Friday, May 28, 2010

Designing Good Roads for Everyone...A Planner's Perspective

My friend, Jamie, of Walkin' In High Cotton, is my guest blogger today. Her day job is being a Long Range Planner for a local government. I asked her to share a little about the value of bike lanes and community planning. Thank you, Jamie, for sharing with us today!

May is National Bike Month, and with my dear friend the Dirt Diva (and her dear friends!) out on the roads, I’m glad to put on my Community Planner hat and write a post about designing good roads.

Sound boring? It could be—if you never leave your house.

But here’s the thing… roadways that are safer for bicycles are generally safer for everyone else too. Being an advocate for bicycle safety means being an advocate for pedestrian safety, kids-walking-the-dog safety, senior-citizen safety, wheelchair-travel safety, families-going-to-the-neighborhood-park safety…the list can go on and on. Shared roadways are very common in the more urban areas of Europe, like these in Italy. They are designed for everyone.

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In America, roads are designed for cars and everyone else is a secondary concern to moving those cars faster and more efficiently. If your area doesn’t have sidewalks, trails, and bike lanes—you need them. Each serves a different a user group and purpose--don’t let anyone tell you they’re redundant. Kids don’t walk to school in a bike lane.

There’s a new concept floating around in Community Planning circles called Complete Streets. It’s the idea that streets can be designed to safely and attractively accommodate all users, not just cars. For example, here’s a car-dominated road in Minneapolis…

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And here’s an idea of what it could look like if it was designed for all users, based on legislation proposed by the Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition (….

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What can you do to bring change like this to your neighborhood?

Get familiar with these ideas. Go to your local public meetings and tell your Board members what you want and why. Tell developers coming to your community what kind of roads you want to see in your neighborhoods. And support and follow groups working to make these changes, like America Walks (, Smart Growth America ( ), and the National Center for Safe Routes to School ( Good streets make good neighborhoods.

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