Experts to offer alternative transportation ideas in southern Indiana

NEW ALBANY, Ind. - It may be labeled as alternative travel, but biking or walking to destinations is just another mode of transit to many planners and transportation experts.

Not only does it increase social interaction while decreasing greenhouse emissions and dependence on fuel, but so-called alternate transportation is also cheaper and making a footprint even in Southern Indiana, according to local experts.

"I do think that we are living in a transition period where the tide is shifting toward developing and retrofitting communities to be more sustainable," Beth Rosenbarger told the News and Tribune.

She is a planner and GIS specialist for the Monroe County Planning Department in Bloomington, and also the daughter of John Rosenbarger, who is the director of Public Works Projects for New Albany.

The Rosenbargers will be among the guests speaking about topics such as energy independence and alternate transportation during the inaugural Floyd Action Network FAN Fair on Feb. 1.

Beth said she hopes the discussion will challenge officials and residents to consider the way streets are constructed and cities developed.

"It is not just a matter of infrastructure that needs to be constructed," she said. "We need to reconstruct how we think about public spaces, where we live, and how we move between those places."

Pedestrian travel — both for recreation and destination — has been a major topic in southern Indiana of late.

Recreationally, the Ohio River Greenway serves as a pedestrian and biker-friendly path complimented by its scenic views. New Albany and Louisville officials have also joined in their efforts to urge Norfolk Southern Railroad to reopen the K&I Bridge for pedestrian use.

Though delayed, Jeffersonville still plans to open the Big Four Bridge next year for pedestrians and cyclists.

As far as destination and daily use, John Rosenbarger recalled when New Albany started making sidewalks a priority in the 1980s.

At the time, there were some opposed to constructing sidewalks along State Street near where Home Depot is currently located. He said some may question where paths start, but building sidewalks is about creating a network for pedestrians.

For example, the sidewalks along State Street now connect with Daisy Lane and Green Valley Road. But he's quick to point out the purpose of adding sidewalks and pedestrian paths isn't to replace motor vehicles.

It's about options.

"Cars. They're here to stay. What you'd like to see is the ability to walk or bike," he said.

John influenced Beth not just by his profession but by how he and her mother chose to raise their family.

Beth said she didn't understand why her family chose to live in a historic downtown house in New Albany until she grew older and understood more about city planning and the impact it has on communities.

"My dad lives the policies he promotes," she said.

New Albany removed one traffic lane and added two bike lanes to Spring Street a few years ago. Bike lanes have also been added along portions of Silver Street and Charlestown Road.

It's healthier to walk or bike to a destination than driving, and it's also cheaper, John Rosenbarger said. If a family can eliminate the need for one of their vehicles by using alternate forms of transportation, that could easily save $6,000 or more a year in payments and maintenance costs, he continued.

There's also a social component to pedestrian travel. Both Rosenbargers touted the increased interaction with both nature and other people that pedestrians enjoy.

"When you walk you see things you don't see when you drive, and you experience more," John Rosenbarger said.

FAN Fair is designed to bring attention to environmental issues such as alternative transportation.

"Floyd Action Network has embraced a huge responsibility for our grassroots organization by offering a daylong event of information and education on creating a sustainable living style," said FAN board President Judy Martin.

"We believe we are the first in southern Indiana to present a program on the vital issues involved in reducing our personal, sometimes negative impact on our environment, and we're eager to showcase our resources."

Other panel discussions for the event will focus on energy dependence and urban farming. The event will be held in the Sternwheeler Ballroom of the Robert E. Lee Center at 201 Elm St. in New Albany.

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