A few traits are common: good schools, low crime rates, ample jobs and competent leadership, for example. But from there, uniformity isn’t automatic. Some residents desire easy access to the best stores and restaurants, while others crave activities such as theaters, sports and the outdoors. Throw in other amenities — such as quickly repaired roads and attractive neighborhoods — and residents’ wish lists can be as varied as they are diverse.
It’s all about a city’s quality of life.
Here is where Anniston City Councilman Jay Jenkins deserves credit for moving Anniston policy forward in a worthwhile direction. Last month, the Ward 1 councilman proposed a resolution to establish a “complete streets” approach to the city’s urban planning.
Last Sunday, a story in The Star explained the “complete streets” concept: in short, it calls for planners to factor in pedestrian and bicycle access whenever they design new road projects. In a perfect world, Jenkins’ resolution — which the council passed — would lead to sidewalks and bike lanes built on new Anniston road projects where they’re feasible.
Yes, there are two catches: (1.) The resolution isn’t binding, which means planners and developers don’t have to include sidewalks and bike lanes in their plans, and (2.) such amenities can jack up the cost of new road projects. And, as the councilman told The Star, “This is a plodding kind of change. Things won’t change overnight, but it is an achievable goal.”
Nevertheless, Jenkins’ resolution is a step in the right direction. It’s opened a worthwhile discussion. Calhoun County’s other cities would be wise to copy this plan.
On the micro level, the “complete streets” concept is about sidewalks and bike lanes, conveniences that can be used for exercise or basic transportation. Alabama is a state beset with terrible levels of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, so improving residents’ ability to walk, bike and exercise in their neighborhoods is a critical need.
But on the macro level, this concept is about how much a city values its residents’ quality of life. What’s important? A new shopping mall? A neighborhood park that’s well-manicured and safe? The hottest new restaurant? Or, in this case, sidewalks and bike lanes that allow residents to conveniently enjoy their neighborhoods.
It’s all part of a city’s livability, of what makes residents happy to live where they do.
Jenkins may be right that this is a “plodding kind of change,” but this much is clear: Cities that invest in tangible, quality-of-life amenities are investing in their future. There is no mistake in that.