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Many benefits if Middletown becomes bicycle-friendly: Editorial

Posted 7/10/19

We can’t wait to see what happens with a proposal to make Middletown a “bicycle-friendly community.”

Because we think it’s a great idea.

The borough and its residents …

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Many benefits if Middletown becomes bicycle-friendly: Editorial


We can’t wait to see what happens with a proposal to make Middletown a “bicycle-friendly community.”

Because we think it’s a great idea.

The borough and its residents often struggle with a town-gown relationship with Penn State Harrisburg. We see growth in bicycles as a way to improve that by allowing students easier access to the borough. Middletown has questions about parking availability. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an option of riding bikes safely through the area instead of taking a car?

Alejandro Davila, a Penn State Harrisburg master of business administration degree candidate,  proposes placing bicycle-sharing stations at locations throughout Middletown, where people could rent a bicycle at one station and return it to any other station in town. Bicycle-sharing stations also would be located at Penn State Harrisburg, which Davila hopes to incorporate in his plan.

A number of midstate municipalities, including Harrisburg and Hummelstown, have these bicycle-sharing stations in place, also known as Zagster stations for the company that provides the bicycles.

It’s so simple. Borough officials need to see what it would take to make it work.

Council Vice President Mike Woodworth encouraged Davila pursue the initiative, “because I think it is a good idea.”

Davila already has met once with Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach, who said there is a lot of work to be done, but that Davila’s plan ties in with the vision for the new Amtrak train station to be built along West Main Street.

It would mean extending West Emaus Street to West Main Street, and making West Emaus more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly to make it easier for Penn State Harrisburg students — and people in general — to get downtown.

Wilsbach also noted that bicycle road markings on Union Street were added as part of the downtown improvement project.

“You’re going to have more and more college kids using bicycles. Not all of them drive,” Wilsbach said. “Transportation and recreational bike paths are good for the community.”

Davila is a great example of the potential of getting around via a bike-friendly borough. He lives just outside of Harrisburg but rides anywhere he wants in the city, along Front Street, to the Broad Street Market, even outside the city to Wildwood Park near Harrisburg Area Community College. He also likes to ride on the Greenbelt.

If Middletown could become known as a bicyclist destination, imagine how that would benefit the borough. The proposed replacement for Kids Kastle known as Little Middletown is being touted as a way to bring in people from outside the community to patronize our businesses and restaurants. Bringing bicyclists here would be, in our view, just as big of a draw, if not bigger.

And that’s just the benefit of bicyclists coming from other areas to Middletown. Our own residents would benefit from safer riding and improved health.

We see benefits when visitors to our community see people actively biking. It helps the perception of an area when the people who live there are perceived as active.

It also makes sense that it could draw a new business to town. Where there are bicyclists, it stands to reason a bicycle shop might follow.

Of course, cost is going to play a role in this. Not counting road paving, Davila estimates his proposal would cost $96,000, including bicycle lanes and associated markings, stencils and signs, and racks for the Zagsters.

However, PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell said about $5 million is available each year for any other mode of transportation including projects that improve or create bicycle facilities.

So the money might be there from outside sources. If not, the borough needs to seriously consider taking on some of the cost itself.

This could be a great opportunity to improve the borough at a relatively low cost. We look forward to Davila and the borough working together, and for residents to give input to make this potential transition as smooth as possible.