Pedestrian friendly in Gowanda

By MITCHELL G. CUMMINGS

Congratulations, not criticism, are in order for the village of Gowanda, Gowanda Central Schools and all other partners and participants of Gowanda’s Healthy Community Alliance in the award of their grant of $650,00 in federal monies passed through the state Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program.

Their combined efforts will result in village infrastructure improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists and the education of elementary students on how to safely navigate their village streets while walking or biking.

Here in Fredonia where I live, pedestrians and bicyclists seem not to warrant even a second thought – but are given virtually no thought whatsoever. Vehicles are allowed to park next to crosswalks, often hiding pedestrians from the view of oncoming drivers.

Tree branches and foliage are allowed to grow to the point where they obscure motorists’ views of pedestrian crosswalk warning signs. In winter, curb-cuts at intersections and crosswalks go unshoveled, some piled high with snow for weeks at a time.

This is a problem for walkers, and devastating for those who use wheelchairs and scooters.

Paint lines designating bike lanes on Fredonia or Dunkirk city streets? You must be out of your mind – forget it. Install bike racks strategically throughout both their business districts? Why? There are plenty of trees and parking meters for locking up a bike.

As a pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist using the sidewalks and streets of Dunkirk and Fredonia, I am amazed at how little attention is given the needs and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, especially when we are the home to thousands of college students for over three-quarters of the year.

As a professional driver of large commercial vehicles, I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is and how much safer for all concerned to drive on local roads that have been designed and are well marked for use by everyone, including pedestrians and bicyclists.

In my travels around our country I’ve noticed that municipalities that develop a “Complete Streets” approach also exhibit a greater vitality than those towns and cities that are negligent of the needs of all users of their transportation infrastructure.

Perhaps our citizens and political and civic leaders, including those at SUNY Fredonia and the OBSERVER should turn their eyes to our rural neighbors to the east to observe how progressive thinking and collaborative action combine to improve the quality of life in a community.

Bravo Gowanda!

Mitchell G. Cummings is a Fredonia resident.