Clearwater is featured as one of the case studies in a nationwide study into how to safely integrate foot traffic, bicyclists and other users with automobiles.
“I think it adds a lot to the report,” said Yvonne Verlinden, author of the study, which is titled “Rural Complete Streets.”
The Complete Streets approach takes into account the needs of all users when considering a road. In the rural context, these users could include automobiles, trucks, transit, farming equipment, equestrian vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians (including children, older adults, and people with mobility devices).
The study mentions Clearwater’s road cross-section bylaw, which established new street types based on surrounding land uses and types of users.
The bylaw was based on a study into road network rationalization and a discussion about the connections between road design, active transportation and health outcomes.
One outcome of the bylaw has been significant improvements to Murtle Crescent. The municipality used the bylaw to require the developer of a subdivision to include a sidewalk on one side, a multi-use path on the other, a crosswalk, trees and lighting. District of Clearwater contributed $58,000 to the project.
Following the project’s completion, a community group raised funds to add a splash park near the end of Murtle Crescent. Also, Clearwater’s recently completed trails master plan proposes extending the multi-use path from the park to Evergreen Acres.
The nationwide study notes that small towns in Canada are often located along highways that carry regional traffic through sparsely populated areas quickly.
The highway may act as a barrier for residents on foot or bicycle, and effectively separate one area of town from another.
Due to the availability and affordability of land on the edge of town, destinations such as grocery stores and restaurants may be effectively only reachable by car.
In 2011, 25 per cent of pedestrian fatalities in Canada were on rural roads, although only 19 per cent of the population lives in rural areas.
One reason for the difference might be that a pedestrian hit in a rural area is far more likely to die: 11 out of every 100 rural pedestrian collisions are fatal, as opposed to two per 100 in urban areas.
Health is another motivator for Complete Street implementation, with the idea that if roads are safe and comfortable for all, more people will choose to walk and cycle, increasing their physical activity levels.
In rural areas with very little or no transit, independent mobility for people who do not drive depends on their ability to safely walk or roll where they need to go.
Finally, re-designing a street to make it more complete makes sense economically. Slowing traffic, widening sidewalks, adding trees or pedestrian crossings can increase property values, improve retail sales and attract private investment.