Can Lake County's bike trails be made more user-friendly?
Lake County officials are exploring ways to make existing and future bike trails more user-friendly.
The county board today will consider a $125,760 agreement with Corbin Design Inc of Traverse City, Michigan, to study bike path signage and develop a strategy, guidelines and standards for county-owned multiuse paths.
Known as "wayfinding," the idea is to provide trail users with more information through signs and other methods to create a strong first impression and increase use.
"This is to have a more integrated system," said county board member Ann Maine, who long has advocated a wayfinding feature. "We have 500 miles of bike paths in Lake County. How can we get those better connected?"
The study would be completed in early 2020 and would include public outreach in the planning process. It's included in the Lake County Division of Transportation's highway improvement program and would be paid for with proceeds from a 0.25 percent regional sales tax enacted in 2009 for transportation projects.
"Sometimes people think we only use that for roads, and we don't," Maine said.
Trails commonly are associated with the Lake County Forest Preserve District, which operates more than 200 miles of trails.
Lake County, through its division of transportation, has more than 60 miles of bicycle facilities under its jurisdiction. Some 300 miles of additional trails, including those of local municipalities and townships, are proposed within the county in the next 20 years.
"We continue to invest in our path network and want to build people's awareness of it and make it as user-friendly as possible," said Kevin Carrier, director of planning and programming for LCDOT.
Existing county paths have some signage, Carrier said, but other agencies have developed "more robust" wayfinding systems that include directional/guide signs, mile markers and informational kiosks. Those have resulted in increased ridership, he said. "This study will determine what the public and users would find helpful and develop a strategy tailored for us," Carrier added.
According to the proposal, the study would develop a wayfinding strategy, determine the appropriate types of signs, design the look and branding, and develop guidelines and templates to allow the county to implement and maintain the system.
Several years ago, the forest district hired a consultant to help with wayfinding. Pilot projects have been completed at Captain Daniel Wright Woods and Van Patton Woods Forest Preserve, according to Randy Seebach, director of planning and land preservation.