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City may spend $20K to move bike path off streets, attract more bikers

A proposed change to the bike path running through the south side of the city could attract more cyclists into downtown and provide an economic boost to local businesses.

Springfield city commissioners are scheduled vote Sept. 2 on whether to spend $20,000 to buy land to create a multi-use trail to connect existing segments of the Little Miami Trail. Currently the trail runs mostly along city streets for nearly two miles between Springfield-Xenia Road and Fair Street.

Trails in the Miami Valley — which total more than 330 miles beginning in northern Cincinnati and up through Urbana — attract 1 million visitors a year who spend up to $16 million on goods and services related to their use of the trails every year, according to a 2009 Miami Valley Trail User report.

But some bicyclist turn around where the dedicated path ends coming into the south side of the city.

“Because of this Springfield is losing out on possible tourism dollars,” said Louis Agresta, transportation planner with the Clark County-Springfield Transportation Coordinating Committee and a member of the cycling group Bike Springfield.

Some bike riders unfamiliar with the area might not even know the bike path continues into the heart of town or as the route continues — but winds through city streets — it’s possible bikers could get lost or frustrated and not return, he said.

If the city approves the land purchase and builds the extension, that could draw more trail users into town, said Beth Goodrich, founder of the Ambassadors of the Clark County Trails.

Trail counters have been placed both north and south of Beatty Station, which is located about a mile south of where the current multi-use trail moves onto the road at South Yellow Springs Street, Agresta said. According to the data, significantly more cyclists head south toward Yellow Springs from Beatty Station than go north through the city and up toward Urbana.

Jay Free lives in Springfield but said he often chooses to cycle out on rural roads south of the city. The addition of a set multi-use path inside the city connecting to downtown area will likely draw families and many bikers because they see a path as a safer route than the streets, he said.

Springfield hosted the Miami Valley Cyclist Summit in 2013. Hundreds of bikers from across the state gathered for it and local leaders saw the business opportunities that could blossom if bikers came into the downtown area, said Mike Groeber, president of Bike Springfield.

“We had a lot of national speakers in and they were talking about all the economic ability that’s there from a trail system,” he said. “I think that really opened some eyes.”

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