In October 2014, the City of Little Falls adopted a Complete Streets policy, a commitment to “Consider Complete Streets design features and practices in the planning and design process,” and to “accommodate and facilitate convenient access and mobility by all users, particularly pedestrians, bicyclists, and individuals of all ages and abilities.” (Resolution No. 59) In other words, it is a commitment to creating living streets that are safe, and that welcome varied options for travel.
The cities we love most, that we pay to visit and long to engage with, are visibly alive. They have large windows that expose golden loaves of fresh bread or someone reading a book in a café. Parks are well-tended and teeming with happy children. Sharp spires cradle the horizon and point to a vast starlit evening. Fragrances of food and industry proclaim the air in full announcement.
Our senses can identify a place distinctly, but what each of these beloved cities share is visible life and activity. In these places, we choose to walk because great cities are compact and worth our full attention. We make eye contact. Little Falls is one of these great cities, but we could do more to make our streets safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and people of all abilities, without compromising any one form of travel. Living streets are made possible when we consider everyone’s safety without compromising efficiency.
The first step in enhancing our beautiful city might be to ask ourselves: What is the purpose of a street? Do streets have the potential to be places where we not only move, but meet? How far are people traveling within the city and by what means? What are the needs and dreams of small business owners, and how might improved infrastructure direct traffic to them? What are best practices of cities that are visibly alive, where tourists pay to travel and residents love to live and shop?
Our research might begin with observation. When considering design solutions and innovation for our unique city, we cannot simply apply what has worked for someone else. But we can be inspired by their best practices. Adopting a Complete Streets policy means Little Falls understands well-designed roads that include active people will breed better behavior between all those who share the road. It means that we value a living culture that is welcoming and inclusive.
Upon accepting a Complete Streets policy, the City received five bicycle racks that have been well-used; more have been requested. This summer, watch for signs that indicate recommended places to hike, climb, canoe, and bike – also a granted gift to the City.
Little Falls contains common areas only found in older, well-maintained cities, as well as lots of authentic places to shop and see. This is why we will continue to accommodate slower modes of travel, with a Complete Streets ethic in mind.
Lisa Lauritsen is the MSF chairperson for