Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Trailnet Helps St. Louis Residents See Community in New Light

By Christian Johnson
Imagine a way to make drivers more cautious of their surroundings, a way to make streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, a way to promote physical activity in communities. Ideal, right? Turns out the ideal is a simple Livable or Complete Streets solution: traffic calming.  Just like the name implies, traffic calming is the act of making physical designs, such as narrowed roads and speed bumps, in hopes of slowing down cars and easing traffic congestion. These measures can not only make drivers more aware of their surroundings, and improve the safety of neighborhood streets and roads, but also make them more pleasant, too.

For one day in St. Louis, however, local residents didn’t have to imagine these changes; they lived it. The Healthy Eating Active Living Partnership, Trailnet, Saint Louis University students, and elected city officials teamed up with the residents of three Saint Louis communities for pop up demonstrations of traffic calming. Watch a short video of the pop-up demos in action

“The purpose of this project is really to help people in St. Louis understand what traffic calming is, and how we could redesign streets to be more welcoming of activity to get people out walking, biking, and enjoying public space,” said Trailnet Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Manager, Marielle Brown in the video.

Trailnet leaders worked with community residents of all ages on the temporary enhancement of neighborhood streets, helping fill streets with vibrantly colored tires, traffic cones, and a variety of plants in high traffic areas. On a mission to not only beautify these neighborhoods, but also narrow roads to help manage the speeds of drivers, and the demonstration aimed to reduce the flow of heavy traffic in these communities while showcasing the positive effects that traffic calming can have.

Community members responded positively to these traffic calming demos, realizing that in addition to improving street safety for children and all pedestrians, there were more options for physical activity, too.

While the demonstrations were only for one day, community members were able to see the possibilities and discuss potential next steps. Gateway Greening Garden Program Director Hannah Reinhart shared she hopes the demonstrations help open the minds of people to what could be possible exposing them to new urban design layouts that could lead to actual changes in their communities.

Is your town interested in bringing a traffic calming demo to a particular neighborhood or intersection? Contact Trailnet for more details.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Scenes from Carthage: a Missouri Livable Streets Training

Livable and Complete Streets advocates have long known that policy and planning changes can go hand-in-hand to create vibrant, safe streets and neighborhoods. But do you know what happens during a training? Hear from local transportation planners and engineers at a training in Carthage, Missouri. Co-hosted by the Harry S Truman Coordinating Council, Trailnet and Missouri Livable Streets, participants not only learned about the benefits of active design but took to the streets themselves to see what's working and what's not. Watch video>>>

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Springfield passes Complete Streets Policy

From Mo Livable Streets website:

Congratulations, Springfield! In late December, the City Council of Springfield voted unanimously to adopt a Complete Streets policy. Community leaders and residents of Springfield has been working for many years to create safe roadways for all users, whether on foot, bicycle, bus or car. These efforts have included Springfield’s Field Guide 2030, a strategic plan that outlines the direction the community will take in order to meet the demands of the 21st century, including making streets and neighborhoods more vibrant and accessible for all users.

Springfield now adds their Complete Streets policy to ensure:

“Every public street, walkway, and greenways trail right‐of‐way in Springfield should be planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated to the fullest extent feasible to provide a transportation system such that all users will have transportation options to safely and conveniently travel to their destinations.”

Read the policy

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Transportation for Everyone

Leaders from McDonald County Focus on Livable Streets

By Sarah Canavese

When I sat down to talk with leaders from communities working with Missouri Livable Streets communities, I suspected I would hear a lot about the healthy living benefits to passing these policies. But when I sat down to talk to Paige Behm from McDonald County, I was in for a surprise.
Behm is the health administrator for McDonald County Health Department and when we talked about why she thought there was a need for sidewalks and livable streets, she was quick with her answer.

“Poverty is a big issue here. We really don’t have public transportation… so, it makes it difficult for people who don’t have transportation,” said Behm. “What they are having to do is rely on other people to get to and from where they need to go. But if they need [a ride] or [are] relying on [others] to get to work, that is a real issue. If you don’t get to work on time, you loose your job, and that just keeps you in poverty.”

Behm’s comment was eye-opening. McDonald County sits at the far southwestern corner of the state. According to County Health Rankings 2014 data, out of the 115 counties in Missouri (including St. Louis City), McDonald ranks 97th in health outcomes. Its residents experience high rates of obesity and other chronic disease, and many are uninsured.

Likewise, nearly 26 percent of those living in McDonald County identify as having poor or fair health (CHR 2014) and according to the American Community Survey,* McDonald County has a 19.3 percent disabilities rate, Behm made it clear that allowing for others, not just motorists to use the road is very important. She talked about a man in a wheelchair she regularly sees who motivates her.

“Really, it is the man in the wheelchair who can’t cross the street safely. That is what motivates me,” she said. “It is because I see him… from time to time and he is trying to get across traffic in a wheelchair because that’s his only transportation.”

