Medford is known for active residents who like to bike and take walks in the area, but some of them maintain the township doesn’t have enough “complete streets.”
That concept, namely having roads designed to be bike- and pedestrian-friendly, was discussed at a forum last month hosted by Medford Democrats. Representatives with backgrounds in transportation planning, engineering and urban design talked about what Medford can do better to improve sustainability and cater to a mobile population.
Complete streets look different in every municipality, according to Cross County Connection Specialist Eric Derer. In Medford, that could mean modifying traffic patterns or adding speed bumps to make narrow roads more comfortable for pedestrians. Other measures might include creating safe crosswalks and better enforcing speed limits.
“Medford Lakes is one of the best examples to show you don’t necessarily need to put in bike lanes and sidewalks to be a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly community,” said Patrick Farley, program director for Cross County Connection, a nonprofit agency that focuses on transportation issues in South Jersey.
Complete streets can promote economic development and potentially increase property values, according to the agency. Matt Ludwig, a professional engineer, said having more accommodating roads can encourage residents to go outside and visit more than one business at once because they are not driving and parking in a single lot.
“That’s something that my wife and I do all the time,” he noted. “We just get on our bikes and we’re not wearing Lycra shorts, trying to keep an 80-mile-an-hour pace. We just want to get out on a beautiful day, go for a ride and grab a brew at a local brewery.”
COVID has provided a glimpse of what complete streets might look like, Derer added.
“We’ve seen a lot of this at work during COVID, as different townships and municipalities have closed off portions of the roadway for pedestrians for outdoor spaces and social distancing,” he explained.
Farley said he hopes townships will continue to allocate street space to businesses once the pandemic is over.
“Are you really maximizing the value of your streets?” he asked. “Finding places where you can repurpose streets to create economic activity, or maybe do weekend shutdowns to let restaurants use up the street, or more expanded sidewalks. Allow the streets to be more than just a conveyance for vehicles.
Medford’s Engineer, Chris Knoll and Planner Michelle Taylor attended the meeting.
A full recording of the forum, which Medford’s engineer, Chris Knoll, and planner Michelle Taylor attended, is available on the Medford Democrats YouTube channel.