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Complete Streets Driving Change Across Indiana

Complete Streets driving change across Indiana

— ONIMAGE/plainpicture/Corbis

Have car, will travel.

But if you walk, ride a bike, or take the bus? As they say in New York City, fuhgeddaboutit.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Indiana cities, towns and suburbs can accommodate everyone’s need for mobility, regardless of age, ability or mode of transit.

We just have to break the habit – call it a mindset – that cars are king and all our transportation planning should bow to that reality.

Change is coming, due in no small part to Complete Streets campaigns that AARP Indiana has launched in communities across our state.

So far, Complete Streets policies have been adopted by Metropolitan Planning Organizations in northwestern Indiana; Bloomington/Monroe County; Anderson/Madison County; and the city of Columbus.

Now we’re taking our campaigns to Lafayette/West Lafayette and to Fort Wayne.

Here’s one example why:

Greenbush Street in Lafayette is a major east-west thoroughfare that abuts the Market Square Shopping Center on the north side of town. But the street lacks sidewalks, crosswalks and bus shelters.

CityBus offers designated stops along the route, but passengers cannot safely cross the busy street or walk on firm footing to their choice of stores and restaurants in the sprawling retail hub.

Nearby residents are affected, too, especially children and seniors. A thousand people age 50+ live in the census tract that includes the mall, and 250 of them are age 75+. Do planners and engineers seriously think they’re all driving?

Complete Streets policies don’t require expensive retrofits of existing roads. But when new roads are planned and built, or existing roads are modified or upgraded, Complete Streets policies ensure that planners and engineers think outside the box.

What’s outside the box? There’s no single prescription for Complete Streets, but common features include sidewalks, bike lanes, wide shoulders, plenty of pedestrian crossing opportunities and user-friendly signals and signage.

It doesn’t have to be hard, either. The city of Indianapolis has recently created 23 miles of bike paths just by striping existing roads.

What will our campaign involve?

Look for Complete Streets ads on buses in Tippecanoe County and billboards in Fort Wayne. They’ll include an Internet address where people can get more information.

We’ll also hold briefings for elected officials, engineers and planning personnel who comprise the Metropolitan Planning Organizations for those areas.

And we’ll generate as much media attention as we can, especially when the MPOs take up Complete Streets policies for a vote.

What can you do?

Visit the National Complete Streets Coalition to learn more.

Contact AARP Indiana, email iwegner@aarp.org, for local advocacy opportunities.

And tell your Metropolitan Planning Organization that cars aren’t king anymore – you are.

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