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Think Far Flung Suburbs Can’t Be Bikeable?

Cyclists and pedestrians: maintain course and speed

When you think of Philadelphia’s distant exurbs, you may think of the rolling countryside, of farmland being devoured by McMansions, of extreme commutes, of needing a car for the most basic trips, and so forth. But you probably don’t think of bike/ped connectivity. Lower Salford Township in Central Montgomery County has flipped that script.

A quick look at the Township on Google Maps with the “bicycling” layer turned on doesn’t initially reveal much. After all, many suburban areas have paths leading through parks, or around ponds, but lacking connectivity to anything else. Then when you zoom in, you begin to see the magic: dozens of cul-de-sacs and dead end streets are connected to each other and various community amenities (yes, even the Wal-Mart) by a 7.7 mile network of paved trails known as the Ted Dannerth Community Bike Path. 

The Township has a stated goal to “…enable every resident to bike or walk to the center of town or to a nearby park with minimal use of roadways,” and it shows. Even rather exclusive looking areas are quite inclusive of non-motorized transportation options.

Looks like an ordinary cul-de-sac? Look again. There’s a trail connection in there (just to the right of the mailbox at right).

This system didn’t happen overnight. The Township began acquiring open space as early as 1964 (!!) as local landowners began deeding open spaces to the Township for perpetual preservation, leading to a significant amount of public-owned park land. Later advocacy led to the creation of the trail system to connect these lands. The system is also due for significant expansion as new rounds of grant funding are applied for, and as new developments come online. The Township has an ordinance that requires all new developments to either maintain open space or create a public bike path in accordance with its 2006 Open Space Plan (see page 58 for the trail network).

After meeting with the Township, our Regional Planner Leonard Bonarek and a group of BCGP members took a tour of some of the network, and it was quite impressive. There’s even wayfinding signage, which is often overlooked on trails. Click here for our full photo album from the trip.

Want to bike to: Wawa? The Park? Grocery store? School? You’re covered.

We applaud Lower Salford Township for its dedication to sustainable transportation options! If you’d like your suburban community to have more of the environmental, health and economic benefits that better bike infrastructure can bring, reach out to leonard@bicyclecoalition.org.

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Topics: Biking the Suburbs, Connecting Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Network, Featured, The Circuit

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