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Efforts to make Madison more bike- and pedestrian friendly took another step forward at a recent Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting when the board unanimously approved the Complete Streets Policy, a multifaceted plan to give residents and visitors more safe ways to move around town without the use of a car.
The Ad-Hoc Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee put the policy forward to the BOS earlier this year for its review. The nine-member committee started work early this calendar year under the charge of developing a bike and pedestrian master plan.
According to the charge of the committee, “the primary emphasis of the plan shall be to improve the town’s facilities and infrastructure that are critical to making participation in these activities safer and easier, and to promote public participation in the bicycle and pedestrian planning process. In addition to development of a bicycle and pedestrian master plan, [the committee] shall also advise the Board of Selectmen on funding, projects, programs, and policies [that] help promote bicycling and walking as a means of transportation, recreation, and fitness.”
Complete Streets is a movement across the nation designed to support integrated transportation networks that support, “all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, persons with disabilities, motorists, transit vehicles, emergency responders, users and operators of public transportation, seniors, children, youth, and families,” according to the policy.
Director of Planning and Economic Development Dave Anderson, who serves as a town staff liaison to the committee, previously said Anderson said residents have expressed a need for Madison to be more bike- and pedestrian friendly. He said this policy will be a key tool when the town considers any sort of infrastructure upgrade in the coming years. If, for example, the town plans to rebuild a road, this policy will guide the town to possibly widen the road or include sidewalks in that construction.
The plan would apply to “any project where it is reasonable of financially feasible to include pedestrian or cyclist improvements,” Anderson said. “That could mean simply widening the shoulder by about a foot, it could mean a sign, or it could mean a sidewalk. There are potential expenditures, but that is a part of the potential project scope.”
The committee was tasked with having a formal policy by June and put the completed document before the BOS for final approval on May 29. First Selectman Tom Banisch said the only concern thus far has been what this policy might mean in relation to the town roadwork plan.
“There is going to be a priority list of roads, and the other thing we are going to have to do is come up with a funding source for this, so that is something we will talk about with the Board of Finance and the Finance Department because to do these improvements we need a funding stream,” Banisch said. “I think it is something we might want to put in the Capital Improvement Program.”
Committee member Ellen Weiss said costs to make improvements don’t have to be exorbitant and that the town could actually save money by properly planning for things like striping bike lanes or adding curb cuts before the roadwork begins. She said the policy doesn’t force the town to do anything, but just encourages collaboration.
“It’s based on what you have available and what the priorities are,” she said. “It’s a joint decision between all of the stakeholders. It’s not just us forcing you to do something and we are trying to get a lot of input from the town through a survey on where people want this to go.”
Banisch agreed and said a policy such as this is the right step for Madison.
“This is a living document and it is going to continue to evolve,” he said. “The main point of doing it is to start to instill awareness in people for incorporating these kinds of projects.”
The committee recently put out a survey online asking people where they walk or bike in town and what kind of safety improvements residents would like to see in specific areas. Residents on Facebook who took the survey commented with suggestions such as a sidewalk from West Wharf Road to the Town Green to make getting from the beach to town center safer and looking at possible improvements on Route 79.
The survey is available at www.madisonct.org (search “BPAC Survey”). There will be a drawing from participant names on Friday, Aug. 31 and the winner will receive a Fitbit Versa. In addition to the survey, the town website has links to the policy and a presentation on the policy.
The committee also recently held an event at Daniel Hand High School on June 2 called a Bike Safety Rodeo. The event was hosted by Boy Scout Troop 490 and included bike safety checks, skills courses, prizes and fun for kids K-4th grade. Zane’s Cycles, North Madison Volunteer Fire Company, Madison Bicycle, and Pedestrian Committee supported the event.
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