Longview officials are looking to make transportation for cyclists and pedestrians as safe and reliable as driving a car through town.
Longview staff are scheduled Thursday to recommend the City Council adopt a plan, created over the last year, that would guide the city to expand and improve bicycle and pedestrian paths to provide equal access for everyone navigating city streets regardless of age or ability.
In 2019, the city adopted an ordinance to join a national initiative called Complete Streets, where roads are designed for users of all ages and abilities, not just motorists, by adding or improving options such as sidewalks, crosswalks and bike lanes.
Proponents say the transportation work is a win for health and mobility: Locals will have more access to physical activity, and people who have trouble using sidewalks or can’t afford cars still can reach city destinations.
About 150 cities have adopted Complete Streets ordinances throughout the state, including Castle Rock in 2017, according to the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board.
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City staff are scheduled to recommend adopting the bicycle and pedestrian plan at Thursday’s workshop meeting, prior to the regular council session.
A staff report states the plan includes a step-by-step guide to achieve the Complete Streets vision, which is for toddlers to retirees, and people of all abilities.
“A guiding question for pedestrian and bicycle facility designers should be: Will this design … allow my daughter or my grandfather to walk or bike here safely?” states the report.
Most people use cars in Longview because the city is designed for such travel, states the report. The plan aims to shape streets so bikes could be used for everyday use, such as going to the grocery store, not just for exercise or entertainment like when people rent bikes on vacations.
“Whether going to the grocery store, grabbing lunch with a friend, or visiting the dentist, all residents and visitors to Longview should have the option to answer ‘How am I going to get to my destination?’ with ‘By bike’ or ‘By foot,’ “ states the report.
The plan aims to create secure places to leave bikes at destinations like stores and restaurants, where typically there are options to park cars but not bikes.
The plan includes proposed trails, bicycle paths and shared roads throughout the city. The report states the paths would be constructed or improved individually but would be part of a larger, continuous system throughout the city.
Pedestrian improvements could include filling sidewalk gaps, continuing ramp replacements to adhere to Americans with Disability Act requirements and upgrading pedestrian signals to remove barriers for people with disabilities.
The plan was created by a city advisory committee on Complete Streets, as well as other residents, volunteers and city staff, according to a staff report. The report says the city saved money and time by having volunteers create this plan as opposed to hiring a consultant.
Open houses for the plan were held from February through March, and the city reached out to the state transportation department, the Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Council of Governments and Longview’s diking district, receiving more than 280 comments, which were added to the most current plan.