City planner looks at ‘complete streets’

With so many subdivisions and planned unit developments being built in Bedford County, new transportation concepts being used in the northwest are catching the eye of Shelbyville's planning director.

Published September 25, 2007 by Shelbyville Times-Gazette

With so many subdivisions and planned unit developments being built in Bedford County, new transportation concepts being used in the northwest are catching the eye of Shelbyville's planning director.

Kirkland, Wash., is attracting planners from around the country who are looking at its street designs, which keep busy roadways safe for bike riders and walkers without adding new lanes. The idea is called "complete streets," and it allows pedestrians, bicyclists and those using public transportation to safely share the road with cars and trucks.

This is accomplished with widened sidewalks, flowered medians and flashing lights embedded at crosswalks at busy intersections. Biking lanes can be found in the city's busiest areas and pedestrians have no problems getting around even with all the motorized traffic.

Shelbyville's planning commission is currently looking at subdivision regulations. The concepts that the city's planning director Kip Green is talking about aren't included in the drafts, but he thinks they are a good idea for the future.

"This is a very good example of livable streets, not just subdivisions but actual business streets … things that are usually incorporated into a planned unit development" (PUD), Green said. PUDs can contain both homes and businesses, and Green sees a situation in which someone would not have to drive to the corner market but could walk or ride a bicycle.

Kirkland is currently one of 52 cities or towns, six counties and 10 regional governments with policies requiring that their roads are designed or redesigned for all types of travel, on foot, two or four wheels. As a result, Green said that small shops and boutiques are moving into the area to be closer to their customers.

"People are parking their vehicles and carpooling with public transit or other means of transportation that do not live nearby," Green said. "They just come there for the experience of their brick-laid sidewalks, their landscaping … this is about the quality of life instead of the quantity."

Green said he would like to see the concept applied in some of the larger developments planned that include commercial areas so that those who walk or ride would be safe, even having vehicular traffic being secondary to pedestrian and bike traffic.

"These kind of livable developments become magnets for our community, people will desire to come here because of the way we live," Green said. "We don't live in the rat race, we live in a small southern community where we can enjoy our life."

He sees the concept as a "value-adding element" to the city and could be used in some respects on Shelbyville's historic public square to control traffic in such a way to promote pedestrian traffic.

"This is a way of thinking outside the box that is very successful," Green said of the concept.