Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 'value' of walking...

The City of Bellingham Public Works department is requesting feedback on the Bellingham Pedestrian Master Plan. They have created a very comprehensive pedestrian survey.  Kim Brown is the public point of contact. If you are a pedestrian, I urge you to think seriously about the value of pedestrian walkways and pedestrian safety in your neighborhood. Then submit your ideas and talk about the problem pedestrian areas in your neighborhood.  To imagine the value of pedestrian access, imagine $8/gallon. Imagine a world where only the rich and high paid professionals drive. Or better yet, imagine $12/gallon in a world where the only downtown neighborhood residents are the rich or highly paid professionals and you (middle class family at that) are forced to bus to work and walk to shopping, school, entertainment. For some of you , that world is already here. Here are some of the comments I submitted:

"COB did very good work with 'Artist's Plaza' at the intersection of Holly, Rocket Donuts, Commercial, etc. The other improvements (light crosswalks, bulbed out corners, speed cushions, ALL the TRAFFIC CIRCLES (Yeah!)) have helped as well. I would like to see COB create requirements for new commercial parking lots that include pedestrian walkways. I would also like to see a separate "Walk your child to school/work day".  I would like to see Tsunami Warning Signs and Evacuations routes and plans for Pedestrians. Safe routes to schools should continue to be high priority.

  • I would like a clear path and trail from Squalicum to Sunset Shopping Mall Area. I would like the new Squalicum Ballfields linked to Sunset Shopping District by Trail.
  • I would like Meridian Creek uncovered and respected. Create a real environment for that creek with a trail (with pedestrian buffers) that leads to the mall from Northwest and Meridian.
  • Waterfront - I would like the proposed archway built from the end of Broadway to the Waterfront (Bellweather)
  • Create property tax breaks for those who walk their children to school.

More trees, benches, lighting would be nice. However, I would like convenient non-traffic trails to the Bellis Fair Mall, Squalicum Ball Fields, Sunset Shopping Area, and Waterfront from my Cornwall Park neighborhood home. I realize the funds for that type of work are probably not easily found. However, imagine these improvements and their neighborhood value:

  •  Imagine a Tsunami resistant bridge/archway that connects the end of Broadway to the Bellweather/Zuanich Park waterfront
  •  A trail along a refurbished Meridian Creek (with access through the Country Club) that leads to the Bellis Fair Mall.
  • 'Bay to Baker' trail concept restored/finished.

I think these 'connectors' will ultimately have nearly as much 'economic value' as the completion of the walkway from the northern end of Boulevard Park to the Cornwall Landfill. Peter (realtor in the Columbia neighborhood) once proposed the skyway from Broadway to Bellweather. John McGarrity was once an active supporter of the 'Bay to Baker' trail. I think it would be useful to create a study comparing the economic and neighborhood values of the these pedestrian extensions versus the extension of the Boulevard Park Pier. Columbia, Cornwall, Lettered Streets, Birchwood are very densely populated residential neighborhoods now, so 'connectors' to the downtown, the Meridian malls, the existing waterfront could have very high economic value to the city.

I would also like to see economic study of the 'value' of pedestrian access at multi-variate $$/per BOE. For example, at $200/boe, $300/boe, $400/boe? How many citizens would walk more? Last, I would like to see health study of potential decreases in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc given projected increased in increased pedestrian miles walked, decreased commuter miles driven for our community.  I would like to see a study of property tax breaks for those parents who consistently walk their children to school thus alleviating roadway use and increasing the value of school based neighborhoods."

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