Vince Mastrorocco of Derry peered over a giant map of Westmoreland County, marked with different colors to designate the bike-friendliness of certain roads, and marked Route 217 as “average” instead of “below average.”
He said the state road is steep but wide, and most routes leading into Derry Borough, where he owns Mastrorocco’s Market, are difficult to bike.
“They all ride into town, but the ride home is all uphill,” he said.
He was one of about 25 people who attended the first meeting of the Westmoreland County Bike and Pedestrian Committee at Latrobe City Hall this week.
The committee was formed to help regionalize efforts by communities across the county, especially regarding resources like state funding, said Brian Lawrence, assistant deputy director of the county planning department, who led the meeting.
“It seemed like a no-brainer for us to lead this charge,” he said. “What we have before us is a challenge to find ways to coordinate efforts to make sure that biking and walking are safe, convenient, attractive options for everyday purposes and recreational uses.”
The maps Mastrorocco reviewed are part of a Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission project to produce maps in a 10-county region -- it includes Westmoreland, Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, Butler, Indiana, Armstrong and Lawrence -- to introduce newcomers to the best roads for biking, said Sarah Walfoort, transportation planning manager for the commission.
“Starting out on a bike is really a daunting exercise,” she said. “ Often, the way you ride your bike is not the same route you take your car.”
Walfoort encouraged participants to comment on the maps, which were compiled using PennDOT and Google maps information, as well as cyclist input from community meetings.
She said the commission hopes to publish the maps this summer. They are available online.
Walfoort encouraged attendees to visit the website to report hazards or impediments for biking or walking in hopes of making the activities safer.
Health and safety are goals on many of the county’s trails, said Jeff Richards, parks planning coordinator for Westmoreland County.
He reviewed the top eight projects in a 2008 “New Horizons Greenways and Blueways” plan, including the Westmoreland Heritage Trail’s continued development from Trafford to Saltsburg and the opportunity to connect 9 miles of the former Turtle Creek Railroad bed through Export, Murrysville and Monroeville.
“Suburbia is just a more difficult nut to crack in terms of bicycle circulation,” Richards said, adding that Murrysville has worked on a plan to designate a pedestrian district.
For successful efforts in bicyclist and pedestrian planning, five “Es” laid out by the League of American Bicyclists help lay the foundation, said Mike Homa, a principal planner for Aspect Data Driven Planning, which has worked on trail projects in the county.
Those are engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation, he said.
Scottdale Councilman Jim Pallygus, who attended the meeting with borough manager Angelo Pallone, said working on a regional level can help attract residents by spurring projects like the borough’s vision for a connection from the Coke and Coal Trail to Mt. Pleasant through town.
“It just helps your businesses. ... Once people see the town, they might think of visiting more,” he said. “This is good for families and young people.”
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.