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Cooper County group considers safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians

Writer:

Roger Meissen
Senior Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-884-8696
Email: MeissenR@missouri.edu

Published: Friday, April 1, 2011

Story source:

Trevor Harris, (573) 884-8602

 BOONVILLE, MO – For Mike and Kathy Kelley, improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure is a quality of life issue.

“We’ve lived all over Europe and the U.S. in places rural and urban with good infrastructure systems and bad,” Boonville resident Mike Kelley said. “When a city doesn’t do any planning it affects the lifestyle, the physical fitness and the health of the citizens.”

The Kelley’s joined talks with city officials and concerned citizens last week at the Boonslick-Heartland YMCA about making streets safer and more inviting to navigate without a car. They’re not trying to replace cars, but a new University of Missouri Extension initiative might help plan future pedestrian and bicycle routes in Cooper County.

“We’re putting the spotlight on the merits of building safe access for those who can’t or choose not to drive,” said Trevor Harris, project coordinator for Missouri Livable Streets. “We’re encouraging cities to establish and band together with bike and pedestrian advocacy groups to plan for a future friendly to all types of travel.”

Missouri Livable Streets wants communities to think about how to mesh health concerns with needs of the elderly and disabled along with safe school routes for children and local business connectivity. A livable street preserves space for automobiles while allowing all residents to walk, bike or wheel to important destinations within a community.

For Theresa Hendrix – CEO of the Boonslick-Heartland YMCA and a cofounder of the Cooper County Healthy Lifestyles Initiative – making streets more versatile means a healthier community. She’s spearheading an effort to develop a Master Trails plan for Cooper County.

 “We need to do something to address the obesity factor and the healthy lifestyles people are lacking,” Hendrix said. “I have a vision of connecting the rest of Cooper County with Boonville.”

Boonville has a foot up on some communities in planning livable streets.

The City already runs a program that encourages new ADA-accessible sidewalks by reimbursing property owners for 90 percent of their expenses. Sidewalk requirements are also part of developer specifications when building new houses and neighborhoods. Currently the city is pursuing a USDA Rural Development grant to extend sidewalks from the intersection of Main and Poplar streets to Orscheln Farm and Home. At the same time the YMCA and the Cooper County Public Health Department are pursuing Missouri Foundation for Health funding.

Yet, these efforts remain disconnected.

YMCA and health department plans don’t link with plans from the city’s Department of Public Works, which don’t coordinate with the development plans of Boonville Parks and Recreation. At the same time, money to complete new projects is also an issue. 

Boonville Public Works Director M.L. Cauthon said finding creative, cheap ways to advance this cause need to be considered.

“If you start talking about an expensive sidewalk network people will turn you off real quick, but it could be as simple as painting a white line edge marking on the street or bike route markers,” Cauthon said. “In many of these small towns like Prairie Home and Bunceton where the streets aren’t as dangerous to walk, why not concentrate on pedestrians by marking the town with mileage markers so you know how far you walk?”

Harris plans to work with Cooper County communities to gauge the need and priorities for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure and the true walkability of neighborhoods. Harris will develop a survey to gauge public opinion in the respective communities of Cooper County and work with the city and citizens to get public input.

To get in on the Cooper County livable streets discussion, come to the next meeting Tuesday, April 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Boonslick-Heartland YMCA, 737 Third Street in Boonville.

Read more about Missouri Livable Streets at http://missourilivablestreets.blogspot.com.