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Aurora residents, officials look at future of cycling

by BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: September 28, 2016 1:00 AM
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Aurora -- Local bicyclists are getting a chance to consider the future of their pastime in Aurora.

On Sept. 17, a mix of about 20 local officials and area bicyclists met to discuss ways to improve bicycling.

The group was supposed to take a ride around the city to help spur discussion about areas to improve, but Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin said the ride was rained out. The group instead discussed some of the opportunities for development of bike routes.

"It was really great," she said. "I think everyone was excited. I made it clear that the city is really committed to it. I think we can make some real strides."

The ride portion of the "Bike-N-Brainstorm" event has been rescheduled for Oct. 1 at 9 a.m. at the Walker Building.

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Among those at the meeting were Seth Bush, the GIS coordinator for the Akron Metropolitan Area Traffic Study, and Heather Reidl, a mobility planner with AMATS.

Bush said Aurora is fortunate because it has many points of interest within the city limits.

"There's a lot of potential destinations such as parks, schools and Aurora Farms Premium Outlets," he said. "The challenges I see are high-speed, high-volume roads that are primary arteries."

Womer Benjamin said she is focused on regional connections, as well as connecting bike routes within the community.

She noted Aurora, Solon and the Portage Park District have been trying to open dialogue with the Norfolk Southern Railroad to build a bike path along its easement through the two cities.

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"Sen. [John] Eklund is helping reach out to the railroad," she said.°

There may be an opportunity to connect with the Headwaters Trail in Mantua along the train tracks, said Womer Benjamin. The Portage Park District has plans to extend the Headwaters Trail to the Chagrin Headwaters Preserve at Chamberlain Road.

REIDL SAID a trail utilizing the railroad easement would be "a great thing. It's very well supported both by Solon and Aurora and the community and citizens of Aurora," she said.°

Within the community, Womer Benjamin said she believes internal connections aimed at residents could be developed.

"I've said that [the city] owns enough land that we probably could piece together a hike-and-bike trail if the railroad is not cooperative," she said.

One spot that Bush and Reidl said was discussed at length during the Sept. 17 meeting is the crossing of Route 43 at Mennonite Road. If made safe, it could connect Sunny Lake Park to several churches and most of the city's schools.

The east and west portions of Mennonite Road are slightly offset, and Bush said it may be possible to provide a "slightly off-road" route to avoid Route 43, except for the crossing.

He said one attendee spoke in favor of making the intersection a roundabout, but Bush said those are generally difficult for bicyclists to maneuver through safely. He said one answer might be a "HAWK" signal.°

"It functions kind of like a crosswalk switch," he explained. "It's not always on. It's not on intervals or timed. It would stop traffic long enough for a walker or biker to cross."

According to "Mid-Block Crossing Analysis" by AMATS, the crossing would include a red light which would, in this case, stop traffic on Route 43.

Womer Benjamin said she would like to avoid creating bike lanes along the side of busy state routes, but said crossings could be manageable.°

"We have residential neighborhoods we can direct routes through," she said. "But putting bike lanes on state routes is just very challenging."

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188°

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