Complete Streets redux
[Text and photos by Jen Rice.]
To get back to the Complete Streets issue, I’m glad that the community is having a conversation about what this means for our small towns and rural communities — I hope it can continue in a more constructive and informed manner. After working toward complete streets goals in this rural region for fifteen years at RCAA, I will say it is absolutely erroneous to assume that complete streets means sidewalks or any other ‘urban’ form of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. You can read the text of the 2008 Complete Streets Act here. it specifically calls for providing a “multimodal transportation network… suitable to the rural, suburban and urban context”.
The photo of Bayside above shows an example of what ‘rural’ complete streets can look like and a few other photos I took in Weott:Carlotta: and Hoopa: showing what kinds of safety issues we’re faced with every day in our rural communities. I have hundreds more like these. Kids’ safety walking to schools on rural roads, families being able to push strollers without traffic conflicts, people getting to the store on horseback because they don’t own a car — these are not political issues, they are basic needs that can be addressed with infrastructure improvements in many rural communities and small towns. In many places, I’m sure rural roads will stay just like they are… to say that ‘complete streets’ means sidewalks in places like Blocksburg or Whitethorn would be crazy: no one has ever suggested any such thing to my knowledge.
Complete Streets Humboldt Style could mean a gravel path for pedestrians on the shoulder of Red Cap Road; a multi-use trail adjacent to the Avenue of the Giants, between Arcata and Blue Lake, from Elk Meadow through Orick to the Redwood National Park Interpretive Center; between Willow Creek and the Elementary School or between Redway and Garberville; wider road shoulders and a little traffic calming on Westhaven Drive; a downtown Willow Creek-style treatment for any number of our small towns; or bike lanes and sidewalks on School Road from the shopping center to the Hammond Trail. These visions vary in cost and complexity and have been heard loud and clear around the county for decades from communities of every shape and size. They have not only safety benefits, but economic development, health and environmental impact benefits. We can achieve these goals if we work together, regardless of our politics (!), and put our ingenious, creative and community-loving hearts and souls into making them reality.
Jen Rice, Co-Director of the Natural Resources Services Division
Redwood Community Action Agency