AARP praises age-friendly street access


POSTED: Monday, July 13, 2009

Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki is “;very, very successful”; in creating a destination for throngs of people with access to hotels, shopping and the shoreline, says AARP's strategic policy adviser for transportation and livable communities.

“;It has done a great job of connecting the people on the sidewalk to the amazing natural amenities along the shoreline,”; said Jana Lynott.

Her one recommendation for the street would be to provide a bike lane, but safety for bicycles is probably OK if traffic does not exceed 30 mph, she added.

Lynott is the chief author of a new report by AARP's Public Policy Institute, “;Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America.”;

A “;complete street”; is defined as “;safe, comfortable and convenient for travel by automobile, foot, bicycle and transit, regardless of age and ability.”;

Gov. Linda Lingle signed a bill into law this year requiring state and county transportation departments to accommodate all users of public highways and streets in terms of access and mobility.

The state transportation director will form a task force to review design standards for highway users, make recommendations and establish policy to integrate plans into transportation projects.

Hawaii has “;a great foundation”; to develop complete streets and livable communities, Lynott said in an interview after meeting Wednesday with Oahu transportation officials, planners, engineers and advocates of complete streets. She had similar meetings on the neighbor islands.

“;Relative to all other states in the country,”; she said, “;Hawaii is slightly ahead of the game”; because of the new law and planning and processes under way for an updated statewide transportation policy plan, revised bicycle master plan and pedestrian plan.

She said Hawaii has the potential to be on the leading edge of planning and design for roads and transit systems.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann told the group Wednesday the city is working toward complete streets. Revisions to a long-awaited bicycle master plan will be ready for public review at the end of this month, he said. He drew loud applause after saying he wants this to be a bicycle-friendly island.

“;It makes sense because of the rail transit system”; and “;transit-oriented development,”; Hannemann said. “;We want to move it forward so a future mayor cannot change it.”;

Lynott said AARP supports a rail network not only from a transportation perspective, but as an opportunity to access resources and planning for complete streets.

It is a chance to blend land use with transportation planning, she said. “;It's a huge benefit not only for young professionals, but for older people if planned well.”;

The state Transportation Department has had a “;complete streets perspective”; for some time, Jiro Sumada, deputy director for highways, said at the meeting.

Transportation engineers traditionally focused on cars, but the DOT is taking “;a multimodel approach to transportation”; to meet diverse needs, he said. For instance, every new road is being designed with a pedestrian and bike path.

The needs of Hawaii's seniors for safer and more user-friendly roads are especially urgent with the number of residents 65 and older expected to nearly double in 20 years, said AARP Associate State Director Jackie Boland.