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AARP Collaboration Brings Complete Streets to Fairhope

Fairhope was the first city in Alabama to pass a “Complete Streets” policy, and they are once again leading the way in the area of pedestrian and cyclist safety, thanks to a collaboration with AARP Alabama.

The Fairhope City Council recently approved a plan to make the city’s streets more accessible and safe for everyone, but at the same time, improve the climate for the business community.

“A bicyclist who rides through Fairhope will spend an average of $19 a day with local businesses, according to some estimates,” said Tedson Meyers, executive council member and Fairhope resident.

“If that cyclist stays overnight, you can add another $50 to that. We want to encourage bicyclists and hikers to come to our central business district and stay a while,” Meyers said

After the downtown streets were repaved, city officials decided to put striping on hold until the area could be evaluated by nationally known expert on livable communities, Dan Burden of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute. Burden was brought to the city through collaboration between AARP, Smart Coast and the city. In the past two years, AARP has sponsored visits to a five Alabama cities by Burden, including Birmingham, Orange Beach and Mobile, and “Complete Streets” remains a priority for the state office in 2012.

Burden visited Fairhope, and a group of more than 30 city officials, employees and citizens accompanied him as he walked the central downtown area and made recommendations for making the city more pedestrian- and business-friendly.

Among those recommendations, he suggested the elimination of parking spaces that require backing into crosswalk, and the addition of curb extensions in their place for bike racks.

Burden also recommended cyclists be discouraged from traveling through the middle of downtown Fairhope, and instead adding new bike lanes on streets with less vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Ultimately the redesign added about 40 new parking spaces to downtown Fairhope, which will benefit local businesses. According to Burden, design experts say one parking space translates to about $200,000 a year in sales, as long as it is not used by business owners or employees and has regular turnover.

AARP State Director Jesse Salinas said, “Complete Streets is good for the business community, and benefits the health and safety of Fairhope residents and visitors. It’s another way AARP Alabama will continue working to improve the lives of all Alabamians of every age in 2012.”

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