Planning and Zoning discusses 'Complete Streets'

Planning and Zoning discusses 'Complete Streets'
The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission discussed the county's draft of its Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan Wednesday evening, Aug. 1, focusing on "Complete Streets." (Jennifer Turiano)

The Planning Department presented a draft the Carroll County Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan’s sixth chapter on Wednesday evening, with its focus on “Complete Streets” and transportation alternatives.

Complete Streets, Comprehensive Planner Nokomis Ford explained to the Planning and Zoning Commission, is a transportation policy and design approach meant to enable safe access for all road users — and allow greater ease in crossing the street and walking and biking to locations.


“Some of the reasons that we identified that Complete Streets would actually help with Carroll County’s transportation system is addressing the safety issues that are common to Carroll County’s rural roads,” Ford said, “address safety issues that are common to walking and biking to school, reduce traffic by reducing vehicle travel for short trips, and work with the state’s newly established Complete Streets program.”

She said the National Complete Streets Coalition also found other benefits: helping improve public health, facilitating communities with improving their equity and economy, creating safe connections between and within rural towns, and empowering local communities to work with larger transportation departments.

And although no specific plans for the designs and policies are in place in Carroll, according to Smart Growth America, a national nonprofit dedicated to neighborhood development, “a complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes [or wide paved shoulders], special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.”

The NCSC section of its website also states, that the vision for a Complete Street varies depending on where it will be located.

“A Complete Street in a rural area will look quite different from a Complete Street in a highly urban area,” it states, “but both are designed to balance safety and convenience for everyone using the road.”

The Planning Dept. found through outreach surveys at least 400 people walk on Carroll County roads with no shoulder, and at least as many bike on roads with no shoulder.

The survey information also indicated “walking and biking for short trips to parks, restaurants and historic sites is of interest to Carroll County residents,” said Ford.

“The towns have expressed interest [in Complete Streets],” said Planning Department Acting Director Lynda Eisenberg. “This gives guidelines for them to follow.”

And Richard Soisson, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said the towns would probably be where Complete Streets make the most sense.

“I think the towns are better suited for these,” he said. “There are sidewalks and that's probably where you see much of the walking.”

At the end of the presentation commission member Alec Yeo said he was concerned about what would happen if more cyclists were encouraged to get on the road, and if the data about accidents in the county was really in areas that don’t already have bicycle-friendly infrastructure or if the dangers were there regardless.

“Because statistically we are going to put more people on the roads,” Yeo said. “You're going to have a greater number [of accidents]. Maybe less percentage, but a greater number of accidents.

“Human error is going to occur,” he said. “Someone is going to be texting, go over the white line, do something they’re not supposed to. There’s going to be some other concern — if you put two vehicles at different speeds in an area, there’s going to be a problem. I spent quite a few hours going through [Complete Streets]; it seems like a great initiative. I just want to make sure we are not just following it without making sure it’s safe.”

Ford said however, that cyclists have a right to access the road anyway and the statistics show the measures taken to make streets complete have been shown to make bicyclists more comfortable and signage helps make vehicles more aware.


“Little improvements here and there could make an impact,” she said.

Commission member Eugene Canale agreed that although the ideas sounded good, they might not be suitable for roads in Carroll County on which motorists drive so quickly. He said he would be interested in seeing more bike-only infrastructure suggestions in the plan, like what exists in Anne Arundel County around the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“In my opinion we will never see the integration of bicycling, walking and running on roads where there’s major vehicles going 55 miles per hour,” he said. “I see that as probably too hard to resolve, or almost impossible to resolve… I don't think we will see this integration in our lifetime.”

More information on the Carroll County Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan can be found online at the Carroll County government website.

Chapter 8 of the plan is expected to be presented in August, Ford said at the meeting, with Chapters 1 and 2 following and the final draft of the entire plan ready sometime in September.