There have been a couple of stories in the news recently that have made it clear that we are trying to think of how to create better streets for people around here. The Peoria Journal Star, the local news outlet recently reported on two different stories over the past week that at the core are the same issue, but seem to be going completely opposite directions.
How we handle something as simple as the directions of our streets, structure of our sidewalks, and accessibility of bikes may seem simple, but plays a significant part in creating place.
Why should we care? Infrastructure costs have grown astronomically out of control. Maintenance of the system has become financially unsustainable. In our current business environment where we are aggressively seeking economic development we need to be aware of our built environment and how it transforms our communities.
The first article comes out of East Peoria.
What may seem like positive news and good idea on the surface is just another half-hearted attempt at creating a walkable/bikeable atmosphere without actually applying the techniques that would achieve both.
One quote from the article makes it clear that it will be just that:
creating a three-mile recreational loop
Recreational, as in, for some reason people will come to this commercial and industrial corridor for recreational purposes which is usually only accessible via car.
The next logic is disturbing:
The trail also would add a safety feature as there are no sidewalks along West Camp Street and it would provide access for pedestrians and cyclists to the shopping area inside the Levee District.
So you’ve created an environment that has put cars first, and then you are trying to introduce people to walking or biking to the area? Nope, doesn’t work that way I’m afraid. It is an afterthought, therefore it will be treated as such. People may use it while at work on break or if they happen to be passing by on the naturalistic bike trail.
But that is East Peoria, we all know I think what they’re doing over there is so last century…
The second article comes from the across the river in original recipe Peoria.
The best thing I’ve read in weeks! The City Council gets it, they voted 10-0 on moving forward on a plan to making that a possibility. Granted, it has been debated many times in the 62 years since making them one-way streets.
I like seeing snippets such as “Complete Streets” mentioned. This signals to me that somebody, somewhere, gets it. Whether or not it gets done is yet to be seen.
The most important thing to understand about complete streets, is that it is a balanced approach in providing accessibility to all methods of transportation – not just one, as it is now.
For people concerned about traffic congestion… well, you have cleared and gutted the area for decades via the one-way, so it’s time for a change. The way things are now are broken, fragmented, under-performing, and they need to be fixed.
I’ve mentioned time and again in this blog that, in order for Peoria to reclaim their lost downtown, they need to realize that they are a city. They can’t shy away from it, nor can they apply suburban concepts to an urban area. Embrace change. Make it for people and not their cars. Then, and only then, it will become a meaningful place.