Come to the Candidate's Forum on Tuesday, March 26, 5pm (panel at 6pm) at the Shriner's Club on south Baltimore. And be sure to vote on Tuesday, April 2!

Five candidates are running for two city council positions this year. I asked each of them if they bike and walk, what the value of bike/ped infrastructure is to Kirksville, and if our recent trend of more and more infrastructure needs to continue. Unlike last year*, this year’s crop of candidates universally agrees that biking and walking is good for Kirksville. I hope you will visit with them at the Candidates’ Forum on Tuesday, March 26, 5 pm with the panel starting at 6 at the Shriner's Club on south Baltimore, and vote on Tuesday, April 2.

Brandon Athon walks a lot at his job in Milan, and his wife uses sidewalks, Brashear Park, and the school trail frequently with her daycare kids. With the obesity epidemic spreading to younger and younger generations, they understand the value of keeping kids active. He sees plenty of room for improvement in our sidewalk system, with north Osteopathy in critical need.

Randall Bacon used to bike a lot, but now walks for fitness and fun every day, usually around downtown. While there are a lot of areas for bicyclists and walkers, he thinks there could be more, especially on Osteopathy near Spur Pond. He likes the proposed FLATS trail.

Incumbent councilman and mayor Richard Detweiler understands the importance of biking and walking to Kirksville after two years on city council. “It’s a balance between exercise and safety,” he said. “People enjoy having the options of walking and biking” and the infrastructure “has minimal cost.” He cited the importance of envisioning where the person will go next, so that we will have a cohesive network instead of the existing fragments of bike paths, bike lanes, and abruptly ending sidewalks. “It takes a lot of time to plan,” he commented. “We’re just getting started. We’re not done yet.”

Bike shop owner Rick Green relies on bicycling for fun and fitness, since walking and running are painful for him. With his bike shop, he hopes to help more people get on bicycles, since the next nearest bike shop is in Columbia. He sees a lot of room for improvement in Kirksville. “Osteopathy needs sidewalks,” he said.

Glen Moritz likes to walk on trails in the woods with a friend and his border collie and would like more walking paths and dog parks. Originally from Kirksville, he lived in Seattle for 33 years, and is “used to driving everywhere.” A different attitude toward transportation, he believes, could change his own personal health, and could do the same for others. When he returned to his home town, he was shocked at the obesity. But do we need more sidewalks? “Oh, my Lord, yes!” he replied. “The status quo in Kirksville is not great.”

I would like to think that this year’s unanimous approval of bike/ped infrastructure and recognition of its value reflect changing attitudes in our community. I hope you noticed that 3 of the candidates specifically mentioned Osteopathy needing sidewalks, and you might remember a couple of years ago a teenage girl survived a hit-and-run on north Osteopathy. I will keep mentioning Osteopathy’s need of sidewalks to city personnel—and keep an eye out for funding opportunities. FLATS will likely connect with Osteopathy, and bicyclists and walkers will need safe routes to reach the trail.

*Interestingly, last year’s candidate who opposed sidewalks on the grounds that they cost the city and citizens too much voted in favor of both resolutions that the council had to pass in order to apply for the Safe Routes to School grants. I would like to think that his opinion changed upon reflection or with more information, or maybe he didn’t mean what he said. A city council candidate doesn’t have staff to formulate stock answers and can’t choose which questions to respond to like presidents and senators do.