservation graduate of Prescott College, voiced enthusiasm for his new job. "It is good for the environment, and it is good for the community," MacAdam, who regularly commutes to work by bicycle, said of alternative transportation.

Basically, Knaup sees PAT continuing at a higher level the momentum that already exists.

When PAT formed five years ago, barriers to bicycling existed all over the community. The narrow, steep Willow Creek Road offered virtually no space for safe bicycling. Crossing the high-speed Whipple/Montezuma connector was high-risk on foot or on bike. And most of the side streets had no marked bicycle routes.

Since then, new stretches of the widened Willow Creek Road have striped bike lanes, and a new traffic signal exists on the Whipple-Montezuma connector to allow pedestrians and bicyclists a safe point to cross. And many of the less-busy side streets now have signs that show safe routes for bikes.

And Knaup regularly works with local general-planning efforts to get alternative transportation needs on the books for future projects.

Knaup said PAT is working to get foundation grants and conduct fundraisers to help pay for its new employees.

Anyone interested in learning more about PAT can stop by the new office, or log onto the organization's website at http://www.prescottbikeped.org. To view volunteer opportunities, click on "getting involved."