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Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Pedestrian/Bicycle Committee Meets

Fairhope, Alabama. (fairhopetimes@att.net)


ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING

Riley
A new committee met last week that was formed recently by the city council "to promote public
health and safety through ADA disability-compliant transportation and recreation facilities -- and to make walking, bicycling, and other non-vehicular movement safe, accessible, and convenient for all ... through planning, advocacy, education ... and make recommendations to the city council ... ." 

Committee members are (3 year terms): Katie Bolton, Jane Finger, James Grout, Jeff Hudson, Molly Peterson, Chris Riley, and Irene Wegner.

(Most members had been serving on a now-disbanded Planning Commission sub-committee of the same name.)

The first order of business was to elect Chris Riley as  Chairman: Riley thought Katie Bolton would be more suitable, but was over-ruled..

Riley gets assistance from his dog, Tonya.



'MAYOR'S CHALLENGE' ACCEPTED

Mayor Kant dropped in and announced that he has accepted a challenge to all of the country's mayors from Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Foxx to "improve safety in their communities for bicycle riders and pedestrians of all ages and abilities ... over the next year."

He said he first heard of it via an e-mail from the White House last year; and accepted during a visit there with Community Affairs Director Sherry Sullivan

The Mayor's Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets  officially kicked off in Washington on March 12th.

Seven specific actions are mentioned:
Mayor Kant, left

* Take a 'Complete Streets' approach (aka 'Safe' Streets)**
* Identify/address impediments for disabled and elderly
* Gather and track biking and walking data
* Design streets appropriate to its context/use
* Create/complete bike  and pedestrian networks 
* Improve walking/biking safety laws
* Educate/enforce proper road use behavior

The mayor said Alabama always seems to lag behind the curve in such matters; but he wants to "make our streets safe for everybody ... and let people know we are in the lead."

"When we do the right thing others follow us."

Peterson, right
Committee member Molly Peterson, also current President of the the Baldwin County Trailblazers organization, said the Trailblazers plan to challenge all other mayors in the county to accept the Challenge as well -- and "use you (Mayor Kant) as a role model."

The new committee will serve as the local action team for the Challenge initiative.

(**Publisher's Note: The city council has already adopted the Complete Streets policy in 2012; not without considerable opposition.)



'WALK FRIENDLY' APPLICATION PENDING TOO

Planning Assistant Nancy Milford said some of the steps of the Challenge should also help the city qualify for official 'Walk Friendly Community' status: last October: the city council authorized expending the considerable man-hours needed by the lengthy application process.

Gold, silver, or bronze levels are awarded, according to progress.



SIDEWALK CONSTRUCTION STILL LACKING

Another mission of the new Committee is to review and prioritize the long list of sidewalk requests from city residents that has been building up over the years; only mostly federally-funded sidewalk/trails have been constructed recently.

The mayor said he wanted the committee come up with some kind of grading system to to "tell me where the priorities are."

Kant said people call him "all the time" with new requests: "We've ... been talking about it for a while ... time to start getting it done ... have a goal ... get a list in front of the city council every year ... for adoption."

Building a mile of new sidewalks every year was once the policy.


MANY SAFETY UPGRADES ALREADY  UNDERWAY

FAIRHOPE AVE. AT POST OFFICE

Fairhope Ave.
Coincidentally, the long-awaited complete streets improvement project of Fairhope Ave. is now underway: Public Works personnel are adding 3 new crosswalks, a green median, and bike lanes.

Reducing the number of lanes to improve safety is sometimes called a "road diet."

Less impervious surface and additional green space will improve storm water drainage in the area.

West from Fairwood Ave. the road will be reduced from 4 to 2 lanes with bike lanes on both sides; the medians will provide a "safe landing" for pedestrians crossing.

Also, additional parking will be added on the south side all the way to ACE hardware; but not on the north side, adjacent the post office.

Using a $900K federal grant, re-paving all the way out to Hwy 181 should begin by May or June; the city's required match will be about $200K.

At last word, the roundabout planned for the CR13 intersection -- a county project -- has been delayed until next year.

Pedestrian landings (stub-outs) and signalized crosswalks will be installed at Hwy 181 -- as well as new landscaping, according to the mayor.


'BICYCLE TOURISM' EVENT PLANNED

To promote and advocate the economic benefits to local businesses, on March 25th the Trailblazers will be hosting a day-long event for those interested. (click for details)

It will begin with an 8AM continental breakfast at 50 S. Church St,  Ste. E -- and end with a 6PM public presentation at the USA campus auditorium (St. James @ Summit St.).

The Alabama Bicycle Coalition is co-sponsoring the event; they are holding a 'Bicycle Summit' in Montgomery beginning the next day.

Schedule:

"We are pleased to offer a series of educational events on Wednesday, March 25, 2015 in conjunction with the Alabama Bicycle CoalitionThe Path Less PedaledThe League of American Bicyclists and USA, Baldwin County.

8am – 9:30am  How to Capture the Spending Power of Visitors on Two Wheels. Business, tourism, and community leaders are invited to enjoy a quick breakfast with us and discover no-cost and low-cost strategies to boost business from local, touring and traveling bicyclists. Speakers include Russ Roca and Laura Crawford from Path Less Pedaled.  Regional and state speakers will also discuss area tourism projects and programs. A panel discussion and Q&A will follow. In the meantime, check out this article that details how cities and businesses benefit from bicyclists. Location: 50 S. Church Street, Suite E, Fairhope, AL.   Please RSVP to info@thetrailblazers.org.

10:00 a.m. – Bike ride! Saddle up and head out for short ride through Fairhope with our special guests. You won’t want to miss it! Details to follow soon…

12:00 noon – How to Be a Bicycle Advocate.  Who doesn’t want a free lunch? Join us for an “Advocates’ Lunch” and an exciting and informative presentation by Preston Tyree, former education director of The American League of Bicyclists and current principal at CycleSMARTER. What can you do to become a better advocate for bicycling in our region? We have answers! Location: 50 S. Church Street, Suite E, Fairhope, AL. Lunch will be your choice of a ham, roast beef or cheese sandwich from our friends at Bay Breeze Cafe (includes pickle, chips and drink). Your lunch is FREE when you RSVP to info@thetrailblazers.org.
6pm – Bicycle Friendly: What Does it Mean & Why Does it Matter? How can becoming bike-friendly improve livability and benefit community businesses and residents? Cities across Baldwin County are making great strides in becoming bicycle-friendly communities with the addition of lanes and trails. What else can be done? What have other communities done to successfully integrate bicycling? Speakers include Russ Roca and Laura Crawford from Path Less Pedaled in addition to local and regional experts. This session is co-sponsored by USA, Baldwin County and will be held in the auditorium at their 111 St. James Avenue, Fairhope, AL location."



1 comment:

SlowBike said...

Thanks, Fairhope Times, for sharing info about our new committee. We invite & welcome any Fairhope citizen or business owners to attend our next meeting, April 1st at 4:00 p.m. at the Nix Center. The City has had a Pedestrian-Bicycle Advisory Committee for 3 years now, as a sub-committee of Planning. It was recently reorganized as a committee directly under the City Council. Citizens are welcome to apply for this or any city committee, as openings often occur. There is an application on the City's website. We are interested in hearing from all regarding ways to improve access and safety for all citizens, whether on foot, on a bike, in a wheelchair, or in a car trying to navigate around those walking or rolling through town. There are many ways to peacefully co-exist with those who can't or choose not to drive. Come share your ideas with us!