A Complete Streets proposal to encourage making city streets more friendly for walkers and bike riders, as well as cars, received strong public support at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Speaker after speaker urged the council to adopt the new policy developed over the past 12 months by a local ad hoc committee, which would require planners and engineers to accommodate all forms of transportation when proposing street and road improvements.
Tobin Alexandra-Young, a leader of Shared Access Saratoga, explained how the Complete Streets policy was developed to make streets and roads in the city safer and more accessible for all modes of transportation.
“Everyone becomes a pedestrian when we get out of our car,” Alexandra-Young said.
Shared Access Saratoga, the local group that developed the proposed Complete Streets policy, came up with a list of 50 issues regarding traffic and road safety, he said. The committee reduced this list to several priorities, including mapping traffic “hot spots” in the city and adopting a local Complete Streets policy.
Alexandra-Young said the policy reflects a “cultural change” in the city in which more and more people want to walk or bike to their destinations. He said Complete Streets creates a framework for that change to take place.
Action items attached to the policy include having the City Council create a seven-member advisory board, development of a Complete Streets checklist and placing the new policy on the city’s website (www.saratoga-springs.org). The draft policy is currently posted on the website.
Mayor Scott Johnson said he expects the council will vote on the policy at its May meeting. Accounts Commissioner John Franck said it appears the council is unanimously in support of it.
In August 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the statewide Complete Streets bill into law. The law, which went into effect earlier this year, requires that Complete Streets design guidelines be considered for the planning, design, construction and reconstruction and renovation of roadways receiving state or federal money.
“Typical design features include, but are not limited to, sidewalks, bike lanes, lane striping, shared roadway signage, crosswalks, traffic calming and bus pull outs,” according to a statement from Johnson.
Alexandra-Young said the greatest strength of the new Complete Streets policy is the diverse, widespread support it has received in Saratoga Springs.
James Letts, CEO of the Saratoga Regional YMCA, was among a dozen people speaking in favor of adopting the policy. He said he has seen such a policy implemented in Cambridge, Mass., and it is very effective.
Barbara Glaser, a founder of the city’s Open Space Project — now called Saratoga PLAN — said she walked to the council meeting and saw many others using the sidewalks and crosswalks on her way, including bike riders and parents pushing young children in strollers.
She found the involvement of bright young city residents in developing the new policy exciting. She said she has been involved in planning bike trails, including the Railroad Run trail that will eventually have a safe crossing of Route 50 onto a new trail currently being built in the Saratoga Spa State Park.
“This process has been great,” Glaser said.
Shared Access Saratoga has drawn on the expertise of its members, which include representatives of the city planning, engineering and public safety offices, Safe Routes to School, the Saratoga Healthy Transportation Network, Sustainable Saratoga, Skidmore College, the Capital District Transportation Authority, Saratoga Hospital and AARP.