October 3, 2007
By SHAWN HOPKINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Members of the Henry County Bike Club heard about a number of projects to make Henry County and Martinsville a more bike and walking friendly community at a meeting Tuesday at Patrick Henry Community College.
Thirty people present heard a presentation from Allen Turnbull, executive director of BikeWalk Virginia, about a three-year, $1.5 million multi-partner Harvest Foundation grant BikeWalk will be managing. The grant will encourage more bicycle and pedestrian friendly streets and policies and safe routes for children to walk to school.
Turnbull said the area has many assets, including the Smith River, and talked about how BikeWalk would work with various agencies involved in the grant, such as the city and county and rivers and trails groups, using a local steering committee to find out how local people want to improve the biking, hiking and walking situation.
One of the things BikeWalk does is emphasize "complete streets," which are designed or redesigned to take into account all traffic, including bikes and pedestrians, not just cars.
"We want to be able to go out of our house and have a choice" to find walking, hiking or biking opportunities nearby, said Turnbull, summing up the goal of the program.
He also gave the group information on starting its own BikeWalk chapter.
Members of the club, however, had questions about the benefits of forming a chapter, which would need 25 members paying $25 a year dues.
Turnbull said forming a chapter would be a quick route to non-profit status, would help the group get better insurance options and would give the group a chance to participate in statewide BikeWalk initiatives and conferences. He listed several rides, trails, bike route maps and other projects BikeWalkâ€™s four chapters have participated in statewide.
One chapter was able to take a $100,000 tax deductible gift, he said, and the chapter in Williamsburg is able to affiliate with the local bike club there and say it represents 2,000 people when it goes before government bodies to lobby for biking interests.
Local bike club member Jim Frith, who moderated the meeting, recapped a number of positive things, such as new trail openings, that have happened during the year in this area.
Frith said there has been a lot of activity on trails projects. New trails have opened in Fieldale and in Martinsville, and one is planned in Patrick County.
A comprehensive bike plan has been approved by the Martinsville City Council and Henry County Board of Supervisors. And the club has a new Web address, www.henrycountybikeclub.org, which has that plan linked on its site.
Other developments include the possibility of a bike store opening in Martinsville, early, tentative discussion of trails around PHCC and a possible noncredit bike repair and information class there; work toward trails at Philpott Dam; and an agreement from the International Mountain Biking Association to train local people to build mountain biking trails.
Before the meeting ended, members also grappled with the question of whether to give their informal club more structure and, if so, whether to take Turnbullâ€™s suggestion of starting a BikeWalk chapter or to take another path.
They did not make a firm decision at the meeting.
Frith did accept the offer of sample bylaws from members of the Franklin Freewheelers, a club that has existed since 1998.
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