Have you Heard of Complete Streets?

by Harold Watson
Member of Complete Streets

Not all of the Covid-19 Pandemic has been negative. Adult recreational bike sales in March ballooned by 121% compared to the same month a year ago, according to Bicycling Retailer and Industry News. Between walkers and cyclists my neighbors make the case for Complete Streets.

It is clear to me as an avid cyclist, as the Chair of the Stratford Planning Commission, and as a member of the Stratford Housatonic Greenway Committee, that a lot of people don’t know what a Complete Street really means. First it’s a worldwide movement to make local networks of transport equal for all modes of transportation, while also enhancing our visual streetscape environment.

In 2016 a Stratford Complete Streets initiative resulted in a plan that lays out the vision for transforming Stratford’s Streets. In 2017, this was adopted as ordinance. Details for both are available on the Stratford Planning Commission webpage.

From the report: “A street can be a place or a connection. A majority of roadways in the United States (including Stratford) have been designed with the primary function of serving as a link for automobile travel. Roadways designed in this fashion typically function as efficient conduits for motor vehicle travel, but are often poor links for other modes of transportation, including walking and biking.  Additionally, roadways have the ability to function as a social space by establishing a relationship to the places where people live, work and play. Treating streets simply as links for automobiles often ignores the other important contexts and functions that streets should address.”

The Complete Streets design philosophy and adopted ordinance of 2017 enhances our current street planning by enabling safe, convenient, and comfortable networks of travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their transportation mode. It is a person-oriented design philosophy that seeks to facilitate safe travel and a sense of place for those walking, bicycling, driving an automobile, or riding public transportation – thus creating a Complete Street for all users and their mode of choice. It will be important to consider both the movement zone and the placemaking zone when designing Stratford Streets as a Complete Street.

Specific to Stratford Complete Streets two projects are now in the design/build stage: The Main Street Project (from Barnum to near Stratford Avenue) aims to improve connectivity between residential and commercial areas, support multiple modes of transportation, increase safety and accessibility, and foster healthy lifestyles. The Town of Stratford has taken several steps including receiving CT DOT funding to promote safe streets and encourage a more vibrant downtown in this Transit Oriented District (TOD.) This will extend the Housatonic Greenway, by connecting Main Street via a new on and off road phase from Elm Street to Short Beach. By focusing on key street corridors in the public right of way, both projects build on past and ongoing initiatives to create a framework for future development that beautifies the public realm; transforms streets into active, healthy corridors for all modes of travel; connects residents and visitors to major destinations; provides a safe, accessible environment for users of all ages and abilities; and helps revitalizes the downtown and will eventually create safe corridors between all our schools and parks with the next future project likely extending to the Paradise Green Business District.

I encourage you to look at the plans for the town-wide Stratford Housatonic Greenway that includes off and on-road trails.  If you ride, there is a Facebook page of the same name that welcomes your participation.

by Harold Watson
Member of Complete Streets
Chairman of Planning Commission
Member of Greenway Committee
Stratford Housing Partnership

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