CHN introduces Complete Streets initiative

MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Health Network wants to see more people walk and bike.

Andrew Dickson, environment consultant for the health network, recently presented the county Board of Health with ways in which the goal could potentially be achieved through a program called Complete Streets.

The initiative is an ordinance, not a mandate, adopted by municipalities which requires roadway projects to take into account the accessibility of both sides of the road in terms of safety and space.

Dickson said 520 municipalities in 27 states have Complete Streets policies, with 39 in New York state, including Jamestown.

“There is probably no single strategy which more comprehensively addresses every corner of our lives,” he added.

The term “complete street” is broad, but in rural areas is classified as safe, convenient and appealing with crosswalk signal improvements and textured crossing pavement. In rural areas, an example of a complete street could include an expanded shoulder, which is safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

An incomplete street has no sidewalk and no shoulder.

Dickson added that complete streets are case by case.

“Complete streets touch on every aspect of our lives,” he said. “Safety is a no-brainer. Jamestown and Dunkirk have 4.9 times more pedestrian-vehicle accidents than the national average.”

Additionally, in terms of childhood obesity rates, 90 percent of school children walked to school in 1969. By 1999, the number decreased to 30 percent, Dickson said.

“We had an obesity epidemic,” he added. “There’s a direct correlation.”

Lisa Schmidtfrerick-Miller, healthy communities consultant for the county Health Department, was also present to aid Dickson in his presentation and said she wants to introduce the idea to more municipalities in the county.

Schmidtfrerick-Miller said she is working closely with Dunkirk, Hanover and the villages of Silver Creek, Fredonia and Lakewood in implementing the Complete Streets initiative.

She also said the state Department of Transportation is open to working with communities.

“The communities have to be willing to work with them (the DOT),” Schmidtfrerick-Miller said.

An example of a Jamestown roadway influenced by the initiative was the repaving of Third Street in the summer of 2013, when the street was widened.

“The feedback has been positive,” Schmidtfrerick-Miller said. “The parking areas were clearly painted, making it more comfortable for motorists, and that was inexpensive. That’s a very simple example of a complete street.”

County Legislator Mark Tarbrake said his concern was funding.

“There is additional cost to widening a shoulder,” Dickson said. “This is project by project, though. We’re also paying for people that get hit by cars and go to WCA Hospital who don’t have health insurance.”