Shawnee Planning Commissioners this week heard a presentation about opportunities to transform Broadway Avenue into a more pedestrian and bike-friendly street.

Shawnee Planning Commissioners this week heard a presentation about opportunities to transform Broadway Avenue into a more pedestrian and bike-friendly street.

Blue Zones Project Community Program Manager Rachael Melot addressed the board Wednesday afternoon with a report offering ways to establish a supported new vision for Broadway — one that encourages slower car traffic, along with more porch-sitting, bicycling and walking.

Referring to data collected in March, Melot walked commissioners through The Blue Zones Project-led focus on some walkability and bikeability improvements in Shawnee, starting with one of the community's oldest streets — Broadway.

At that time, about 30 area residents and Blue Zones leaders performed an audit of Broadway on bicycles afternoon just before they — and several more — gathered for a town hall meeting at First Christian Church.

As prime stakeholders, residents were asked to gather around maps of their neighborhood and brainstorm ways they would like to see Broadway improved as a more community-friendly street.

Melot said when The Avedis Foundation made an agreement with Blue Zones to come here, part of the process to determine readiness was to ensure the city and stakeholders are ready to make significant changes to the environment to promote wellbeing.

“One of the components they talk about is to leave one long-lasting visual representation,” she said. “Where we put a catalyst in place that says this is a visual change for everyone to see and remember.”

About a year ago 50 people attended the first summit to determine what the marquee project would be, she said.

After narrowing it down from about 10 ideas, it became one clear idea — that a lot of people had interest in — was to take the existing Broadway corridor from MacArthur to Downtown, and really make that the most beautiful, pedestrian-friendly place in the community, Melot said.

“To incorporate bike lanes and better walkability and front-porch living again,” she said.

As a result, the local audit was done, and bike audits, in March.

“Dan (Burden) walked us through things to notice if you're going to think about making it community-friendly — friendly to all people, not just cars,” she said.

Present conditions for Broadway include really wide traffic lanes, which encourages speeding, Melot said.

“One of the things we've done a lot of learning about is what entices you to drive faster,” she said. “Our state minimum width of a travel lane is 10 feet; those lanes on Broadway are almost 20 — all the way.”

It gives drivers the impression there will be no obstruction, so they can go as fast as they can, she said.

Melot said, as a Broadway resident, she sees that first-hand.

“One of the suggestions to slow traffic, then, is to narrow the lanes,” she said.

Signage and lighting for pedestrians and cyclists also is missing, she said.

Another issue was on-street parking.

“On-street parking was initially the very first red flag,” she said.

When the city proposed removing on-street parking 10 years ago, it was met with opposition from neighborhoods, she said.

“The built-environment committee has actually done walking audits on Broadway at multiple times of day to count cars parked in the street,” Melot said. “To really see what that need is.”

Also, data was collected regarding how many homes on that stretch are without at least available parking on the lot for at least two cars.

“From Redbud Park all the way to MacArthur there are five homes that don't have at least room for two parking spaces,” she said. “Most have more than that. In those two or three that don't have parking, it's because the driveway is shared — it didn't necessarily mean there wasn't room, but it was utilized at this time.”

Through the audits or knocking on doors (to ask opinions), there has been almost no opposition to the idea of removing on-street parking, she said.

“It was a surprise,” she said.

Melot said they went to the neighborhood and knocked on doors on all of the blocks and were overwhelmingly surprised by the number of people who were fine with removal of on-street parking.

“I think that really speaks to where we are now compared to where we were 10 years ago,” she said.

Recent sidewalk renovations have addressed some of the issues, as well, she said.

“The expert team provided three options to making Broadway a marquee project,” she said.

The first one incorporates buffered bike lanes along the outer edges of Broadway. The buffer space would be four feet wide and each bike lane would be six feet wide.

The second an third options are very similar, Melot said.

Option two offers buffered bike lanes, but adds a single-lane roundabout.

“If you are not familiar with roundabouts, … what's really important to know about them is when you take the vehicle-to-person conflict opportunities down from 32 (in an intersection) to eight (for a roundabout).”

Similarly, Melot said pedestrian conflicts fall from 24 to eight, as well.

In communities who have done this, like Fort Worth, they have made a roundabout-first policy, she said.

“Any time they have a new intersection, the first consideration is not a stop light or stop sign, it's a roundabout,” she said. “It doesn't mean it goes in every intersection, it just means it's the default consideration — because of the significant decline in intersection fatalities and injuries.”

Option three — having painted bike lanes with the roundabout — is the option being talked about and discussed by the city manager and a variety of sponsors, Melot said.

“Obviously, there is significant financial implication to do this to Broadway,” she said. “Everybody is starting that discussion.”

One of the reasons the brightly painted bike lanes is gaining so much attention for us in particular in Shawnee is because of our lack of exposure to them overall, she said.

“It gives everyone the opportunity to be educated,” she said.

Melot said data explains why traffic speed matters so much.

“If you are hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour, there is an 85-percent chance of survival,” she said.

At 30 miles per hour, she said the survival rate goes to 50-50.

“At 40 mile per hour, there's only a 15-percent chance of survival,” she said. “When we think about our city's speed limits being 30 to 35 on Broadway, and people speeding, we're not giving the kids a chance; we're not giving us a chance.”

If someone bikes or walks across Broadway and is hit, at best the person has a 50-50 chance of survival, she said.

“That's not good enough,” Melot said. “So we have to do the things to get our speed limits back down to what they should be in pedestrian-friendly neighborhood environments.”

She said the project's aim is to slow people down enough in a way that it's safe to be in the street again.

Other options that can slow traffic includes things like curb extensions, mini-circles, trees and foliage or painted intersections.

“If all stays on track, by this time next year, we could be doing some kind of construction toward creating a marquee project on Broadway,” she said.

For those interested, Melot said the presentation also will be brought before Shawnee City Commissioners at 6 p.m. Monday in the Bertha Ann Young City Commission Chambers at City Hall, at 16 W. 9th St.

The Avedis Foundation sparked the partnership between the community and Blue Zones almost two years ago.

To learn more about Blue Zones Project, call the Blue Zones Project team in Pottawatomie County at (405) 765-8071 or visit www.bluezonesproject.com.

Watch for updates.