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Complete Streets Make Complete Sense

There was a recent article in the Observer Dispatch about the City of Utica adopting a Compete Streets policy. It piqued my interest as the Boilermaker ‘lives’ on the streets of Utica.
I think it makes a ton of sense: but let’s back up- what exactly are Complete Streets?
Well according to The National Complete Streets Coalition “they (complete streets) are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.”
Certainly one of this issues are that roads don’t begin and end at a specific city, town or hamlet. Likewise their care and maintenance might be the responsibility of the State, County or the respective community they run through. That adds another level of complexity to forming a comprehensive solution as bike paths and sidewalks mysteriously ‘disappear’ as you cross a town or city line. Be they a city street, county highway or state roadway it only works when they work together. Communities that do it well use complete streets as a competitive advantage to lure businesses to their region.
Build systems where people will be, not where they are.
Our area is in the midst of a transformation- creation of loft apartments, buildout of the Nano facility at SUNY, the Utica harbor project, a potential new downtown hospital, an updated arterial system and a rebirth of downtown retail. All of these will have a profound effect on where we live/ work/play and how we get there.
Don’t figure out an integrated compete streets prior to these projects and it will take literally years to make them happen.
Make room enough for everyone.
At present, in our region, there are few bike lanes integrated into the street system.
There are, in my opinion, two groups of bike riders: those that want to ride a bike and those that need to ride a bike.
The ‘wanters’ ride primarily for fitness, the ‘needers’ are folks who simply cannot afford a car and the affiliated costs they entail.
Transportation is a major,major issue for the low-income population. Last winter I saw bike riders on any given day navigating through the snowy city streets, grocery bags hanging from the handlebars.
So it’s more than just a great quality of life improvement, for many it’s a lifeline.
Perhaps look at making some roads one way which would free up some ‘road real estate’ for bikes?
In the end this becomes a conversation about what we want our community to look like, from an infrastructure perspective, which offers all modes of transportation an efficient and safe way to travel.
Let’s travel this road together.

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