Matthews – Mint Hill Weekly
MATTHEWS – Leading a healthier, more active life could soon become easier for area residents, as Matthews leaders take steps toward making the town more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.
The plan to better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians has been in the works for a number of years. Former Matthews planning director David Nelson compiled, integrated and restructured local, regional and state bicycle and pedestrian plans in order to create the Matthews Composite Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
Kathi Ingrish, the town’s current planning director, said the plan was created to pull together past efforts into a comprehensive master list that identifies areas in Matthews where future bicycle lanes, sidewalks and multi-use pathways could be installed, in hopes of creating greater connectivity between residential areas and local amenities.
The plan builds on efforts that started back in the 1990s, when the town adopted policies that required sidewalks to be built on both sides of the road in subdivisions, according to Ingrish.
“It has always been important to have pedestrian and bike accessibility,” she said. “During the ’80s and ’90s and into the 2000s, Matthews grew so quickly that we are playing catch-up on many things.”
The six long-term plans included in the new bicycle and pedestrian plan are the Carolina Thread Trail Plan (2009), Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation Master Plan (2008), Matthews Comprehensive Bicycle Plan (2006), Matthews Comprehensive Transportation Plan (2014), the Monroe Road Small Area Plan (2014) and the Entertainment District Small Area Plan (2014).
Matthews currently has four miles of bicycle lanes and trails on Fullwood Lane and Weddington Road; the Wagon Wheel bike lane circles around South Trade Street, Pleasant Plains and Weddington Road; and a 10-foot wide multi-use pathway from Four Mile Creek Greenway on East John Street to Greylock Ridge Road. There are 104 miles of sidewalks and multi-use pathways for pedestrians in Matthews, according to the plan.
The new plan aims to connect all neighborhoods to downtown facilities, such as the Matthews Library and town hall, Matthews Farmers Market, the post office, downtown retail and the Matthews Community Center.
The plan also aims to connect neighborhoods with schools; commercial centers, such as Cinemark Movies 10, Sycamore Commons, Windsor Square and Matthews Commons; institutions like the Levine Senior Center, Siskey YMCA and the Novant Health Matthews Medical Center; Arthur Goodman, Idlewild, Windsor, Squirrel Lake, Idlewild Road, and Baucom parks; and the two area greenways.
“We want people to be able to connect to all of the town’s activity centers by walking or riding a bike,” said Ingrish.
Another important element included in the plan deals with safety. From 1997 to 2012, there were 36 bicycle-vehicle accidents and 90 pedestrian-vehicle accidents in Matthews , according to the plan. Ingrish said the numbers are low in comparison to Charlotte, because not as many people walk and cycle in Matthews due to a lack of safe pathways. As more bike lanes, neighborhood routes and multi-use pathways are constructed, the town plans to keep signage, awareness and training a priority, she said.
The new plan aspires to bring cycling facilities to 165 roads and walking facilities to 51 roads and create connectivity among 117 residential, commercial, education and institutional facilities across Matthews.
Ingrish said Nelson met with the Transportation Advisory Committee, the Matthews Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resource board and the Matthews Planning Board during the process of finalizing the plan.
Transportation Advisory Committee Chairman Matt Jones said the committee met with Nelson last month to give recommendations on the plan.
“We are positive about it,” he said. “We are happy the town of Matthews will increase safety and provide alternative commuting possibilities.”
After the plan goes to the Matthews Board of Commissioners for approval on May 11, a Monday, Ingrish said the Transportation Advisory Committee will work in liaison with the town to implement the plan.
Nelson said the committee’s role will be to look over the final draft and ensure new commercial and retail developers, as well as those seeking rezoning and building permits, adhere to the new town requirements.
Nelson explained most of the recommended pathways and sidewalks would be funded and constructed by residential and commercial developers, in accordance with the town’s adoption of the bike and pedestrian facilities guidelines.
The Composite Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan could change before or after the final draft is up for approval next month.
View the Composite Bike and Pedestrian plan at www.matthewsnc.gov.