Complete Streets bill needed

Kauai is not exactly what you would call pedestrian or bicyclist friendly. By that, we mean there aren’t a lot of places you can go for a ride, run or walk and not be a few feet from traffic. Road shoulders are narrow and depending on where you are, there is sometimes no choice but to become part of the road flow road and pray you survive.

And for the most part, by the way, Kauai drivers are patient and courteous, more than ready to stop so someone can cross a street.

Still, options are few regarding where you can go without looking over your shoulder for cars and trucks. Ke Ala Hele Makalae and Lydgate Park offer two such places where a person can enjoy a peaceful walk on pavement. Neighborhoods with sidewalks are the exception, not the rule.

Which leads us to the Complete Streets bill. We like it. It addresses an issue that’s clearly a problem on Kauai. As traffic continues to increase, there must be more attention given to creating space for pedestrians and cyclists, so they can live in peace with motorists.

Kudos to the county for signing this law, which ensures that new subdivisions are designed with walkers, runners and bicyclists in mind, not just vehicles.

“This represents a major shift in policy for the county,” said councilman Tim Bynum. “We build streets for people not just cars, including people who ride bikes or our citizens who walk or have disabilities.”

The bill requires developers to install sidewalks in their projects, which is good, because Kauai needs sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

If you increase the number of bicycle lanes, you will increase the number of cyclists, which goes along with the county’s mission to encourage health and exercise.

Done well, bicycle lanes could ease traffic congestion and reduce that frantic feeling that comes with thousands of cars buzzing around our highways each day.

The bill also shortens the block length of new subdivisions from 1,800 feet to 450 feet to encourage connectivity.

“Creative sidewalk design is integrated by allowing drainage swales to be constructed in lieu of conventional curbs and gutters,” said a county press release.

Now, some have already voiced concern with one area, though: If the sidewalk condition is waived by the Planning Commission due to a feasibility issue or a conflict with local context and sensitivity to community character, the developer would pay a fee toward the Sidewalk/Shared Use Path Fund in lieu of the sidewalks.

The county added this, basically, due to concerns of Hanalei residents, who felt they may be forced to add sidewalks where they’ve not wanted or needed. And they’re correct that in some areas, sidewalks simply would not fit the character of the community.

Still, we hope this part of the law doesn’t provide an escape from developers hoping to avoid the time and cost of sidewalks by paying a fee, instead. Kauai needs sidewalks.

While more questions will arise with Complete Bills, we agree this is a step in the right direction.

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