With automobile infrastructure strained to the breaking point across the region, community leaders are looking for alternative models to reduce traffic and promote sustainable modes of transportation. In Pottstown, a six-year long initiative to promote biking and walking in the borough is providing a model for solving the problem through community partnerships.
Since 2013, the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation has partnered with the Pottstown School District and the borough on Walk and Bike Pottstown. The initiative has provided infrastructure and information that enables kids and adults to get around town in ways that promote good health, lower automobile traffic, and increase social engagement.
Connecting the borough’s schools with neighborhoods across town was one of the priorities for the project. Bike lanes, crossing guards, and improved sidewalks put in place over life of the program are being utilized by Pottstown School District initiatives including the Walking School Bus and the Bike to School Challenge.
“As superintendent of schools, I have been excited by the fact that I keep needing to buy bike racks for our students,” said Pottstown School District superintendent Stephen Rodriguez. “They continue to ride their bikes to their school, giving them exercise and fresh air—as well as saving the environment.”
Taken together, the Walk and Bike Pottstown improvements made the borough one of the first communities in the nation to provide a comprehensive plan for connecting cyclists and pedestrians with key destinations, including Pottstown schools, Montgomery County Community College, the YMCA, neighborhoods, and local businesses throughout the borough.
The Foundation provided over $500,000 toward the $2 million project. Other contributors included the federal Transportation Alternatives Program, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and Montgomery County.
In November 2019, the project was recognized by the county with the Montgomery Award for collaborative vision, transportation design, and community enrichment.
“This alternative transportation enhancement project has created a safe environment for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists and has provided tangible benefits for the health and wellness of the residents of Pottstown and nearby communities,” reads the award citation. “This progressive, collaborative project, one of the first in the county and state, promotes health and wellness for residents and visitors of Pottstown and can serve as a model for projects in the future.”
To make the most of the infrastructure improvements, the Foundation supports an ongoing educational outreach program for the community and visitors to the borough. This program includes wayfinding maps, bike safety presentations, and safety brochures.