Join us in an exploration of the transportation ecosystem at our upcoming Walkability Forum in Bangor, Sept 19th. Register now!
By Carol Morris.
Working with all different kinds of people is a big part of my job as a public outreach consultant. As a matter of fact, if I don’t connect with a diverse bunch as I solicit feedback for planning projects, I’m not doing the job properly. It goes without saying that I hear a lot of conflicting opinions… planning is generally about managing change and we all know how everyone feels about change.
But it was brought home to me recently how making our communities walkable is about the least controversial topic out there. I am part of a project in a small Maine town that is aimed at making part of a downtown street more inviting. The advisory committee for this project is made up of folks who live or do business on the street. None of them are planners, and most of them are at or nearing retirement age. As I listened to them – and other interested citizens – talk about how they wanted their street to look and feel, I was struck by how all their ideas were right in line with the most up-to-date planning ideals. Wide sidewalks, safe crossings, places to stop and chat, slower automobile speeds, bike lanes, subdued lighting, attractive plantings – all the aspects of today’s Complete Streets principles were high on their list. It was pretty darn exciting.
Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) website has more information about the Complete Streets Policy for Maine. Learn more here.
What does this mean? To me, it means that anyone who wants to take the lead can get a Walkabiilty movement started in their own town, without having to worry about controversy. People understand intuitively that walking is healthy and satisfying at any age, and that having a walkable downtown leads to more people on the street and more people buying things. The only challenge is paying for new infrastructure such as sidewalks and lighting, but there are funding sources today that make this more affordable. So take the lead to make your town more walkable – you won’t be sorry!
Learn more about how you can take the lead or follow another leader and make your hometown more vibrant, healthy, and economically strong at our Walkability Forum in Bangor, Sept 19th.