One out of three Americans does not regularly use a car, either by choice, out of financial necessity or as a result of a disability.
That poses a question for a municipality like Chattanooga, which spends millions of dollars every year maintaining and building transportation infrastructure such as roads, bridges and sidewalks: How do you build a city where everyone feels like they can get where they need to go?
“Transportation connects neighborhoods to other neighborhoods. It connects businesses to markets. And it connects people to opportunity,” Mayor Andy Berke said. “For us to live up to our promise as a city, we want to make sure that we can accommodate as many people as possible in transportation.”
Berke announced that Chattanooga will be one of 200 cities accepting a challenge from the U.S. Department of Transportation to make streets more accessible and safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
The federal initiative urges municipalities to adopt complete streets policies for transportation projects, monitor multimodal data, and strengthen safety laws and regulations for walkers and cyclists.
Chattanooga has already taken steps toward the initiative’s key goals. In a news release, the Berke administration said it will form a group to “assess and develop a work plan to address gaps, barriers or challenges related to additional progress in these goal areas.”
The Monday morning announcement at Outdoor Chattanooga comes as the city’s Transportation Department is finalizing its own complete streets policy and looking for ways to transform existing roads and sidewalks for more uses.
“A street that’s safe for pedestrians, a street that’s safe for cyclists, a street that’s safe for people in wheelchairs is also a street that’s safe for drivers,” Transportation Administrator Blythe Bailey said. “A safe street is a safe street for everyone.”
An “us versus them” mentality between cyclists and drivers does not necessarily apply in Chattanooga, where many residents have cars and rely on them to get to work, go shopping and make trips, according to Bailey.
The Chattanooga Police Department is working on a program to improve relations between cyclists and motorists.
A 55-year-old woman died after a collision late Friday when her wheelchair was struck by a car on Gunbarrel Road. The incident underscores the need to ensure that city roads are safe for all citizens.
Police Chief Fred Fletcher said the department has a commitment “to protect the most vulnerable among us” on Chattanooga streets, whether they are cyclists, pedestrians or road workers.