City goes north to find new bike/pedestrian coordinator

Denise_ChaplickMid-Atlantic planner has niche focus on cyclists, walkers

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

Why would the City of Jacksonville reach outside for its new bicycle/pedestrian coordinator and, more compelling, what would bring a mid-Atlantic transportation consultant to Jacksonville?

The answer to the first half of the question is simple. Credentials. A lot of credentials.
Denise Chaplick, Jacksonville’s new bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, has been practicing as a transportation planner with a niche focus on pedestrian and bicycle planning and design since 1997.

“The majority of my career has been spent as a consultant where I served as a subject matter expert to State Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) Cities, Counties, and local municipalities,” shared Chaplick in a recent phone interview.

“I have also worked in the Public Sector as a Senior Planner for Morris County [NJ] Division of Transportation, which is the county where I recently lived. There I worked directly with communities to address transportation issues impacting their quality of life including: pedestrian, bike, maintenance issues, traffic calming, and more. I also served a liaison to the Engineering and Public Works Department to ensure all modes were being considered,” she said.

A graduate of North Carolina State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design/Landscape Architecture, Chaplick also served as an expert panelist for the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) of National Academy of Science to develop research and guidance on emerging transportation issues. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Chaplick said her career as consultant was spread across the Eastern Seaboard, from the urban cores of New York City, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore.
“I really wanted to focus in my expertise in one location,” said the self-described utilitarian cyclist. “As a consultant, you pop in and out and never get to see things go from policy to implementation; it’s rare you’re involved from beginning to end.”

Chaplick could have gone anywhere else in the country, but Jacksonville was a strategic move for her. “It’s at a turning point in its growth; it’s a growing opportunity for the things I do, focusing on walking, bicycling and quality of life issues. If those elements aren’t in existence, things don’t have the momentum to change.”
“This is a unique position,” she continued. “Not every city has insight to hire a bicycle/pedestrian coordinator.”

According to the COJ website, the “Planning and Development Department creates and maintains inventories for existing and future bicycle and pedestrian facilities, in addition to partnering with Parks and Recreation and Community Services to provide staff to support the City of Jacksonville Bicycle Pedestrian Action Committee (BPAC).”
The Comprehensive Bicyle/Pedestrian Plan on that website is dated April 1999. Chaplick will be taking a long, hard look at that
document.

“It will be a project that will be updated. I’m hoping that my role here can be proactive in sharing what we’re doing as well as educating the public; that we’re a resource and will help people address their problems in transportation,” she said.

“One of the things that will be done in the future is to provide pre- and post-education about the biking/walking facilities,” Chaplick stated. “There might be some misunderstanding about what those facilities are intended to do.

Although she’s only been on the job for little more than a month, Chaplick has been meeting people, listening and learning. “I’ve had meetings with various internal departments and external agencies to understand the history, challenges, and opportunities.” She will also meet with each of the District Community Planning Advisory Committees.
She attended her first BPAC meeting last month and will be a staff liaison to that group, providing assistance and guiding direction. “We are taking nominations for BPAC for chair and secretary. I hope to bring a broader perspective to that group, which has been instrumental in raising awareness of these needs to city leaders; they were certainly heard and that’s part of the reason this position was created.”

“They should be very proud of that progress. It’s not one size fits all for bicyclists; that’s part of the challenge,” Chaplick concluded.
Residents can contact Chaplick at (904) 255-8584 or [email protected]

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