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Redding, California is slowly building pieces of comprehensive streets infrastructure and programming that will make this area a more livable community. Shasta Living Streets is a key partner in the comprehensive solution.

arrow From the Summer 2011 issue of the American Trails Magazine

arrow See comments by residents on the question: "I want safer and more inviting places to walk and ride my bike because..."

 

"Shasta Living Streets" supports community values and health


photo of woman with toddler in bike seat

Enjoying the car-free day
(Photo by Jeff Worthington)

 

The wide curving road by the river is open and inviting. The sky is grey and there is occasional rain but all the people I meet have curious smiles and a look on their faces that say this is so fantastic. I stop to talk to people along the way and most of them wonder and ask how this happened and when it will happen again.

I bike down the road and stop to chat with a woman who is walking on her own. She is so excited and enthusiastic about this car-free opportunity to walk and enjoy her neighborhood. She says her husband preferred to stay home but she didn’t want to miss this chance and the rain is actually refreshing. “This is great, I love it,” she says, “next time I am going to volunteer.” That’s music to the ears of a program organizer. Later I talk with a friend who is there with her husband and two young boys. “I just wanted to tell you Thank you. My kids are in heaven. They are having so much fun.” Her family rides often, but she describes how this experience is different, “I realized my kids usually have to follow us in single-file, now they have so much freedom to move around in safety.”

This program clearly supports the values and interests of our community. The amount of excitement and support Shasta Living Streets receives is amazing. At this inaugural event, people enjoyed themselves and were inspired, and now that it’s behind us the energy is still building— we get continual encouragement, requests and ideas coming from many people.

Photo of sign

"Healthy Shasta: Better Choices, Healthy changes"
(Photo by Jeff Worthington)

 

Advancing Transportation Choice

The event held in April in Redding, California was a milestone for this community and for the potential it represents to other similar places across the state and around the country. This is the first such program in California north of the Bay Area and outside of dense urban areas. It wasn’t easy to make it happen in this place where we have seemingly endless and world-class recreational opportunities within two hours’ drive from our community. This is a place people choose to bring their families precisely because of the opportunities we have for getting outside: fishing, boating, hiking, camping, mountain biking, and horseback riding, and because of the fresh air and the beautiful mountain views.

In this place where so many people love to be outside it’s ironically difficult to get support to do so on our streets, because I guess it seems that in this recreation mecca we already have this covered. In fact, most people in the city of Redding and in nearby rural areas cannot walk or bicycle to local businesses or schools or to visit nearby friends or family. If they want to get outside, they have to get in the car first and drive to the trail. “Streets are for cars,” is the response I received from one bikeshop owner. And the shameful injury and death rates for pedestrians and bicyclists in our community provide evidence for the truth of that statement.

So we have enthusiasts who run 50-mile foot races or ride rigorous mountain trails on weekends, with no choice at home but to get in the car and drive a mile and a half to get a burrito. An additional consequence is the very high level of obesity and poor health in our community from inactivity of those who are not weekend warriors. And then there is the constant driving all parents must do because there is no other option for their children.

Supporting a Vibrant Community - Seven Reasons Why

Photo of people dancing in street

Dancing in the streets at Shasta Living Streets’ first big event in Redding, California
(Photo by Jeff Worthington)

Clearly, when it comes to getting around in our neighborhoods, transportation choice is something we don’t yet have. This is not a problem that is unique to our community. Our local leaders have set the intention to address this, and our community members clearly support this direction. One of our participants described it this way: "There aren't a lot of bike lanes and most of the roads are really narrow and dangerous." Another said: "I'm tired of sharing the road with people in cars who don't pay attention to people riding their bicycles."

Recently the Redding City Council voted the local Complete Streets efforts as their number one priority. As a community, we are slowly building pieces of comprehensive streets infrastructure and programming that will make this area the livable community that we all hope for. Shasta Living Streets is part of the comprehensive solution. When we talk about the program with others we describe the benefits in seven main areas that are of interest to our local residents and community.

1 - Uses Already Existing Resources
Shasta Living Streets provides fun, recreation and community activity within our neighborhoods by using already existing infrastructure and resources. This is an important aspect, as this program does not require great expense or big new infrastructure.

Gil Penalosa, the father of the ciclovia, and current Executive Director of 8-80 Cities sent words of encouragement to our planning group: "Shasta Living Streets will show residents that streets can be used for more than just moving cars; streets are our largest and most valuable assets, the space the belongs to all, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, social or economic background."

