Friday, July 16, 2010

From around the Globe...

From our friends up north...

Bixie not Fixie.

From Grand Rapids, in the Grand Rapids Press...

Editorial: Michigan lawmakers should approve Complete Streets bill to focus on more than motorists

We’ve all seen it when we’re driving along in our automobiles. The cars are clipping along just fine. But there on the side, you spot a fellow traveler on foot, pushing a stroller, riding a bike or using a wheelchair. And that person is in peril. The road was built with zero thought for him or her. No bike lane, no sidewalk, nothing for safe transit for those outside a car. All a passing motorist can do in that instant is slow down, pay extra attention and pray for safe travels.

But Michigan can and should do better. It’s time for the state to motor toward smarter transportation planning. “Complete Streets” legislation pending in Lansing would help get us to that destination. The Senate should pass it promptly, following the measure’s recent wide-margin approval in the House. Complete Streets is a movement gaining ground nationally. More than a dozen states, plus Grand Rapids and a growing number of cities nationwide, already have passed bills that encourage planning for safer, more livable and welcoming roads. Upgrading or building a street? Good, but how about planning for a sidewalk, bike lane, good crossing spots and pedestrian signs? How about a bus lane and pleasant bus stops?

The goal is to modernize transportation policies that for decades focused solely on accommodating motorists, and often were blind to needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, older citizens and those with disabilities. Too often, transportation planners had a default setting that forced people into cars for safe travel. The result is people have been robbed of options for getting around.

The legislation in Lansing is largely a planning tool for state and local government. It begins with establishing the premise that Complete Streets are important to the livability of communities.

Local road agencies already are required to develop long-range plans, and the legislation requires that smart streets are part of that conversation.

The state transportation agency would be charged with making it easier for communities to accomplish that through goal-setting and planning expertise. A Complete Streets Advisory Council would be formed within the transportation department, with representatives from government (such as traffic engineers, road commissions and transit planners) and a variety of community groups (including AARP, bicyclists and disability advocates).

The legislation has broad support from community groups, including senior advocates, Safe Routes to Schools group, environmentalists, cyclists and others.

It’s also important to note that Michigan’s proposed Complete Streets law does not over-reach, or encourage senseless expenses or government intrusion. It acknowledges that road-planning needs vary according to urban, suburban and rural settings, and that local context and cost factors must be taken into consideration. One size does not fit all.

But it does accomplish making room for Michigan to show how it can be a leader in all forms of transportation. Complete Streets doesn’t knock the car from its perch as king of the road and as a central force in Michigan’s identity and economy. It simply establishes that two-footed or two-wheeled travelers also are good for our streets, our downtowns, businesses and neighborhoods.

Safe travels and Complete Streets: Both are good for Michigan.

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