Complete Streets aims to make Halloween fun and safe for all

By Kevin Gray

Provided by Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods An initiative for healthier lifestyles has begun among communities in Topeka, and it is poised to make Halloween more enjoyable for families.

Called Complete Streets, the program aims to encourage people to become more active and start exercising more. More sidewalks and bike lanes will be built, and eventually city planners will add other uses including cafés, benches, lighted areas and storm water management.

According to Complete Streets Co-chair Andy Fry, some communities have already had the program implemented in the last two to three years. It has resulted in “an uptick” for exercise in the neighborhood, as well as “a general momentum of efforts toward active, healthy living.”

“There are more people participating in [walking and biking], leading to a more active and healthy lifestyle,” Fry said.

The implementation process has been simple for city planners. Taylor Ricketts, Multi-modal Transportation Planner for the City of Topeka, discussed the relative ease of implementing the program.

“Complete Streets concepts [will be] integrated into the planning processes that the city [goes] through in its design process,” Ricketts said. Instead of building a neighborhood and adding walking spaces, the sidewalks and bike lanes will become a focal point for city planners. Going forward, the city plans on passing a Complete Streets ordinance that will require its integration for neighborhoods.

When fully executed, Complete Streets promises to provide safe environments for families to walk—or even trick-or-treat.

Halloween night poses a lot of potential dangers to children and families. In many neighborhoods, tick-or-treaters are forced to walk between houses in the street or without lights. This poses myriad issues for families. Streets are not designed for walking, especially in the dark. This leads to an increased risk of children losing their footing.

Additionally, costumes are often dark colors, and parents are often bundled up to say warm in the potential cold of a night in October. Even the best headlights on cars would have trouble illuminating a family walking in an unlit street.

Finally, especially on Halloween night, when children open their candy early, trash collects in streets. Piles of trash in streets do not look good, and they, too, pose potential problems.

However, with more sidewalks, bike lanes and lights, Complete Streets can fix all of these issues.

“Complete Streets will allow people to engage and experience their community and neighborhoods in ways they have not been able to in the recent past,” Fry said. “Families will spend less time in the streets door to door on Halloween and more time on sidewalks and paths designed for pedestrians specifically.”

More sidewalks will keep families out of the streets, and more lights will allow them to see and avoid hazards. Trash will also be picked up, which will beautify the streets. Trick-or-treaters will have a safer, more enjoyable experience.

Despite its potential, however, Complete Streets may not be ready for Halloween.

“There is no deadline for the completion of this program,” Ricketts said. Many aspects of Complete Streets have been implemented and will be ready for the October 10 date, but the full program probably will not be set in motion yet. The lights and sidewalks have been built in many areas around Topeka, but the whole city has not been transformed yet.

Complete Streets is an ongoing effort that will not end with only sidewalks but will ultimately also incorporate personal training programs, personal trainers, classes and shopping opportunities.

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