On Thursday August 19 the Berrien County Board of Commissioners met at Chikaming Township Hall to hear a presentation on the proposed non-motorized pathway that is planned to extend from New Buffalo Township to Bridgman and beyond. Also attending were more than 100 local residents who were 100 percent supportive of the proposal.
Since I was curious about the need and use of a non-motorized path, I conducted a windshield survey of use of the one that has been built in Union Pier. For one week, I drove along the pathway at random times between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm, not including the noon hour. I did this a total of 19 times and counted what I saw.
It turns out the non-motorized pathway sees a great deal of use. Every single time I drove past there were walkers, bike riders, and people pushing baby strollers along the path. Analyzing the data I collected, every week the non-motorized pathway in Union Pier week is used by a minimum of 376 walkers, 106 bicycle riders, and 40 babies in strollers.
There are also wonderful things happening along the path that the planners might not have fully anticipated. Whistle Stop used the area between the building and the pathway to build a sidewalk café – these days one of the favorite amenities in American communities. At Milda’s there is almost always a large group of people on the outdoor benches and tables –what architects call a third place where neighbors go to chat with each other.
The Board of Commissioners is considering whether to support a non-motorized pathway from Harbert to Sawyer. If this is done, we can confidently predict there will be a similarly high level of local use. The Board of Commissioners will also be considering connecting the Union Pier and Harbert/Sawyer paths. If this is done there will be a high level of use in Lakeside, and there will also be a large increase in total bicycle traffic, and the business it brings, all along Red Arrow because there will finally be a safe way to ride between Union Pier and Sawyer.
A couple of years ago there was a similar meeting at Chikaming Township Hall where a roomful of about 100 local residents expressed unanimous support for the idea of building a non-motorized pathway along Red Arrow highway.
The fact of the matter is that Red Arrow Highway should no longer be viewed as an industrial, or truck corridor. It is now a residential and light commercial area, serving vacationers and, more and more, an elderly population – both of which need the safe recreational opportunities and other amenities that come with a non-motorized pathway.