With the vision that a Livable Community is a place where people of all ages and abilities have housing, mobility options and supportive community features that meet their needs, Newport, Rhode Island was selected by AARP-RI to be the first pilot city for a three tier plan for a Livable Community. Pre-planning meetings with Mayor Napolitano and City Planner Paige Bronk, resulted in a favorable reception to work with AARP on this program. At the request of the City Planner AARP provided support and testimony to the City Council when the resolution for contract funding appeared on the docket on April 22/2009.
AARP’s testimony placed emphasis on the further street deterioration and higher funding costs on this project if it continued to be studied for an indeterminate amount of time. The seriousness of the condition of the sidewalks in an area where there is elderly housing makes the undertaking of this program of utmost importance not only to those 50 and older, but to all residents who deserve safe, walkable streets.
After further discussion by the Council, a vote was taken and the resolution to contract for funding was passed 5—2.
A street assessment and photo report to the council noted:
- Most of the sidewalks in the survey were in desperate need of repair and repaving.
- A lack of or poorly designed handicapped accessible curb-cuts were a major deficiency.
- Many of the handicapped accessible parking street signs were worn away or faded.
- Pedestrian signals were non-existent at two major crossing sections on Broadway.
- Pedestrian signals, where available, do not accommodate those who walk more slowly or who display some form of disability. Neither do they take into account mothers walking with small children or pushing a stroller who require more time. A wide sidewalk without a signalized light can create a false sense of security that could result in a pedestrian fatality.
Two that were lacking signals or any safety reassurances for pedestrian crossing were Broadway at St. Joseph’s Church and Broadway and Dunkin Donuts. The crosswalk at Gould Street and Cranston Avenue also appeared to be wider than others we surveyed.
The Federal Highway Administration Highway Design Handbook for Older Drivers and Pedestrians suggests that the shorter stride and slower gait of less agile older pedestrians requires that control signal timing should be based on an assumed walking speed of 2.8 feet per second.
We also found a lack of pedestrian crossing signs made it difficult to locate crosswalks when automobiles were parked “nose in” on Broadway.
Visible pedestrian crossing signs will help alleviate the tendency to “jay walk” and will assist with traffic flow.
The parking set-up at Dunkin Donuts where cars are allowed to back out onto Broadway while pedestrians also use the same sidewalk is a disaster waiting to happen. It is also where one of the widest crossings is located which only adds to the danger.
While clean streets and attractive trees and plantings do not add to the safety factor, they certainly add to the “livability” factor of the city. Broadway needs more attention paid to the surround of the trees where roots are kicking up bricks and sidewalks. The planters are a wonderful addition to the area and we hope they will be planted and flourishing as the tourist season approaches.
We applaud the Newport administration and its various departments for their efforts to make Newport a true “Livable Community” and will continue to update our readers and members on our progress.