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'Complete Streets' Program Set to Launch in Pensacola

City of Pensacola

Work is ongoing by the City of Pensacola on a program aimed at making the city’s roadways friendlier to all.

Speaking at his weekly news conference, Mayor Grover Robinson announced [Monday] that the city will make an initiative to move forward on “Complete Streets,” by hiring a staff that will evaluate that and finding ways to do a better job.

“Complete Streets” puts the emphasis on pedestrians rather than vehicular traffic, through building and upgrading crosswalks and sidewalks. Other parts of the equation include safe bicycle lanes and medians, and mass transit.

“The real ‘Complete Street’ is not just the street that’s built for the cars; it’s build for every other use that we do on there,” said Robinson. “We want to encourage a lot more walking and biking; if we can encourage either mass-transit walking or biking, we put fewer cars on the road that use up the asset we have.”

Everything works better, says the Mayor, if people can get out of the habit of just using what he calls “a single car experience.”

“I’m not saying we’re still not going to be doing that; but where we can, we need to find opportunities,” the Mayor says. “This is also the reason I support looking at the residential in the downtown area like that, and to that density. When you do that, you end up better able to utilize your walking, and it’s just better overall on both our environment, and also the resources that we have.”

Modern day roadways are engineered to enable motor vehicles to move at a fairly high speeds; but are incompatible with the ability of people to walk across them. Case in point, says Robinson, are the deaths of an eight-month-old girl and 28-year-old woman who were struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing Cervantes Street last summer.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson.

“But West Cervantes isn’t the only street we’ve had the problems with,” said Robinson. “We’ve had problems on Pace [Boulevard]; Ninth [Avenue} and Texar we had an accident there the other day. We have other places in the city – 9th Avenue we have a lot of those challenges. We’re trying to make those roads safe for vehicles, but safe for bikes and safe for pedestrians.”

Part of the Complete Streets game plan could be forthcoming when the Mayor’s transition team releases its findings and recommendations early next month. And they could be tied to strategies relating to neighborhood improvements.

“We want engaged neighborhoods; we want to make whatever we’re doing the best [that] we think we can have success,” said Robinson. “When we were at Woodland Heights they wanted a sidewalk for safety in their neighborhood. You’re seeing a lot of that pedestrian needs, spilling over not on just main roads, but into actually neighborhood roads as well.”

Work is expected to begin soon on exploring how the planning approach can best be implemented in Pensacola; Mayor Grover Robinson says it’s a matter of being more “multi-mobile.”

“How can we encourage people to walk; how do we encourage people to bike, and go other places in the car?” asked the Mayor. “It does two things – one, it helps us be a better environmental community; but it helps us be a more healthy community. “That’s what I continue to talk about.”

City Councilwoman Sherri Myers — a longtime Complete Streets advocate — tells the Independent Weekly that she’s working on writing an ordinance codifying the city’s intent to work towards safer streets via municipal planning.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.