Complete Streets Idea Taking Hold

A strong contingent of Rye residents have been actively working to make getting from “point A to point B” safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike.

a3 cadenhead
Published August 23, 2013 4:22 PM
4 min read


a3 cadenheadA strong contingent of Rye residents have been actively working to make getting from “point A to point B” safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike.

By Bill Lawyer  

a3 cadenhead

A strong contingent of Rye residents have been actively working to make getting from “point A to point B” safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists alike. 

In the past few years, tangible improvements have been made by – new crosswalks, sharrows on Forest Avenue, and a stop sign on Midland Avenue. More are scheduled for the coming months, thanks to a state grant. 

Now, action is being taken on the county and national levels to support and enhance the local initiatives being carried out by communities such as ours. 

County Legislator Judy Myers has co-sponsored the adoption of a Complete Streets policy throughout Westchester. On the federal level, Congressional members from California and Ohio have submitted a bill to adopt the Safe Streets Act of 2013. 

Rye’s Steve Cadenhead notes: “Complete Streets are safe, comfortable, and convenient for travel for everyone, regardless of age or ability — motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation riders. A complete streets policy insures that all of these needs are taken into account when any construction takes place.”

He added that, “While New York State passed a Complete Streets law in 2011, it only applies to state roads. We need similar action and awareness at the county and municipal level.”

Working with the City Council, the Rye Shared Roadway Committee drafted a four-page resolution in 2012 to establish a complete streets policy. After an extensive introductory section, the resolution focuses on five directives: 

The City will design, operate, and maintain our transportation network of facilities accommodating each mode of travel that is consistent with and supportive of the local community, recognizing that all streets are different and that the needs of various users will need to be balanced in a flexible manner.

Those planning and designing street projects will give due consideration to bicyclists and pedestrians, from the start of planning and design work. This will apply to all roadway projects, including those involving new construction, reconstruction, repaving, or changes in the allocation of pavement space on an existing roadway.

Street treatments will include bike lanes, sidewalks, frequent crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, and roundabouts.

Projects will be planned to fill pedestrian/bicycle gaps with access to significant destinations, high-use corridors, and links with trails or paths, without duplication of existing routes. 

Any exception to the application of this policy must he approved by the City Council.

An additional directive provides a list of exceptions wherein the “needs of bicyclist and pedestrian transportation users” do not have to be incorporated into roadway projects.  Exceptions include “ordinary maintenance” projects, where the bike/walk ways are disproportionately costly, and those where “adverse impacts” will occur on neighboring land uses or the environment. 

The resolution concludes by calling for the establishment of a Complete Streets Advisory Board (CSAB) to work with all city agencies in promoting the directives. 

In mid-July, Cadenhead sent out e-mails to members of the City Council and those people who have been involved in developing Rye’s proposed plan. He suggested that it was time to get a policy enacted. 

On the positive side, Cadenhead says that Mayor Doug French has told him that he and Councilman Peter Jovanovich are taking steps to bring the resolution to the Council for consideration and a vote. He adds that he has gotten positive responses from all Council members. “We’ve got a strong tailwind of support from our government officials.” 

While the response was generally positive, resident Bob Zahm expressed concern that the impact of the resolution on Rye’s other ordinances and commissions would need to be considered carefully, because “the last thing we need is yet another public, feel-good pronouncement from our City Council that has no impact on our quality of life or safety.”

Cadenhead’s response to Zahm’s concern was: “A Complete Streets (CS) Policy simply directs city planners and managers explicitly to include the needs of all users in the planning and construction of transportation-related projects. Its passage does not demand changes to local ordinances.  However, it may (and hopefully would) lead to eventual changes in any ordinances that are unbalanced and outmoded, by exposing them as such during the review process.”

He continued, “The Locust Avenue/Purchase Street intersection rehab is a classic CS-themed project. On the margin will it increase safety in Rye? The odds are that it will.”

On the problematic side, Cadenhead sites the example of the Boston Post Road, where a left-turn lane was installed in such a way as to nearly eliminate the “shy space” – the part of the paved road between the white line and the side of the road. 

Cadenhead stressed that the draft they are proposing has “both teeth and flexibility, both of which are key to its success in our community.”

In anticipation of the resolution coming before the Council, Cadenhead has started work on a separate resolution that will spell out the duties and powers of the CSAB. He’s looking for other volunteers to help in this task and move the entire process forward. 

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