AZTEC — City commissioners on Tuesday got a look at what's possible when it comes to designing roadways that appeal to all modes of transportation — not just cars.
Robert Ping, a program manager in Portland, Ore., spoke to commissioners about "complete streets" on behalf of his group, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Port Townsend, Wash., that promotes healthier communities through planning and design.
"We tend to build just for the automobile and not for other modes," Ping told commissioners. "'Complete streets' simply is a street built or refurbished for all users — cars, trucks, bikes, wheelchairs, pedestrians, skateboards, any user on the street."
Ping also spoke at Tuesday's Farmington City Council meeting.
Ping said the proliferation of car-centric streets and treeless swaths of parking lots are a danger to pedestrians and put a damper on economic development and residents' and visitors' enjoyability.
Ping cited a trend among some cities — including Orlando, Fla., and Lancaster, Calif., — to rebuild major thoroughfares to accommodate a greater variety of traffic. Often, that's done by narrowing driving lanes, replacing stoplights with roundabouts, favoring angled curb-side parking over parking lots, adding bike lanes, constructing wider tree-lined medians and offering more lighting for greater visibility.
Changes like these encourage economic development and enhance the aesthetic quality of a thoroughfare, all while creating a "place people want to go," Ping said.
He said Aztec has taken steps toward the "complete streets" model, citing projects like the North Main Avenue Corridor extension and arterial route to take heavy truck traffic on an eastern bypass road and away from the city's historic downtown corridor.
"I'm proud to say that Aztec is already starting to do some great work," Ping said. "You've got some fantastic planning going on. There's great work already, but there's more to do. You've got some other roadways or intersections that could use some more traffic calming or road diets that can really help build things."
Ping showed before-and-after slides of cities around the country that have implemented "complete streets" guidelines. He also offered the commission a step-by-step view of how streets can be transformed to get more people out of their cars and onto their feet.
"The city of Aztec is the epitome of small town America and should be completely walkable to ensure safety and efficient transportation," City Manager Josh Ray said in a text message before Tuesday's meeting.
Last year, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute's co-founder, Dan Burden, visited Aztec and toured the roadways with officials.
"Last year, we walked the city with Dan and our score for walkability was very good," Ray said. "We took a lot of pride in that score and in trying to make our community safer for our citizens."