News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, March 22, 2012
COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. -- The wheels are turning on a new network of bike paths and sidewalks that would stretch over a good bit of our area. But it's not about getting you out and about. Instead, it's all in the name of safety.
It's been in the works for a year now, but Thursday was the first time the public could take a look at the plans that could affect Columbia, Richmond and Aiken counties.
Delores Matthews attended the meeting with her husband. She loves to walk.
"I walk every day," she said. "I'm out every morning and quite often late afternoon early evening."
She said there aren't a lot of sidewalks near her home and that worries her husband.
"I like to walk but it bothers him that I'm walking where there is no safe walking area," she said.
That is something the Augusta Regional Transportation Study Regional Bicycle and Pedestrian plan is hoping to change.
Steve Exley, road construction manager for Columbia County, says Columbia County does not have enough sidewalks and bike paths.
"People just don't have many places to walk other than to get in their cars to go walk somewhere, which is not fair," Exley said."You should be able to exercise within your own communities."
Exercise Matthews says is hard to do.
"We talk about keeping our young people fit," she said. "Well if they don't have a place to ride a bike or walk, they're not going to be getting out and doing exercise."
The meeting allowed the public to give suggestions and recommend changes to the plans.
Thomas Mulherin, a Columbia County resident, also attended the meeting.
"This is our opportunity to get out there and say, 'Hey this is what we think would be best for our community,'" Mulherin said.
He likes the proposed plan that would add a paved greenway around his neighborhood.
"I'm convinced that it's adding property value," he said.
His neighbor, Kathryn Barrett, disagrees. She said the proposed path would go right behind her backyard.
"When you're buying there for the privacy and then it's being taken away -- that was not our choice," she said.
So while they make suggestions to change the plan -- Matthews is just happy one is in place.
It would be funded by taxpayer dollars, but they say most of the projects would be relatively inexpensive because they would just be added onto already existing projects. For example, when they widen a road, they would add a sidewalk.
They say it could take years for any changes to happen, since road construction is a slow process. However, there are things that you can do right now like being aware and educating yourself on bicycle and pedestrian safety.
A study released in January showed that Georgia ranks 45th in the nation for bicycle and pedestrian safety.
You can find out more information on the plan and see the proposed paths on their website here.
They will meet again for public input on Wednesday at Aiken Technical College from 5 to 7 p.m.