Envisioning a downtown area that attracts visitors

To inspire change that will attract bicyclists and motorists to downtown London, members of the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails have put ideas to paper and are sharing them with groups around town.
To inspire change that will attract bicyclists and motorists to downtown London, members of the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails have put ideas to paper and are sharing them with groups around town.

(Posted May 23, 2014)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

In three years, bicycle traffic through London is expected to increase dramatically. Will cyclists see downtown London as a destination or will they pedal on by?

These are questions members of the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT) are posing to London civic and political leaders.

Just last month, over 4,300 cyclists pedaled into Madison County from Franklin County via the bike path that runs through London. This year, work will be completed to extend the path east into Columbus from Battelle Darby Creek Metropark to Galloway Road, then to Hall Road. In a second phase, the path will pass through the Sullivant Avenue area, then hook up with the Camp Chase Trail.

“By the end of 2016, it should be by the (Hollywood) casino. So, by 2017, we should see pretty much an open thoroughfare” for bicyclists between Franklin and Madison counties, said Wayne Roberts, FMCPT executive director. To the west, the trail extends into Clark County and beyond.

Increased bicycle traffic could have a positive economic impact on London’s downtown. FMCPT’s aim is to inspire people to envision the possibilities to make London an attractive stop for bicyclists, as well as for motorists passing through the area.

FMCPT envisions sidewalk cafés, bike rental and repair shops, a bakery and a microbrewery. To play up London’s agricultural heritage, they suggest a petting zoo featuring farm animals. To acknowledge the city’s railroads, they envision utilizing the old train depot on South Main Street as a gathering place.

The idea behind all the ideas, Roberts said, is to get people in the community excited about what downtown London could be. The hope is that people will take the ideas, or come up with their own, and run with them, he said.

“This could be something bigger, not just to attract bicycle traffic. We need to think about how to get people to London and out of their cars to spend time on the sidewalks, enjoying things they can walk to,” Roberts said.

“The concept is a first step. Now, we need to figure out the next step. It’s not going to happen in one or two years. It’s going to take lots of baby steps.”

To help people visualize the possibilities, FMCPT hired an illustrator to create graphics, which they incorporated into a Powerpoint presentation. The group has shared the presentation with the Downtown London Association, the London Community Organization, the 20th Century Club and other London groups. Most recently, they shared their vision with London City Council members.

“It does stir me to see the potential for the city,” commented Councilman Rex Castle.

“It excites me as a resident,” added Councilman Jason Schwaderer.

FMCPT is doing its part to promote to bike path users what downtown London already has. Along the trail—at the Madison County Senior Center, at Maple and Center streets, and at Midway Street—the group has erected signs that point out city amenities on a map. Also posted are advertisements from area businesses, as well as brochures.

The bike path in London is part of the Ohio To Erie Trail, a pedestrian and bicycle trail that runs between Cleveland and Cincinnati. To date, the trail is 87 percent complete. Once finished, it will be the longest offroad paved bicycle path in the United States.

FMCPT is happy to share its vision with any interested group. To make arrangements for a presentation, contact Wayne Roberts at fmcpt@columbus.rr.com or (614) 205-6754.

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