Sharing Safer Roads

Local policymakers, engineers and politicians will meet today to make traveling easier for everyone.

A workshop on the complete street concept will be held today for invited guests at the Lillian V. Ney Renaissance Center, which is located at 119 W. Third St. National expert John LaPlante, T.Y. Lin International Group traffic director, will lead the presentation to help determine how the city of Jamestown can better balance transportation projects to ensure streets are safe and inviting for everyone using the right-of-way. Complete streets are road systems that provide safe, convenient access for all users including motorists, bicyclists, public transportation operators and users, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Complete streets are achieved by changing project development processes to routinely plan for, design, build and maintain the necessary infrastructure to ensure streets are safe and convenient for walking, bicycling and public transportation use. The Jamestown complete streets workshop is the first one being held in the state.

During Monday’s presentation, LaPlante spoke to nine people about the complete street concept. He said every complete street is different. Also, there is not one answer in how to accomplish making a complete street; each circumstance is unique.

“The entire right-of-way (is) … planned and accessible for everybody,” LaPlante said is the complete streets notion. “Sharing the road is what complete streets are all about.”

LaPlante said the benefits of complete streets include improved travel safety, more physical activity and an improved business environment. He said one-third of people on the highway don’t travel by vehicle, which includes young people who are not old enough to drive and the disabled.

‘”You need to provide for all people,” he said. “For people with disabilities, (complete streets are) essential.”

A few safety features that can be added to make traveling by foot safer includes sidewalks and countdown clocks at pedestrian crosswalks. LaPlante said there are 88 percent fewer crashes on highways where there are sidewalks. He added the number of crashes is reduced by 25 percent at intersections with countdown clocks telling pedestrians how long they have to make it safely across the roadway.

LaPlante said the United States has the highest obesity rate in the world. Also, has the least amount of biking and walking in the world. He said where you see more sidewalks and where you see more pathways you have more people walking and biking.

”There is a direct correlation,” he said.

LaPlante added the more a city is walkable, the better it is for business because there are more people traveling by local merchants.

”More walkability is better for business,” he said. ”The more you make your city walkable the more economically viable it is.”

LaPlante said studies have shown there are no more crashes on highways where traffic lanes have been decreased to add more room for bicyclists and walkers. He said most traffic lanes are 12 feet or larger, but could be reduced to 10 feet to add a path. He said city officials could also reduce four lane highways to two with a turning lane. He said these three-lane highways decrease the number of crashes. He added medians and retaining curbside parking also decrease the number of accidents because it slows down traffic.

He suggested that not all the plans for a complete street have to happen at one time. Also, he said the best time to make complete street improvements is to add the changes to improve traveling conditions when road constructions or renovations are already planned.