Kure Beach Council Wants More Info On WMPO Mayor's Challenge

Kure Beach Council Wants More Info On WMPO Mayor's Challenge Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 25 February 2015 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

KURE BEACH - The Kure Beach Town Council wants more info regarding a "Mayor's Challenge" regarding bike and pedestrian safety presented by the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) in a recent email to Mayor Dean Lambeth.
Councilman David Heglar said while it sounds like a great thing, he wanted to know the return on spending taxpayers’ dollars in terms of staff time collecting data and making ordinance changes.
During the Council's February 17th, meeting, Town MPO committee member John Ellen explained Mike Kozlosky, Executive Director of WMPO, recently sent an email to Mayor Lambeth, "And it talks about a Mayor's Challenge for street and pedestrian safety and I wonder if indeed this city is going to accept that challenge and if you were and haven't picked a representative yet, I volunteer."
Council member Emilie Swearingen said that not everyone on Council had seen the email. Ellen quoted part of the email stating, "On January 23rd, United States Department Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the Mayor's Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets. Secretary is challenging Mayors and local elected officials to take advantage and action to improve safety for bike riders and pedestrians of all ages and abilities over the next year. The Mayor's Challenge participants would be invited to attend the Mayor's summit... sometime in March and the cities will spend the next year helping the community undertake seven activities to improve safety."
Ellen explained, "Those seven are, take a Complete Streets approach to identify and address the barriers to making the streets safe and convenient for road users. Gather and track biking and walking data. Use designs that are appropriate to the context of the street and its uses. Capture the opportunities to build on road bike networks during routine resurfacing. Improve walking and biking safety laws and regulations and educate and enforce the proper road use behavior."
No direct financial assistance is associated with the Challenge.
According to the USDOT, " Complete streets make it safe and convenient for people of all ages and abilities to reach their destination whether by car, train, bike, or foot. A Complete Streets approach starts with a policy commitment to prioritize and integrate all road users into every transportation project. The ability for older adults, young children, and people with disabilities to travel safely is critical to freedom of mobility and quality of life. People may have challenges with eyesight, reaction times, cognitive ability and muscle dexterity that travel difficult. The lack of systematic data collection related to walking and bicycling transportation, such as count data, travel survey data, and injury data, creates challenges for improving non-motorized transportation networks and safety. Communities that routinely collect walking and biking data are better positioned to track trends and prioritize investments."
The USDOT states, "Transportation agencies are encouraged, when possible, to go beyond designing walking and bicycling facilities to the minimum standards. It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility. Planning projects for the long-term should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities and not preclude the provision of future improvements. Expanding and improving existing roads and facilities to build biking and walking networks as part of regular and routine resurfacing and other maintenance programs can be a low cost alternative to building new roads or widening existing roads."
The USDOT Challenge states that, "Traffic laws such as reduced speed, failure to yield, passing, and helmet laws can be effective in improving safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. Highly-visible and well publicized targeted enforcement tied with educational campaign has shown to be effective in reducing crashes."
Council member Emilie Swearingen explained, "I think with all of the tourists we have here, having safer streets would be a good thing to have and if you are volunteering to be our leader for it I would certainly be in favor of it."
Councilman David Heglar explained, "Where are we going to focus on time, energy and money on because this is going to be another one of those things where the police chief and the public works director are going to get sucked into it. Like most big government programs it has seven parts, so I'm sure there's all kinds of data stuff that Nancy is going to have to poll the fire chief on about how many people got hurt the last ten years on the streets. We are going to have to pay someone to go out and watch the traffic to say how many bikes we have on the weekends."
Heglar said, "What are we going to get for it. That would be my question. What comes out of it that helps the citizens for the investment I think it's going to require?"
Swearingen said, "I don't see us paying somebody to go out and keep track of traffic and bicycles."
Ellen said, "I agree we should not spend any money... to be a part of this. It might be some advertising."
Heglar said, "It's like every other great safety thing right? It's great on the surface but them it becomes, to meet the requirements of that program, as you heard, without looking at it there's seven parts and some of them require data... read the data requirements. Some of them require changing ordinances to conform to whatever the safety person says the ordinances are for safe people on the streets. So that's an ordinance change to the Planning and Zoning Commission and Council."
He said, "I see it a lot of different ways. If we get something for it. If we had people that the fire department were going to calls on getting hurt, we should address that, not participate in this big program necessarily. Not that I'm against them per se but I just don't see the clear path of what we are getting out of it. I'm fine with sending a rep to ask that question but that is what I would want to know."
Ellen explained, "I think... we are a fairly safe community. We don't have a lot of accidents. Talking to
the Police Chief, last year there were only three bicycle accidents. My understanding is, two of those, a bike actually hit a parked car."
Heglar said, "I'm on the fire department. We go to the calls. I'm not saying our streets are as safe as they should be or could be, what I'm saying is, is this program going to make them better for the investment?"
Mayor Pro Tem Craig Bloszinsky asked how to get more information on the Challenge and when the Town would have to appoint or designate someone to head up the program.
Heglar said, "If you see it's worthwhile, make the case. That's all I'm asking. I can see it becoming an issue for the police, public works, potentially Town Hall, according to what they have to look up. I want the town recognized for good stuff."
According to the USDOT, the challenge is based on the 2010 USDOT Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. USDOT recognizes the many benefits walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life.
If the Town Council decides to participate, USDOT will invite participants to attend the Mayors' Challenge Summit kick-off event at USDOT’s Headquarters’ office in Washington, DC on Thursday, March 12, 2015.
The Summit will bring together participating cities to network and learn more about the Challenge activities. USDOT Staff members will share the resources and tools available to help cities with Challenge activities.
Challenge cities will also have the opportunity to participate in peer-to-peer sessions, topical webinars, receive USDOT updates, and other benefits added throughout the challenge year. At the conclusion of the Challenge year they will be invited to a capstone event to celebrate accomplishments and share best practices.
Challenge cities win by improving walking and biking that contributes to the health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life for its community members.

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