The first state-level effort to study the benefits and opportunities of bicycle, pedestrian pathways and natural surface trails is underway, and the task force appointed by Gov. Matt Mead is asking for public comment on the draft plan.
“The legislation requests the task force look at the economic, community and health benefits of biking and walking, in addition to the safety issues, funding opportunities and ways the state can assist local community efforts,” said Tim Young, chairman of the Wyoming Bicycle and Pedestrian System Task Force. “To help develop the most useful report we can, we’d like to hear from as many people around Wyoming as we can.”
The Wyoming Legislature created the 13-member task force during the 2016 session. Gov. Mead appointed members in June. Since then, the group has convened three times. Their vision of Wyoming is a place where people choose to walk and ride on a greatly enhanced transportation and recreation system.
The final report is due to the governor by Oct. 1, 2017. The public comment period is now open.
“We’re going to dig into details and provide recommendations, some of which may help our communities in planning and seeking funding,” Young said. “We’re going to be getting a better sense of the benefits of cycling and people-powered trail activities, which will help legislators see there are significant economic opportunities. It fits strongly with Wyoming’s goal of economic diversification.”
Among the potential economic benefits are established national routes like the Trans-America Trail, Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and the Medicine Bow Rail Trail. These routes crisscross the state and draw thousands of cyclists every year.
A Montana survey of cyclists showed these tourists spent an average of $76 a day and eight days in the state. Both figures are more than the average summer tourist in Montana, according to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research study by the University of Montana. Many travel with much of their own gear, but because they move slower they tend to spend longer in each state they visit.
“Travel and tourism is already the number two industry in Wyoming, and the state is looking at how to enhance and diversify the economy, so this report could be instrumental in framing that conversation for the Legislature and identifying logical, cost-effective ways to improve our communities and take advantage of the benefits out there.”
Improved infrastructure could also provide benefits for local riders, Young added. Physical activity is a proven benefit for public health, and that means lower costs for health care, he explained.
“We hope this study is a catalyst to improve public health outcomes in Wyoming,” Young said.
Young and the task force’s vision for cycling infrastructure in Wyoming faces challenges. Some of the obstacles to be addressed include improving safety for riders and finding funding for identified projects.
Organizations and interests represented on the committee include the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Wyoming Department of Health, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, Platte River Trust Trails, Wyoming Pathways, City of Cheyenne, Admiral Beverage, Grand Teton Lodge Company, ranchers and equestrians.
For more information, or to provide public comment, visit http://wyomingbusiness.org/content/trailsystem or email Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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