Swanzey to Make Roadways Safe for Walking and Biking

Categories: Community Engagement, Healthy Places, Physically Active

What does it take to create roadways that are not only car-friendly but are safe for pedestrians and bicyclists?

A Complete Streets policy.

In Swanzey, NH (population: 7,300) town officials recently adopted a Complete Streets policy — a guide for its town planners, public works department and developers to follow when planning street renovations, changes and improvements.

Complete Streets include pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly amenities, including:

  • Sidewalks
  • Sharrows (shared lane bicycle markings)
  • Paved shoulders
  • Crosswalks
  • Bike racks
  • Landscaping
  • Street furniture, such as benches

Complete Streets, a nationwide movement launched by the National Complete Streets Coalition, has been recommended by the New Hampshire Planners Association (which has been advocating that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation adopt a Complete Streets policy).

Complete Streets are an important strategy to increase physical activity opportunities in our community through active transportation. Walkability has a direct and specific relation to the health of residents. A comprehensive study of walkability has found that people in walkable neighborhoods did about 35-45 more minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week and were substantially less likely to be overweight or obese than similar people living in low-walkable neighborhoods. Obesity is one of the leading factors related to preventable, chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Swanzey joins growing number of NH towns

Swanzey is the fourth community in the state of New Hampshire to adopt a Complete Streets policy (the others are Concord, Dover and Portsmouth). Keene passed a resolution to adopt a Complete Streets policy in 2011 and is currently in the process of adopting a policy that was introduced earlier this fall.

While Swanzey’s Complete Streets policy is nonbinding, it has to be considered before any road construction, says Sara Carbonneau, director of planning and community development for the Town of Swanzey. She says that the ultimate goal for the policy is to provide a safe place so that residents and visitors to the town can feel safe and welcomed on its roadways.

According to one study, streets and sidewalks take up 25 to 50 percent of a typical U.S. city’s land. Why not make it a place where not only cars dominate, but walkers, joggers and bicyclists can enjoy safely as well? As Carbonneau aptly puts it:  “Roads are more than pieces of pavement for cars to travel on.”

For other towns looking to implement a Complete Streets policy, Carbonneau suggests going to a demonstration event — such as ones that were held in both Keene and Swanzey in the fall of 2015, http://www.monadnocktma.org/demodays.

“When you see what a Complete Street looks like, you can see what a difference just minimal changes can make to make a street more accessible and welcoming for people.” – Sara Carbonneau.

Learn more about New Hampshire’s communities and Complete Streets.