Transportation visions for the North Country’s future

Phil VonBargen leads a tour at the end of the Vision2Action transportation forum.

Phil VonBargen leads a tour at the end of the Vision2Action transportation forum. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

— Remember when you rode a bike or walked to school?

Walked to the theater? Walked to the playground and beach? Walked to a friend’s house?

Remember when you walked?

These are questions Laurie Williams of the Clinton County Health Department asked at Vision2Action’s Transportation forum. The group has been holding forums focusing on transportation, recreation, the arts and education, with an aim of revitalizing the North Country.

“Roads were built for cars,” Williams said. “Not for biking and running.”

Obesity levels nationwide continue to rise, she warned, and road safety must improve so more people can bike, walk and run on the “shared roadways.”

“We need policy reform.”

She called for requiring sidewalks in new development and ensuring public transportation can be reached without a vehicle.

“Complete streets are the answer.”

Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe, attractive, and comfortable access and travel for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, public transport users, and individuals of all ages and abilities.

A Federal Highway Administration safety review found that complete streets improve pedestrian safety.

As of 2001, complete street policies have been endorsed or adopted by 224 U.S. jurisdictions, including 23 states.

New York endorsed them in 2011, and the Clinton County Legislature passed a resolution supporting they be considered for all projects.

“You guys are doing so many interesting things,” said Jeff Olsen, an architect and planner whose worked has taken him around the world.

Olsen said the design profession is undergoing an evolution as the focus is increasingly on pedestrians and bicyclists first and then seeing where the road goes.

“We are not alone,” he said. “Places all over New York and the U.S. are trying to solve these issues.”

The Saranac River Trail could be a catalyst to improved road access for all in the area, Olsen said.

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