September 11, 2007

‘We consider walking and biking forms of transportation’

"We consider walking and biking forms of transportation in Kirkland," Kirkland, Wash. Deputy Mayor Joan McBride tells the AARP Bulletin. "We've been doing this for years."

What a refreshing comment from a local official.

Kirkland's "public thoroughfares accommodate all members of the public—not just those who drive," according to the AARP Bulletin. They do so with "wide sidewalks, flowered medians and flashing lights embedded in crosswalks at busy intersections. Bike lanes and bus stops line even some of the town's busiest streets. At many corners, pedestrians can pick up a red flag to catch drivers' attention, cross and return the flag to a holder."

Quite a contrast from the design around, say, Shoppers World and the new Natick Collection, where walking is generally treated as some kind of optional frill, but not a serious transportation alternative to get from one place to another (unless you're walking to your car).

Here, sidewalks come to an end between Speen Street offices and the shopping area across Route 30. Apparently, local planners at the time didn't think walking as a form of transportation was important. In fact, sidewalks disappear between two office buildings my company occupies on different streets less than a hundred feet apart -- a real danger in the winter when there's no safe way to walk between them. It's either walk in busy streets narrowed by snow piles, or drive 50 feet to get to a meeting.

On the other hand, Kirkland is among "52 cities and towns, six counties and 10 regional governments that now have policies requiring their transportation agencies to ensure that roads are routinely designed or redesigned for all modes of travel."
"In 1992, the town was granted $3 million in state and federal funds toward the cost of adding three lanes to a busy two-lane street—and it turned down the money. Instead, says Daryl Grigsby, director of public works, Kirkland spent $400,000 to expand the street's intersections—a move that helped the traffic flow—and was able to maintain and even add to the sidewalks along the street.

"The road is still two lanes, and traffic is fine today," Grigsby says. "Cars move, people walk and the sense of community is preserved."

Hopefully, the Walkable Communities workshop scheduled for Sept. 27 in Framingham is one sign that today, we're designing more for all modes of transport, not just the car.

Thanks to William Hanson, chair of the Framingham Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, for the citation.

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