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First of eight informational meetings on bicycle paths held in Ranson City Hall

Eastern Panhandle Trailblazers president said state's plans mesh with his organization's goals

May 03, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

RANSON, W.Va. — Perry J. Keller is criss-crossing the state this month to gather opinions on bicycle paths.

Keller, a planner with the West Virginia Department of Transportation, held the first of eight informational meetings Thursday afternoon in the Ranson City Hall. About 25 people attended.

They were asked to add their opinions on improving cycling in the Eastern Panhandle on a color-coded map.

The transportation department needs the information for a study to identify proposed designated and signed bicycle routes along the state highway systems like the 11-mile paved biking/hiking path beside the newly opened W.Va. 9 between Ranson and Martinsburg.

Such paths would become part of an expansion of the U.S. Bicycle Route System. The idea is to connect West Virginia cities and communities with bike routes in other states.

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“It’s the big picture,” Keller said.

He showed two conceptual paths for national bike routes in West Virginia, one of which would follow U.S. 11 south to north through the eastern side of the state.

Keller emphasized that such routes would be used by riders of “skinny-tired bicycles who are comfortable riding in traffic,” as opposed to wide-tired bicycles normally ridden on the gravel-based Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park.

State planners envision connecting designated bicycle routes to other state and national routes.

Bill Yearout, president of the three-year-old, 100-member Eastern Panhandle Trailblazers, said the state’s plans mesh with his organization’s goals, which include promoting bicycling, walking and running.

Members of the volunteer group plan to enhance the Ranson-Martinsburg trail with directional and point-of-interest signs and landscaping, including tree plantings, he said.

The group also is promoting the extension of the W.Va. 9 bike path to Harpers Ferry along two routes, including a nature trail, Yearout said.

Keller will hold meetings through May 22 in Charleston, Huntington, Parkersburg, Wheeling, Morgantown, Lewisburg and Elkins.

He said a report on the study’s recommendations will be ready by mid-August.

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