One participant described how much she appreciated the safe venue and said, "it’s more fun to be close to home rather than driving to a place like Whiskeytown" (our nearby National Recreation Area). Another participant said, "Great idea - to close off the street for riding, walking, and skating. Many of the bike paths on side of roads are too narrow and close to the passing cars."

2 - Supports Our Favorite Pursuit - Getting Outside
North State residents live and work and raise their families here because of the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. A recent survey conducted by the local Enjoy magazine validated this when residents’ voted their #1 favorite hobby: walking, bicycling, hiking. Shasta Living Streets gives us an opportunity to be outdoors in a new and exciting way: "That's why we moved here. We love the outdoors and spending time with our family OUTSIDE!! This is so much fun. Keep it up!"

3- Encourages Family Fun and Builds Community
Open streets programs entice people of all ages to walk, skate, or cycle from their homes and neighborhoods to local businesses and attractions. One person said: "It makes us feel safer by getting to know our neighbors and I will walk and bike more by having more areas available."

Children and families especially appreciate the freedom of movement and opportunity to be out together, meeting friends and neighbors, patronizing local business, and building a stronger sense of community. Our participants made many comments about this aspect of the open streets experience:
"This is great, keep on having more - Met a lot of great people."
"We enjoy it and love meeting our neighbors. Keep it up!"
"It makes my community physically and mentally more healthy. It encourages everyone to walk and bike instead of driving cars."

4- Promotes Safe Physical Activity For All
Safety is a major concern for people who want to be active on our local streets and is the topic that received the most comments by our participants: "I want safer options for my family and neighbors. I'd love to see more people making healthy choices for themselves and our environment."

People are clear about their desire to have safer and more inviting spaces for their families to bicycle and walk in our community:
"So my children will not get hurt."
"So I don't feel like my life is in danger while trying to get out and about."
"I would ride to school if it was safer to ride."
"Riding bikes is my favorite thing to do, but the streets tend to be dangerous."
"I'd like to make more trips on my bike, which I would do if the streets were safer-because I'd like to take my children with me."

5 -Supports our Local Business
Local businesses benefit from increased pedestrian and bicycle traffic along commercial corridors in general, but especially during open streets events. Merchants along open streets routes in other cities have been pleased to see significant increase in business during and after the event hours. And in addition to an increase in business on event days, local merchants have the opportunity to reach out to new customers from across the city and throughout the North State.
One teenager prioritizes the need for safe bicycling this way: "So that I can ride my bike to Dutch Brothers for hot chocolate."

6 - Adds to Our Collection of World Class Biking and Outdoor Activities
This program builds on, and adds to, the world-class biking, pedestrian, recreational and outdoor living facilities and attractions already found in the North State: the Sundial Bridge; the 10-mile Sacramento River Trail, our many parks and sports facilities, and the system of 80 miles of trails that connect our community to nearby National Recreation Areas.

Together these things contribute to the quality of life enjoyed by our residents and they increasingly draw visitors who contribute greatly to our community and economy. A local parent who moved here because of the "beauty of the downtown area," describes this benefit in livability terms: "Encouraging people to get out and about in their community encourages people to want to put more pride and invest more money into the community and city. This benefits the city and other community members and is a positive result for all."

7 - Adds to Momentum for Complete Streets
More and more people embrace the reality that our streets need to be improved for pedestrian, bike, and community access. Our participants made many comments that show this is a priority in our community:
"I'd like to take advantage of the mild winters and summer to bike to work!"
"I want to feel the freedom to pedal from my front door without worry of being hit by a car. I would love to bike to work, to the market and on errands."
"This area is Beautiful and more people should get out and enjoy it then I could commute to and from work by bike."
"I would prefer to walk a block or two than drive or else I would like to bring my bike to town to cover more ground!"
"It allows me and my family to enjoy the city to the fullest without having to worry about safety. I am more willing to spend time outside and more frequently if the community has inviting places. I think Redding has done a good job thus far with walking paths, "I do wish the city was more bike friendly."
"Bicycling is a fun way to get around, it helps me stay healthy. I like to bike to work and for errands and fun. Sometimes it's not so safe and I worry about that."
"It is a great way to get outside year-round."

One of our younger participants summed up the experience this way: It's fun! I Like to bike. The End.

 

In Their Own Words

This article references insightful responses by community members to our question: "I want safer and more inviting places to walk and ride my bike because..." (pdf 270 kb)

For more information visit www.shastalivingstreets.org

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