<span class='image-credits'>Julie Branaman</span>

Forward Pinellas launches crowdsourcing tool to get public input on bike/ped plan

Forward Pinellas is using crowdsourcing technology to increase public input on bicycle and pedestrian needs countywide.

The newly unveiled Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan Data Viewer is an interactive mapping tool that allows the public to go online and tell where they bike and walk in the county and what improvements they want to see to bike-ped facilities. Forward Pinellas is taking feedback through the tool until May 20.

“We want to know what routes they are taking around the county, the facilities they are using and whether they are walking or riding,” says Jared Austin, a Forward Pinellas planner working on the project. “While doing that, we want to know what are the obstacles they face. These don’t have to be obstacles like construction. Maybe there’s a dangerous intersection that keeps them from completing the route they would like to ride or like to walk. We want to get a better idea where we can improve and log all of the comments they offer on moving forward with our bike-ped plan master plan.”

Forward Pinellas, the planning agency for countywide land use and transportation planning issues, will use the feedback to guide Advantage Pinellas: Active Transportation, the update of the agency’s master plan of bicycle and pedestrian facility priorities.

That update is part of the ongoing process to update the county’s overall long-range transportation plan looking out to the year 2045. With 63,000 new residents and 49,000 more jobs expected in the county by 2040, Forward Pinellas says the “more strategic investments in pedestrian and bicycle networks to serve a wide variety of trip purposes” are needed to accommodate growth in a largely built-out county.

The Forward Pinellas website includes a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the new interactive mapping tool. Austin says the agency did not have the crowdsourcing tool five years ago during the last update of the bicycle and pedestrian master plan. He says it is intended to add to, not replace, input given at public meetings on the current update.

“It allows us to get direct feedback from people while also catering to their schedule,” Austin says.

In 2016, the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization utilized interactive mapping to get public input on roadway safety concerns, including a lack of bicycle facilities or the unsafe pedestrian crossings, for its Vision Zero initiative.

For Forward Pinellas, Austin says it is a valuable way for planners to learn where the public’s priorities are.

“We are really trying to gauge where the public is when it comes to bicycle and pedestrian facilities around the county and the issues they are running into,” he says. “Is there something we are not incorporating in our priority list that seems to be a reoccurring theme among people using this tool when it comes to an area of high concern or high risk? It could be something we are not aware of or not putting enough emphasis on.”

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather and the wealth of outdoor festivals.
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