Continues Behm, “As far as [Livable Streets] benefits, there are economic benefits because people want to move to healthy communities. There are benefits for business [because] along with healthy communities comes economic growth.”

But these benefits, Behm acknowledged, can be hard to envision when communities fear that the changes could generate higher costs. “[That] is the hardest challenge,” she said, “getting people to realize that it doesn’t always cost money. They think taxes are going to go up, and that is one of the challenges is educating them [on] what the policies are. It doesn’t mean an increase in taxes.”

As part of her work in McDonald County, Behm plans to continue supporting local efforts, including the work of local betterment clubs. These betterment clubs work to help generate conversation on active design or Livable Street topics within the community and are already planning events to raise money for walking trails. “The thing about McDonald County,” she explains, “[is] that once one city does something, [people] see [and say], ‘Wow, another city has done it. We should do that.’ I think it will take one city to take that first step and the others will follow.”

To learn more about how you can get involved visit Missouri Livable Streets.

*According to the ACS there are six different disability types: hearing difficulty, vision difficulty, cognitive difficulty, ambulatory difficulty, self-care difficulty and independent living difficulty. To read each categories definition you can find them here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Can a sidewalk grow from a garden? Ashland shows us how

By Sarah Canavese

Take a look outside. What do you see? Roadways? How about sidewalks? Chances are, you might not see very many sidewalks, and if you do, you are probably in the lucky minority.

Where I grew up there weren’t many sidewalks, and the ones that were there, weren’t always kept up to code. Ashland, Mo., can’t boast many sidewalks right now, but its citizens are looking to change this trend. Missouri Livable Streets is working with community leaders in Ashland as they consider new ways to incorporate sidewalks and bicycle lanes into existing streets and roads.  

Southern Boone Learning Garden
Jennifer Grabner, director of the Southern Boone Learning Garden in Ashland, works with the Ashland school district and provides programs for students during the school day and afterschool. All programs are garden-based and cover topics in health, nutrition, agriculture and the environment. You might not expect a garden to grow into a sidewalk, but that is exactly what’s happening.

In the winter of 2012, Grabner’s Learning Garden was awarded a five-year grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The grant focuses on gardening programs and on forming healthy community partnerships.

“We modeled our partnership on Columbia’s Healthy Community Partnership,” said Grabner. As part of that model, Grabner focused on including “things such as a walking school bus and looking into working with the city and county livable streets.”

While the connection between gardens and sidewalks may not be readily apparent, Grabner has known for a while there is a problem with Ashland’s streets and sidewalks. “There are numerous places all over town where they will have a sidewalk part of the way, and it just ends abruptly. I have noticed that for a very long time,” she shared. “Ashland city park is right in the middle of town, but there are absolutely no sidewalks or trails that will lead you to the park. When you see folks who bike or jog, or folks who are mobility impaired, it is really tough to get around, even though it is such a small town. [Ashland is] growing rapidly and its population has more than doubled over the last ten years.”

Grabner cites one area of concern near the schools. “For example, on Main Street which is a main road that goes north/south through Ashland, [it] connects the primary and elementary school buildings on the south end of town to the middle and high school buildings on the north end, [and] there are no sidewalks at all. [There’s a] shoulder and ditches on both sides; lots of people both walk and bike daily on Main Street, but it is getting more and more dangerous to do that because of the amount of traffic.”

One solution to the problem lies with a livable streets strategy: the Walking School Bus program. A walking school bus is just as it sounds. Youth and adults walk to school together in the morning and afternoon. In Ashland, the walking school bus helped educate children on safe walking practices, as well as adults on a safe way to walk their kids to school.

Grabner reports that this program generated a lot of awareness in Ashland and this summer a Walking School Bus of Girl Scouts walked from the primary school down to the park, and these same issues came up. Grabner said, “Once you get off of Broadway, there are no sidewalks for them. So that was about sixty girls and their families aware first hand of those kind[s] of issues.”

While raising awareness of the challenges, Grabner’s also been able to provide solutions that people want to bring back. “It’s been interesting,” she continues. “The more people I talk with about this, folks in their sixties, seventies and eighties, every single one remembers that when they were kids, there were sidewalks. People were walking around all the time, kids were riding bikes, and it did contribute greatly to knowing your neighbors, knowing your community, knowing that you were safe and comfortable in your community. Every single one of them saw that as a good thing. And they see that as something worth trying to bring back.”

To learn more, or to see how your town can get started with active design, visit Missouri Livable Streets.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tourism up ahead!

A discussion with Chillicothe’s city administrator about Livable Streets

By Sarah Canavese
City of Chillicothe logo
Courtesy: City of Chillicothe
Imagine walking down the sidewalks of a charming downtown area in Missouri. Around you are the brightly colored awnings of a locally owned businesses, and just up ahead, there’s a group of teenagers going into the ice cream shop. It’s summer, and hot, and now that you think of it, all this walking is making you hungry, too. You should go into the ice cream shop as well, but on your way there, you see a shoe store. It’s August, time for back to school, and your kids could use a new pair.

