Qualls pushes council to make streets 'for people, not just cars'

Cincinnati City Councilmember and chair of the Vibrant Neighborhoods Committee, Roxanne Qualls introduced a resolution supporting the federal Complete Streets Act of 2009, a piece of legislation meant to encourage streets that are safe for all forms of human transportation.

Sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and introduced earlier this month, the legislation promotes the design of streets that are safe for motorists, bus and transit riders, pedestrians, bicyclists, and people with disabilities by directing state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to adopt and implement complete streets policies for federally-funded transportation projects.

It would also update the current federal code on pedestrian and bicycle accommodation and authorize research, data collection, technical assistance and dissemination of best practices.

Qualls' resolution is currently in council's Economic Development Committee, which next meets on April 7.

"We actually put funds in the biennial budget to develop a complete streets program," Qualls says.  "So the city has already recognized the need to design streets for people, not just cars.  Ultimately, the goal is to make our streets multi-modal."

According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, more than 5,000 annual fatalities and 70,000 injuries occur to pedestrians and bicyclists because of inadequate sidewalks and crosswalks, space for bicyclists, and room for transit riders.

Locally, the city's Department of Transportation and Engineering has been working with the Mount Washington Community Council to retrofit a portion of Beechmont Avenue that has seen an increase in speeding and accidents since a road widening project in 2004.

Residents of Westwood have also requested traffic calming measures for a mostly residential – but busy – section of Montana Avenue.

"Our competitive advantage is in our neighborhoods, and our quality of life is dependent on our streets," Qualls says.  "If we look at our streets as our largest public spaces, then the quality of those spaces is critical to economic development."

Qualls says that complete streets is one of many strategies that cities are using to become more walkable and mixed-use, pointing out that more than 80 state and local governments already have passed complete streets policies.

"It's a matter of changing how we think about streets," Qualls says.  "What we recognize is that if you design streets for cars, you get cars.  If you design streets for people and alternative modes of transportation, that's what you'll get."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
Sources: Roxanne Qualls, Cincinnati City Council; Jennifer O'Donnell, assistant to Councilmember Qualls
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