Bike racks, resources coming to Marietta thanks to Bike Marietta

A program years in the making is now a reality, allowing for the purchase and installation of 50 new bike racks for downtown Marietta. Through a partnership with the Washington County Department of Health and Marietta Main Street, the town will see the new bike racks installed this spring, along with kiosks offering cyclist resources. This new initiative, Bike Marietta, was the result of a 2020 grant of $10,000 from the Washington County Health Department.

“A few years back, Hallie Taylor [owner of the Marietta Adventure Company] had proposed this opportunity to Main Street and we began working on this initiative,” said Marietta Main Street Executive Director Cristie Thomas. “However, with a lack of funding and capacity at the time, we weren’t able to get it off the ground. Thanks to the Washington County Health Department, we made quick work of both proposing the Bike Marietta program and coordinating the materials for its implementation. I can’t wait for the bike racks to be installed this spring!”

Thomas said the initiative fit Marietta Main Street’s mission in several ways: The organization seeks to make downtown inclusive and accessible, and aims for its small businesses to thrive. “We want downtown to be at the forefront of people’s minds with shopping, dining, and enjoying our community,” said Thomas. “We have a robust trail network in Marietta and we want it to be crystal clear that people can enjoy our trails AND enjoy our downtown shops and restaurants.”

Cyclists on a group ride during RTA Festival (Nate Knobel)

The program also meets some of the needs of Creating Healthy Communities, a program directed by Sherry Ellem at the Washington County Health Department. “Creating Healthy Communities Coalition is committed to increasing opportunities for physical activity,” said Ellem. “Bike Marietta allows our community to make the healthy choice the easy choice through active transportation.”

With the grant, Bike Marietta also designed a Bike Marietta Resource Guide, coordinated a bike-friendly business initiative, and will soon launch a Bike Marietta web page and install kiosks with trail maps and other resources. “Sherry Ellem contacted us with the idea and said there was some funding there for cycling activities,” said Marietta Main Street board member Bret Allphin, who worked with others on the board and in the community to put together the grant application.

We have mountain bike trails in the immediate vicinity. Outdoor recreation is a huge driver for the area.

Taylor took on a large role in planning, along with Allphin, Thomas, and Michael Bond of Marietta Main Street. “Cristie and I and some other folks on the board hatched the idea knowing that we have a wonderful downtown that has a great bike and pedestrian path,” said Allphin. “We have mountain bike trails in the immediate vicinity. Outdoor recreation is a huge driver for the area.”

Allphin said the plan centered around what could be done to bolster Marietta’s biking assets and also bring visitors to the downtown area in an accessible way. “We have infrastructure for cars and pedestrians, but we know biking is a big deal downtown, so we wanted to build on that,” he said.

Bike Marietta Resource Guide (Cristie Thomas)

Racks are anticipated to be installed in the first quarter of 2021. Spots for them have been chosen around downtown Marietta, said Bond.“They will be put in front of restaurants and other spots of interest downtown,” Bond said. “We biked and walked around to figure out exactly where the bike racks could go, where there was concrete. Hallie did a bunch of work scouting out places.”

In addition to the racks, kiosks designed by Just A Jar Design + Press will be installed in Marietta and Beverly, offering cyclists bike maps and other resources, including information on the rights and responsibilities of riders, listing local and state codes. Bike Marietta will also install fix-it station locations, where riders can access tools along the route to perform basic bike repairs and maintenance, like fixing flat tires and adjusting brakes. Resources will also include a list of bike-friendly businesses, letting riders know where they can use restrooms and refill water bottles.“People will seek out bike-friendly businesses,” said Allphin.

When retail shops, offices, and public buildings are convenient to walk or bike to, it increases the opportunity for physical activity.

Prior to the formalization of Bike Marietta, two professional bike rides took place this past fall to encourage discussion about Marietta’s existing bicycle infrastructure. Clutch MOV Owner and Publisher Sarah Arnold participated in one and spoke to some riders to get their input.

“Recent studies have shown that one-third of home buyers prefer homes located in areas that offer transportation alternatives,” said Deana Clark, Executive Director of the Marietta-Washington County CVB, at the event. “When retail shops, offices, and public buildings are convenient to walk or bike to, it increases the opportunity for physical activity. It also makes it easier for low-income, senior citizens and disabled folks to navigate your community.”

Professional Bike Rides were held in September 2020 (Sherry Ellem)

Jason Pyles, GIS Coordinator at Buckeye Hills Regional Council, also participated on the ride — his second, following one he’d done in Meigs County a couple years prior. “I was quite happy with how the drivers handled us, especially on the busier roads,” Pyles said of the Marietta ride. “I never felt completely overwhelmed by the traffic, even around 7th and Greene, and it was nice how there was always a quiet street you could move to fairly easily. Even with some of our hills, it seems you could get around most of the city on a bike without tremendous effort.”

Thomas said that one facet of the program she appreciated is that it is accessible to bike riders of all levels — not just those who have been riding for years.

Bike Marietta connects our commercial district with those trails, and Marietta Main Street wants to promote and support downtown.

“We have a tremendous amount of outdoor assets, including hiking and biking,” said Thomas. “A bike rider at any level can come and enjoy our town. We have all kinds of trails of different skill and experience levels. Bike Marietta connects our commercial district with those trails, and Marietta Main Street wants to promote and support downtown.”

Thomas added that a celebration is in the works once Bike Marietta is ready to formally launch.

“We will celebrate big time,” she said. “We will coordinate a celebration with the city and bring together all the folks who helped make this dream a reality. We also have a few events we’re currently planning – like, Bike Marietta Day, Bike to Work Day, and more.”

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