A National Fight for Saner Streets

22

Dec

A National Fight for Saner Streets

I happened upon an interesting article about the Complete The Streets program in The Seattle Times.

Complete streets “are about a right of way for everyone out there traveling, walking or biking,” says Barbara McCann, the movement coordinator. All users of all ages and abilities, she asserts, need to be able to move safely along and across a complete street. And, McCann adds, “safety is a huge reason.”

As well it should be: Every 113 minutes across the United States, a motorized vehicle hits and kills a pedestrian or cyclist. Every eight minutes, one is injured, sometimes paralyzed. Most of Europe, by contrast, has worked for years at expanding walkways and bikeways, making intersections safer and erecting physical barriers to fast city and town traffic. On a per-mile basis, a German pedestrian has only a third as much chance of being a traffic fatality as his American counterpart; a German cyclist only half.

The article doesn’t mention a source for these figures, but that is a staggering number of deaths if it is accurate.  I happened upon the article because Rhode Island was mentioned

States and cities are getting the message. Illinois this fall passed a complete-streets law requiring the state’s transportation department to include bicycling and walking facilities in all its urban-area projects. Five other states (Massachusetts, Florida, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island) now have some form of complete-streets law on the books. More than 50 metro regions, counties or cities — Charlotte to Johnson County, Kan., Salt Lake City to Seattle — have passed similar statutes.

Really?  Rhode Island has some form of complete-street laws on the books?  I’ve seen plenty of lip service paid to “taking bicycles into account” when road construction is being planned.  I don’t know about you, I haven’t seen too many projects actually come to fruition with improvements for bicycles.  The state should be proud of the headway they’ve made with bike paths and the upcoming linear park will be a nice way to cross into Providence, if it actually happens.  However, as most of us know, those who are serious transportational cyclists, these types of projects don’t really address our needs.  We need to be able to travel almost everywhere people go by car, safely.

I for one, would love to see Rhode Island adopt a transportation first policy.  Where city and state planners take a step back and focus on how best to move people, not how best to move cars.  The article touched on this desire when it suggested that

Project for Public Spaces has some of the right advice for cities: “Stop planning for speed.” And “think of transportation as public space” — roads, transit terminals, sidewalks, reconfigured to create pleasant environments, a true sense of place.

Wouldn’t that be nice.

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