The Complete Streets philosophy underpins the goals of Council to make Lansdowne a more walkable town and a town that is for bicyclists.
Lansdowne is one of the nicer places for walking and bicycling. We offer a “Tree City” landscape; our neighborhoods feature hundreds of attractive houses and gardens; and a walker or bicyclist going any distance is likely to encounter an interesting park, waterway, historic building, useful business or, with any luck, a friendly neighbor.
But not everyone appreciates the benefits of walking and bike riding in Lansdowne, and many residents rely overwhelmingly on their automobiles. There are reasons for this. Often, automotive uses dominate our streets, so that streets don’t feel safe for biking, crossing streets is hard, and sidewalks don’t feel like a good place to walk. Over and over, suburbanization has reinforced the idea that suburbs are for cars. The result is lack of access, and public spaces that fail to draw people together to take advantage of amenities like parks and local businesses.
To remedy this, Lansdowne and hundreds of municipalities, counties and states across the US are turning to a “Complete Streets” philosophy governing road projects and other development. Complete Streets is a transportation policy requiring streets to be planned and maintained to enable safe access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of whether they are walking, cycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods.
As Ben Hover, Borough Council President, puts it, “For the past five years, Lansdowne Borough Council has been working towards the completion of projects envisioned in the Walkshed Plan and providing safe streets for pedestrians and bicyclists. The Complete Streets philosophy underpins the goals of Council to make Lansdowne a more walkable town and a town that is for bicyclists.”
For Carol Martsolf, Chair of Lansdowne’s Environmental Advisory Council and a civil engineer, “Complete Streets is all about inclusion and justice, something I believe in strongly.” Age, disabilities and aggressive drivers should not be allowed to prevent people from walking and cycling.
Two places where highway projects in Lansdowne show the influence of Complete Streets thinking:
1. Downtown: the new crosswalk in front of the Lansdowne Theater (with flashing lights to alert drivers to stop for pedestrians) is raised, drawing attention to the crosswalk and (acting like a traffic hump) causing drivers to slow down, aka “calming” traffic on this busy road.
Over the years, we have also been seeing street furniture, plantings and restaurant tables added to downtown sidewalks as a way of diminishing the perception of car traffic and giving people a reason to walk downtown and patronize businesses as well as community institutions like the library and the farmers market. Another example of “Complete Streets” thinking.
2. Scottdale Road: residents wanting to walk or bike toward Hoffman Park, Hilldale Road and Shrigley Park literally have had no place to go. There is no sidewalk and the road is sometimes so narrow there is no shoulder whatsoever. A less safe place to walk and ride does not exist in Lansdowne.
Complete Streets thinking has already produced one remedy: the Gateway Park project, which currently provides a multi-use walkway/bikeway from Baltimore Avenue to Hoffman Park. The multi-use bikeway is currently being extended to Eldon Road, providing a safe and fun route to the park all the way from Gladstone Manor.
Approval has also been given to extending the multi-use walkway from Hoffman Park eastward to the existing sidewalk leading to Lansdowne Avenue. Turning part of Scottdale Road into a one-way street makes this possible. Here the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is clearly being given priority over the convenience of some drivers. In this way, Complete Streets is pointing Lansdowne toward a future in which safety and accessibility play a recognized role in making our community an appealing place to live.