Can you imagine this scene unfolding? Ike Holland, Chillicothe city administrator can and he is working on creating the perfect place for tourism to bloom. One key to achieving his goal of vibrant tourism is through the Missouri Livable Streets project.

Holland spent eight years working in Colorado, giving him first-hand experience with how a town that thrives on tourism should look. “When I came to Missouri and I saw this Livable Streets program, I was glad because people don’t see the quality of life benefits or the economic benefits, unless they have experienced it. So it was a very easy sell, [it] wasn’t much of a sell for me,” Holland explains.

For Chillicothe, though, before Holland can share the benefits of creating livable streets, he has to generate the interest among residents and stakeholders.

“I know it works,” Holland said of building tourism through livable streets. “You have to take it in stride and understand that we are doing this in stages. I am confident and when it’s complete, each stage gains momentum because people start to understand what is going on. In Colorado, you are so dependent on tourism and we used to say, ‘We will get others to pay for our projects.’ So the tourists, they pay for the highways, the hot springs, the ski resorts. [Communities] don’t realize the people who live there don’t pay for it, it’s the tourism [that does].”

Part of the hesitance communities may experience when considering policies encouraging livable streets often is due to these concerns about cost. “For the street planning that was done 20 or 30 years ago,” said Holland, “the norm was to do away with the sidewalks and reduce cost as much as possible. Crosswalks were minimized to save money. Now we are having to go back and basically redo a lot of these main roads. It’s a shame that sidewalks went out of style.”

Continues Holland, “The funding for streets is provided by the sales tax here in the community and it hasn’t increased over the years, but the cost of materials and labor has. So every year, I get less for my dollar but still have to maintain the streets. It’s a tough choice for communities to make, but the community is behind the projects. We built a new hospital and we are going to include sidewalks as part of the project. We are also implementing some really nice streetlights to go along the sidewalks.”

It should come as no surprise then that any hesitance around passing a policy doesn’t stop Holland from feeling the excitement this project has brought on. “In the bigger scheme of things, yes it [may] cost money. But the bang for the buck is big.”

Holland emphasizes that making the changes now will benefit the community in the long-term. “In about ten to 15 years, 25 percent of the population is going to be over 65 [years old]. One of the things people over 65 like to do is walk. If you have a small or large town that encourages walking, and you can do it in a safe way, you will do it. That’s step one. The second step is tourism. All those things combined are reasons why we are looking at making Chillicothe a very livable community.”

To learn more visit Missouri Livable Streets.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Training for the Future

Courtesy: MoBroadBandNow.com

By Sarah Canavese

“Regional Training." To some, regional training might sound like a way to get out of the office and learn a new technique for their job. To others the terms conjure up meetings, where attendance is required and attendees watch hours of PowerPoint slides.

To David Cheek, transportation planner at Mark Twain RegionalCouncil of Governments, regional training means the eight counties he works with get to experience for the first time training offered by PedNet through Missouri Livable Streets. “I was just excited and pleased to be able to reach out to the area that we serve and being able to offer the training such as it was, to come of our more rural police departments,” he said. “That was gratifying.”

Based in Perry, Mo., Mark Twain Regional Council of Government (MTRCOG) is one of seven communities and/or organizations Missouri Livable Streets is assisting in active design training and education. The Council is governed by an executive board, which has two representatives from each county that it represents.  Their primary purpose is to set policies for the operation of the Council and the development of the region.

All eight counties the MTRCOG serves, Audrain, Marion, Monroe, Macon, Ralls, Randolph, Pike and Shelby were invited to participate in the first training session and will be involved going forward.

One of the novel and critical training programs offered by Missouri Livable Streets in collaboration with PedNet is law enforcement training. While educating the public and motorists about Livable Streets or active design elements and laws is critical, another key element is training police and law enforcement professional on these elements and laws, too.

“When you live in a rural community with only one police officer, I mean, they still have a lot of stuff to do, and probably getting training on how to deal with bicyclists is not at the top of their list,” Cheek said. However, Cheek agreed that as enforcers of local laws and policies, officers are natural stakeholders in the process.

MTRCOG’s training for law enforcement professionals was held in June for a small team of officers from the area. Officers learned the rules and regulations bicyclists need to follow, and other laws that pertain to bicycling. Cheek explained that most of the officers were from rural towns, and the training was an opportunity to share information about laws and regulations with which they might be less familiar.

Cheek shared, “I think that is where the best value came from for the officers; they probably hadn’t had this type of training, and it was definitely beneficial that it was POST certified.”
(POST stands for Peace Officer Standards and Training and all sworn officers must maintain these peace officer licenses. According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, all licensed peace officers and reserve officers must complete at least 48 hours continuing education to maintain their peace officer license.)

Interested in bringing a Missouri Livable Streets training to your community or group of law enforcement professionals? Learn how at: http://livablestreets.missouri.edu/attend/.