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.

No comments:

Post a Comment