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Janesville surveys bike trail users, hopes to use results to improve trail

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staff, Gazette
July 5, 2013

— A survey of Janesville bike trail users seems to indicate the trail system might be a growing tourist attraction.

"Back in 2010, 10 percent of the users were from outside of Janesville, which I was very impressed with because it means it's a tourist attraction," said Terry Nolan, associate planner for the Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. "So far, we think that number has grown this year."

Analysis of the data is expected to be done in coming weeks, Nolan said.

Bike trail users are surveyed every three years.

"Fundamentally, like everything else we count or collect data on, we want to know how people are using this particular mode of transportation so we can make better decisions on how we can invest our very scarce dollars," Nolan said.

In the last three years, the trail system grew to 29 miles. A trail extension was added to Wright Road up to Tanglewood Drive in 2010, and an overpass on Highway 26 over Milton Avenue was built in 2012.

Although the analysis isn't complete, Nolan said it's obvious from the survey that people like the additions and want the trail to extend into neighboring cities.

The first bike trail survey was conducted in 2010, and the city plans to continue surveying every three years. Aaron Groth, planning intern for the Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, said this year's survey had few changes.

"We didn't change the survey that much from 2010. I think we'll be able to do a lot of comparisons with this year," Groth said. "But we did think it would be useful to ask some different questions."

In 2010, the bike trail users were asked about the trips they were taking, and 91 percent said they were using the trail for recreation, while only 3 percent were using it to commute. The survey this year asks about overall usage, Groth said, and they are finding that more people use the trail to get to work, school, shops and restaurants than in 2010, although recreation still appears to be the top use for the trail.

"I think most people are aware that the trail exists, but I think it is underutilized, especially when it comes to using it for things other than recreation," Nolan said. "You can get downtown and to a commercial center on the trail, and it's not really used as much as it could be in that way."

The survey is intended to help the city council make decisions about improving and maintaining the trail.

The city has plans to add 22 miles to the trail. Nolan admitted it's an ambitious plan that depends on funding.

"I'm very pleased with the willingness of trail users to stop and talk to us," Nolan said. "People are very excited about the trail, they love it and say this is the best thing that tax dollars do."

The results of the survey will be available on the Janesville city website by early August.



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