"Livable Streets are accessible, safe, efficient, and usable for all people." (Missouri Livable Streets)

This is a good time to revisit Livable Streets as Kirksville takes the first steps toward adopting a Complete Streets Policy. Livable Streets (or Complete Streets--the terms are interchangeable) is the idea of designing streets for all the users. For several decades, we have been making roads for cars. As a result, we now have to drive everywhere. It's difficult, unpleasant, and scary to walk or bike to most locations. Livable Streets are safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchairs, and automobiles.

That doesn't mean a bike lane on every street and a sidewalk along rural highways. It means bike lanes and sidewalks on the busier streets in town. It means wide shoulders on rural highways. It means streets that are designed with all the users in mind, not just the automobile traffic.

Adopting a Complete Streets policy doesn't mean things will change overnight. Typically cities identify a few priority streets to focus on, giving other streets attention as they come up for maintenance and as funds become available.

Complete Streets policies, resolutions, and ordinances are sweeping the nation. As of 2012, 21 Missouri communities have adopted Complete Streets. Complete Streets goes beyond sidewalks and bike lanes, reexamining every city ordinance with respect to its impact on bicycling and walking.

For example, in Kirksville, camping is not allowed in city parks, creating an obstacle for bicycle tourists. A revised ordinance modeled after that of cities like Newton, KS along the Trans America Bicycle Route could allow camping for up to 2 nights.

Perhaps Kirksville could adopt traffic light laws similar to those found in Idaho, where bicyclists are allowed to treat stop lights as stop signs, proceeding on a red light when safe to do so, and treat stop signs as yield signs, slowing down and yielding to traffic with the right of way but not necessarily coming to a full and complete stop.

Curb cuts, parking lots, parking requirements, and zoning are areas that affect bicycle and pedestrian safety, yet rarely are these effects taken into account.

Livable Streets is a response to the rising obesity epidemic, caused to some degree (some would say entirely) by how our built environment encourages automobiles and discourages walking and bicycling. Adopting Livable or Complete Streets will reverse this trend, leading to a built environment that encourages walking and bicycling--and a healthier community.