Pedestrians may be on their way to a safer way to walk through Winter Park after the city discusses a “Complete Streets” proposal that would make it less hazardous to travel through the city on foot.
The City Commission will attempt to pass a resolution in support of more walkable streets at the Commission’s meeting on Monday, May 9, using the National Complete Streets Coalition approach.
The City Commission had heard a proposal on April 11 by Dan Burden, executive director of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, touting the importance of improving pedestrian safety to avoid accidents, particularly along well-traveled streets such as Fairbanks and Orange Avenues.
He said that streets can be especially unsafe for young children, citing concern for his own children’s safety and the decline of safe roads for pedestrians over the past several decades.
“We need to think about complete streets for our own children,” Burden said. “One in four children could walk to school when I first arrived [in Winter Park], and now we’re at one in 16.”
Mayor Ken Bradley said he wanted to see options improved for walking to school.
“I don’t know what the right number should be for the amount of kids who can walk to school, but I’d like for them all to have the option,” Bradley said.
Asked about safety concerns for children walking in the city, Commissioner Steven Leary said that he thought the city was already safe, though he was open to improvement.
“I’d certainly disagree that our city is unsafe for children,” Leary said. “Our city is very safe. But anything can be improved. I ran for office because anything can be improved.”
It could also help improve mobility for seniors who are unable to drive, but who live near shopping centers, such as The Mayflower retirement community.
The plan would call for more sidewalks to be built, especially near residential areas, and for the addition of more trees for health, safety and water management purposes.
“It’s a great plan in general,” Leary said.
The addition of more trees could impact the city in unexpected ways, Burden said.
Of a long list of safety and quality of life improvements listed by Walkable Communities, a reduction in road rage could be among them, according to a collection of research compiled by the USDA Forest Service’s Lynne Westphal.
But the city’s least tree-lined street, along the west end of Fairbanks Avenue, could have another hurdle ahead of any improvements — the FDOT.
“We have to meet certain specifications that are put on us by the FDOT,” Leary said. “I’m all for trees everywhere as long as they meet the requirements of the governmental authority.”
But even before that resolution is up for vote, the city is already moving forward with planning more sidewalks, Bradley said.
“We’ve taken initial action to suggest we’re going to put more sidewalks through our neighborhoods,” he said. “I think walkabililty is very important for all of our citizens.”
Visit www.completestreets.org for more information about the National Complete Streets Coalition’s philosophy.