Forum Participants Plan a Friendly Community

There was a good deal of energy and determination in the room at the NDDC’s Monthly Forum. The topic was broadly downtown amenities but most of the specifics focused on increasing transportation safety throughout the community, particularly making Northfiled more bike and pedestrian friendly.

Howard Merriam opened the discussion with a quick summary of the streetscape plan, parks and trail system and the community greenway concept. (He also put in a plug for the City of Northfield’s ArtsPlan.) Howard suggested that unifying and motivating themes could be celebrating the pedestrian scale of downtown and recognizing the bicycling potential of the community. Eric Johnson reminded us that there were many examples of best practices available, including Boulder, Colorado. Pointing out that 50% of bike fatalities result from riding in the wrong direction (especially at intersections) he argued that education must be part of the effort. Bruce Anderson echoed Howard on the human scale of our commmunity being a great opportunity to expand the use of bike and foot as primary modes of transportation. He also put it in the context of positioning Northfield to thrive in an economically challenged and energy constrained future.

When asked what specific action steps to take toward uniting the regional trails with the downtown streetscape, putting the best practices into appropriate designs, and providing details to guide the transition to the next economy, the panelists cited a number of resources with ready lists of ideas. The resources included the New York City Need List, the Bike League’s Action Plan and the County’s Transportation Plan for Woodley Street; while the specifics included fixing bad streets, longer light signals for crossing, transportation safety education for the entire community, enforcing existing laws, reviewing out-of-date codes and, I’m pretty sure, installing bike racks downtown.

Many of the participants felt that a partnership between the City, the NDDC, RENew Northfield and the Mill Towns’ Trail Group, among others, to identify common goals, share the work load and raise the visibility (and priority) of this issue, would be very productive at this critical moment in time. Read Bruce’s blog for more information on the forming of this coalition and potential models for moving forward.