New biking trails leads to formation of clubs, activities for cyclists in Kennett Township, Kennett Square

Bob Voynow, Tony Oleck, Matt Dion, and Scott Partridge before a sunday morning ride from Anchor Life and Fitness.
Bob Voynow, Tony Oleck, Matt Dion, and Scott Partridge before a sunday morning ride from Anchor Life and Fitness. Submitted photo

Kennett SQUARE >> Biking is a fantastic exercise and can be a fast and environmentally safe way to get around. However, this convenient mode of transportation can become inaccessible when townships do not prioritize community walking and biking trails.

Biking on roads like Route 82 or Route 926 is dangerous as many drivers do not acknowledge a cyclist’s right to share the road, and cyclists sometimes ride side-by-side. This danger has led many would-be cyclists to instead opt for cars as a means of transportation. But with the continuing parking problem in Kennett Township, taking cars to work or the grocery store can become frustrating.

Josie Marsh, a leader for the Bike Kennett advocacy group, claims that adding more biking trails and connecting various areas of the Kennett Township community will not only aid the local economy by making shopping easier, but will also benefit the health of Kennett township citizens and the environment.

“Studies have shown that people who walk or bike to stores spend less but go more often,” said Marsh.

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Marsh started Bike Kennett last August after Mike Guttman, director of the Sustainable Development office in Kennett Township, had the idea of making the township more pedestrian friendly.

Marsh has an extensive history with cycling, making her a perfect fit to lead the Bike Chester County subcommittee, Bike Kennett. Marsh has competed in mountain biking, road cycling and cyclocross. She was also president for three years of a racing club in Wilmington, Del, First State Velo Sport.

Guttman’s call for action took place over Facebook.

“I am working with Kennett Township and Kennett Square Borough to plan and develop a comprehensive system of bikeways and trails to make bike and pedestrian travel around the area easier and safer,” Guttman said. “Right now I am looking for people who would like to create and grow a volunteer bicycle advocacy group for the Kennett Area.”

Marsh was quick to respond, and soon after Bike Kennett took off; as an advocacy group and on the road as group bike rides were organized.

Since the group isn’t a club, they don’t know how many ‘members’ they have, but the Facebook page has about 570 followers and their biweekly bike rides usually attract 10 to 20 cyclists.

Before the advocacy group was started, finding others to ride with was difficult for local cycling enthusiasts. Cyclists needed to travel to West Chester or Wilmington to find a group. Now that Bike Kennett has been started, Kennett citizens, as well as those who live in the surrounding area, have a more convenient way to ride with like-minded people.

This group is also a terrific way for beginning cyclists to find their niche close to home, Guttman said. Starting out can be daunting; so, having a local bike advocacy group that leads rides around the area is an uncomplicated way to dip the toe in the pool of cycling.

Marsh said the lack of biking facilities is a problem. That will soon no longer be a problem though as the township has hired a consultant to survey the area and put together a plan for trails.

The consultant has been reaching out to the community for more information on what the residents want. This is where Marsh and Bike Kennett come in. Bike Kennett, being an advocacy group, helps give locals a voice in the township government.

“We’re the ones who know the roads, sidewalks, and trails,” Marsh said. “We’re the ones who know where people want to ride and walk to.”

There are two goals that they have in mind.

One is to make trails for recreational use, this will best be served by the Kennett Greenway; a 12-mile loop around Kennett township. Some sections of the Greenway are done but some are still in concept. By the time it is completed the 12 miles will be made of a six-foot-wide cinder trail; perfect for walking or riding on.

The township has received grants to continue work on the Kennett Greenway and the Western side of it will be worked on during this year.

The second goal is to make the township more accessible for bike transportation by creating bike lanes and trails that lead to stores and work places in the area.

While these trails are the large-scale plans, Bike Kennett has also been planning slightly smaller changes for the community. On Friday June 23, 2017, the group held a fundraising event to raise money to put up bike racks. Having places to safely stow a bike will make using them as a means of transportation easier. The event was a silent auction at the Creamery. Local businesses donated the goods to be auctioned off.

Right now, the group is still fairly new and is working on getting word out. By attending and holding events group members along with Marsh have had the opportunity to talk to many people in the community who agree with their vision. “It’s amazing when you start talking to people how supportive they are,” said Marsh.