BERLIN – A new coalition is bringing together towns and agencies to improve bike and pedestrian resources in Worcester County.
Since June, members of the Worcester County Bike and Pedestrian Coalition have been hard at work sharing information and supporting projects that promote bike and pedestrian infrastructure and activities.
“We started with a primary focus of a safety coalition,” Co-Chair Patti Stevens said. “But we are broadening to be supportive of fun, economically positive events that are supportive of biking.”
In February 2020, Stevens – an Ocean Pines resident and Eastern Shore representative of the Maryland Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee – accompanied Eastern Shore International Mountain Biking Association (ESIMBA) President Tres Denk to Bike Lobby Day in Annapolis, where they met with Senator Mary Beth Carozza to discuss ways to expand bike and pedestrian resources on the Eastern Shore.
“We told her there was a lot of bike and pedestrian activity in Worcester, but that it didn’t seem to be connected,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of cross-conversation and planning.”
With Carozza’s help, ESIMBA reached out to Worcester County Recreation and Parks. And by May, an online survey was sent to stakeholders in Worcester County about their interest in joining a coalition where they could share relevant information and collaborate on project plans.
“We started reaching out to the towns, and then the nonprofits, that had some sort of event or project related to bike and pedestrian activity,” she said.
With a positive response, the Worcester County Bike and Pedestrian Coalition held its first meeting last June 25, with Stevens, Denk and Worcester County Recreation and Parks’ Derek Jarmon serving as co-chairs.
Since that time, the group has grown to 20 members, including representatives from the towns of Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke, the Worcester County Health Department, Lower Shore Land Trust, and Worcester County Development Review and Permitting, to name a few.
“It’s really a public-private partnership,” Stevens said.
Coalition members agreed that collaboration would likely improve competitiveness for grant funding and that all would benefit by sharing expertise and prioritizing projects. To that end, the group began to focus their efforts on supporting shovel- and program-ready projects.
Through the coalition’s efforts, Stevens said, ESIMBA was able to work with the county’s recreation and parks department to expand its youth bike safety course. The group was also able to support grant applications for local trail development projects and develop plans for community bike rides, among other things.
“May is National Bike Month, and we plan to have a series of community bike rides about five to 10 miles in length …,” she said, noting events would take place in Berlin, Ocean Pines, Snow Hill and Pocomoke. “We’ll also use the event to remind riders of safe biking practices.”
The coalition will also be involved in the upcoming Maryland Coast Bike Festival on May 8. Stevens noted the development of trails and events not only promote bike and pedestrian activity, but tourism and economic development as well.
“The coalition a community partner in that event to showcase what a great place this is to visit and live,” she said.
As efforts to promote bike and pedestrian resources advance at the county level, Stevens said the coalition is eager to partner with outside agencies. In her role as an Eastern Shore representative of the Maryland Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Stevens said she has been able to form a network of bike and pedestrian advocates throughout the nine shore counties.
“We look forward to improving those connections, not only in Worcester County but through the shore,” she said. “We can learn from each other.”
For more information, or for volunteer opportunities, visit the coalition’s Facebook page, or email [email protected]. Coalition meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“There’s been a huge growth in both biking and walking …,” Stevens added. “There’s been a doubling in both the number of people and in the number of miles people are riding, even in the off season … We want to respond to that and prepare for it by making our community safer for those people.”