Monday, June 27, 2011

Livable Streets Advocacy Trainings Planned

Save a date for livable streets! Our second series of Livable Streets Advocacy Trainings are coming soon to several Missouri communities. These are trainings for citizens who want to become more effective advocates for bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure in their communities. Trainings are free, fun and we feed you!

The next round of Missouri Livable Streets Advocacy Trainings are on tap for:
  • August 27 in St. Louis County
  • August 30 in Raytown
  • September 13 in O'Fallon

More information soon at this site and at!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Livable Streets: Mid-Missouri Swing

I went into the Livable Streets presentation to the economic developers somewhat concerned. I was prepared mind you. I had my presentation down. I was  ready to lay on them the research I found stating that when communities build streets that consider the needs of all users property values increase, retail sales rise and tourism follows. My concern was that I would get pounced on during the Q&A. Would these folks at their annual meeting at the Lake of the Ozarks complain that forcing developers to build sidewalks would drive new jobs away? If that came my way I was ready to take a deep breath and explain that besides jobs quality development includes a sustained quality of life. Walkable, bikable and accessible communities are part of that mix.

But those questions didn't come.

One woman - reacting to a picture I showed of a golf cart on a small town street - asked if the Missouri Department of Transportation shouldn't reconsider their position of not allowing carts on their roads. Not exactly the rigorous debate I expected.

After my presentation most of the 150 or so economic developers ran out to lunch or to send a few texts. Several remained however eager to talk to me about the opportunities they saw in their communities for rail-to-trail conversions and how to build a local constituency around active transportation. When I had earlier asked for a show of hands a minority said they saw livable streets as a local asset that needs to be included in how they market their places when attracting businesses and retaining investors and residents. My goal was to convert their thinking on that and leave with a roomful of converts. When you next see your local economic developer ask him or her whether they are supportive of livable streets.

I spent the second half of Thursday meeting with allies in Jefferson City and Sedalia. Missouri Livable Streets in partnership with Columbia's PedNet Coalition will offer Livable Streets Advocacy Trainings in these two communities later this summer. In both cases there are already local groups meeting and addressing the issue of how to make neighborhoods and commercial corridors more supportive of bicycling, walking and accessible for those who rely on sidewalks, curb cuts and transit access to get around town.

Communities are ready for livable streets. Missourians hate traffic. By and large we don't think of ourselves as an urban place where we grind around in traffic. (Urban Missourians have different challenges. More on that next week.) I am pleased to report there are bike-ped advocates, public health leaders, downtown directors, elected officials and citizens who are working in smaller towns like Sedalia, Chillicothe, Vinita Park, Albany and a bunch of other places. They are creating healthier built environments for those who can't drive or who choose not to drive.

Here's some images from my visit to Sedalia taken after I met Thursday evening with the Citizens Committee on Smart Growth. That committee is the likely host for a July Livable Streets training in their city.

Pedestrians must find Downtown Sedalia very walkable...

...but faded crosswalks with no curb cuts greet students on their walk to a Sedalia primary school.

Do you see the sidewalk in front of your house as an amenity?

Walking to the bar is always a better choice than driving.

Great new crosswalks and curb cuts along Sedalia's Ohio Street are welcoming.
Looking south down Sedalia's Ohio Street remains one of my favorite scenes in Missouri.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Livable Streets in North Missouri

Walkable Downtown Kirksville
The movement for more livable streets is not solely an urban effort.

That's the lesson I am learning this week as I travel around the northern counties of our state. Community leaders and concerned citizens in Missouri's smaller but mighty places are just as concerned about livable public spaces as are our fellow in metropolitan areas.

Today I met folks in Moberly, Kirksville, Unionville and Albany who are working to create places that are more walkable, bikable and accessible to all modes of travel.

Declining tax bases in small towns require creative financing for livable streets and other public investments.
If there are any constants in the cities I am visiting it is that older towns have aging populations and declining infrastructure. Bigger cities have these conditions, too, but it seems more pronounced in North Missouri. I saw an old lady sitting with her doorway propped open along Franklin Street in downtown Kirksville watching the world go by. Empty upper stories in downtown Moberly and Unionville beg for residents or businesses that just aren't there to occupy spaces that in other jurisdictions would bring high dollar rents. Lower tax bases make it harder for cities to get things done. The creative livable streets advocates I met with today are pursuing grants from state and federal agencies and foundations to build new sidewalks and trails.

The residents who remain in small towns need streets that accommodate their needs. This means sidewalks that don't pitch wheelchairs riders over, curb cuts and crosswalks that command drivers attention to stop and wait for older residents and kids to safely cross the street.

There are other patterns that our smaller communities seem to share. There are core neighborhoods with aging, but well-kept residential structures, almost universally derelict sidewalks and a relaxed attitude that I don't see as much in larger cities. On the outskirts of almost every city I see there is a Casey's General Store, a Subway and a Dollar General. As such development is drawn to the less walkable edges small (and larger) cities would be well-served to review their street standards. It is in these streets standards that the local government can require sidewalks be build when development goes in.

If high traffic businesses want to move and thus extend the city limits these entrepreneurs should have to provide sidewalks so that seniors, kids, disabled residents and others can safely reach these destinations without having to get in a car or beg for a ride. Churches and government institutions have a similar responsibility to create quality livable places. Some examples of street standards in Missouri communities where sidewalks are required to be built at time of construction include St. Peters, Columbia and Cape Girardeau.

Thanks for reading. How livable are your town's streets tonight?

New development on the edge of town should include sidewalks so all residents can access these places.

Amish people need livable streets, too.

Small town commuter.

Sunset over Albany, Missouri.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Livable Streets Road Trip

Over time Missouri's communities are doing more to make their public spaces and streets more livable. Depending on the context this means a combination of improved sidewalks, new bike facilities, safer routes to school and more.

Columbia, Missouri's livable streets support pedicabs!
This week I am head out to visit leaders in several of those more livable communities. My road trip across north Missouri will give me a chance to see how these mostly small towns and cities are making streets more accessible for active transportation. As I visit a range of communities I'll be posting pictures to this blog that highlight what these mostly small towns are doing to build more livable streets.

And if you haven't checked out our new website please do. We keep putting information up at that can help local livable streets advocates like yourself become better informed and inspired to talk to your elected leaders about adopting livable streets into your municipal policies and plans.

See you in the Streets,