Complete Streets Plan To Focus On Walkability In Olean, Allegany

LITTLE VALLEY – Over the last few decades, roads and streets in Cattaraugus County, as well as in many other parts of the country, have been designed for one thing, cars. That’s not a good thing, according to officials from Cornell Cooperative Extension. They told county legislators how the problem can be fixed Wednesday afternoon.

At a regular meeting of the County Legislature, members heard from Dianne Baker, outgoing area director. Baker will be leaving her post Nov. 15. She passed the presentation to Katrina O’Stricker, Complete Streets consultant for the organization.

Through what has become a six-year grant, Cooperative Extension has been able to offer building of what has become called complete streets throughout Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. In the last year of the original contract, though approved for a sixth year, the program has helped Gowanda, Salamanca, Hinsdale and Little Valley in development of complete streets policies.

Those policies have developed from a walkability study, where citizens of the area will walk the community being studied. Once that is complete, they will talk about what they can do to make their streets safer places for pedestrians and those on bike and also those that need the aid of a walker or wheelchair to get about, she said.

“A full third of our residents in Cattaraugus County do not drive,” O’Stricker said. “Streets have been built with cars in mind. We need to rethink that and come up with ways to develop safer places for those not in cars to get around. We need to get people out of cars, as well.”

The village of Little Valley took advantage of the program recently, resulting in the construction of a sidewalk that goes from Rock City Street to the village swimming pool. That project was just the start, according to a resident of the village. Seeing that the sidewalk has moved pedestrians from the middle of the street to the sidewalk, a safer place for them to be, residents have come up with more ideas of how to build Little Valley into a more walkable village.

Some things that have happened as a result of the study have been painting lines for crosswalks and removal of bushes from some corners; even placement of a bike rack has made for more of a walkable village. Some of the residents that have had to be accommodated for include those on bikes, walking and those needing walkers and wheelchairs.

In the sixth year of the program, O’Stricker said she and her staff will be helping the city of Olean, as well as the town and village of Allegany in generating a policy for walkability. That policy will give guidance when new construction goes into an area within the municipal boundaries. It will dictate what has to be part of a sidewalk reconstruction, and even what has to go back into the development to meet the standards of the area.

With Olean being in the midst of developing a new streetscape for North Union Street, in the heart of the city, District 10 Legislator, John Padlo (D – Olean), asked O’Stricker her thoughts of the project as proposed with roundabouts.

“Research does show that roundabouts are less hazardous than what’s there now,” she said. “Pedestrians only have to cross one lane of moving traffic with them, as opposed to having to cross four lanes. Not to mention, with traffic being more calm and speeds being reduced, the likelihood of a death to a motorist, pedestrian or biker is drastically lessened.”

The next meeting of the legislature will be Wednesday at 3 p.m., in the Legislative Chambers on the third floor of the County Building, 303 Court St., Little Valley.