Creating Safer Streets with Demonstration Projects

How do pedestrians experience your Main Street?

Main Street’s were made for walking, but some of our Virginia downtowns are still not pedestrian friendly.  The National Complete Streets Coalition’s mission to increase safe, comfortable and convenient access to community destinations and public places – whether walking, driving, bicycling or taking public transportation.  To test out creative approaches to safer street design, NCSC recently launched the Safe Streets Academy.

They worked with three cities around the country to build skills in safer street design, creative placemaking and community engagement, then helped the cities put these skills to work.  Through three demonstration projects, localities in Florida, Kentucky and Indiana transformed their streets, intersections and neighborhoods into slower, safer places for people.

In an inspired approach to planning, each locality collaborated with residents by leading peer-to-peer engagement efforts on the front end, versus coming up with solutions, then bringing them to the public.  The residents took the lead pinpointing problems at targeted intersections and guided solutions to address them.  Because of this, the localities were able to implement much more effective, relevant projects that earned stronger support from the public.

You can learn from the stories of these demonstration projects to test out low-cost ways to create safer streets.  Find out more here >>

To see these pedestrian safety initiatives in action in a Virginia community, look over Staunton’s recently approved Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

Also, click here to check out the new Main Street Approach Design Handbook, intended to help community leaders implement a people-centered design process.  

The entrepreneur as community problem solver

Give an entrepreneur a challenge and let them rise to it.  That strategy is fueling two transportation efficiency efforts, and it may provide a much needed model for community problem-solving. 

In one case, Oliver Kuttner, a Lynchburg entrepreneur, is responding to the fuel efficiency challenge made by Progressive Automotive’s X-Prize: to create a practical, safe car that can travel 100 miles on a gallon of gasoline. His company, Edison2, is working to make a vehicle as light and easy to move as possible.  With relatively little investment, the X-Prize is sparking many times the $10 million in investment from 40 teams across 11 countries. And it may result in a worldwide transportation paradigm shift.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority (which didn’t have $10 million dollars to address their problem), wanted to create a mobile phone application to  provide real-time information to bus riders.  To do it, they gave software developers free access to their data and recently convened 200 software entrepreneurs to hear about the needs of users. The prize for workable mobile applications: free rides for a year. The response was quick.  Now passengers have mobile phone and Web application that cost the authority very little, and ridership is up. 

What challenges are you facing in your community?  What goals do you have for your downtown?  Could there be an entrepreneur-based solution?  There might be a way you can spark local creativity, get the job done, and save money.