Let's talk infrastructure for a moment. In weeks past, this column has been extolling the virtues of bicycling, but I wanted to focus more on policy.
My background is in city and regional planning, so I approach pedestrian and bicycling needs less as a public health issue, which it certainly is, and more of a public good and equity issue.
Many people have the good fortune to own or have regular access to a vehicle, which allows them access to work, daytime appointments and evening trips on a daily basis. However, there is a segment of the population whose main form of transportation is reliance on someone with a vehicle, public transportation, bicycling, walking or wheeling. This creates hardships for them in several ways: employment opportunities are limited, social obligations are more difficult to schedule and medical needs are a challenge to make and keep. Problems are compounded when city infrastructure isn't fully developed or may be deteriorating to accommodate them.
According to Missouri Livable Streets, a Complete Streets policy is an approach that is "meant to make our communities more connected and open to people regardless of age, ability or [means] of transportation." Elements of a complete street could include one or many of the following: sidewalks, bicycle lanes, paved shoulders, crosswalks, narrower driving lanes or bus shelters. The key is for users to feel safe and comfortable and provides the most protection as possible for all users.
Look to the recent Capitol Avenue project to see an excellent example of what a complete street could look like. It was designed by the City of Jefferson to include wide, flat sidewalks, a bus shelter with several bicycle racks, striped bicycle lanes, ADA ramps at street intersections, a striped crosswalk, stamped concrete parking, and narrow lanes to decrease vehicle speeds. This is just one example, but the solutions around the city and region are context sensitive, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Cities all over the country are reevaluating roads, thinking beyond automobiles, and considering increased inclusiveness and access for residents. Complete Streets policies are just trying to swing the pendulum back from automobiles slightly to benefit as many people as possible and ensure everyone has a chance to safely get to where they are going.
If you would like to be more involved with this or any other city matter, consider attending or joining a city board, commission or committee.
Alex Rotenberry is a transportation planner for the Department of Planning & Protective Services at the City of Jefferson.