What should the city of Derby be doing to become a more walkable community?
That’s the overall question being posed at an upcoming open house – and officials and planners are seeking the public’s input.
The impetus behind this is the creation of a Walkable Development Plan.
The public’s first chance to weigh in on the topic takes place from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 28 at The Pavilion at Madison Avenue Central Park, 512 E. Madison Ave.
The open house is a come-and-go event, so people are welcome to stay for just a few minutes or the entire two-hour period.
At the event’s start, there will be a short presentation given with an overview of the project.
The rest of the time will be an informal setting designed to gain feedback and to talk through issues, opportunities and ideas with city staff, the consultant team and neighbors.
Project funding is coming through the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the local gatekeeper for federal money used in the transportation planning. The city is providing some money as a match, but that figure was not immediately available.
City Manager Kathy Sexton said the undertaking is an important one.
“For 15 years, the city has worked to improve the walkability of the community,” she said. “Now with more than 25 miles of bike paths and lots of sidewalks, we decided to assess our progress and chart a course for the future by creating a walkable development plan.”
The feedback the city gains from the public will help determine what needs and desires exist to reduce the reliance on vehicles, said Jayne Siemens, president of Venice Communications Inc., which is handling event publicity.
The concept is to promote safe, enjoyable and convenient transportation options for all, she said.
That would be accomplished through sidewalk connections and streetscape amenities, she said.
They also would promote different means of transportation along with seeking methods of reducing the number of vehicle trips, Siemens said.
Public input is going to be a key driver in the process.
“It is imperative that the plan reflects the desires of residents, businesses, and visitors to the area,” she said.
This open house is the first of three public engagement activities during the next six to nine months.
There will be a website set up for project updates and meeting announcements.
In addition, there will be an online survey to gather feedback from meeting attendees and those who cannot attend.
At the event, citizens will hear about the project, learn what “walkable” means, and contribute their ideas to make “active transportation” easier in Derby.
Active transportation is a term used by planners to encompass walking and bicycling.
“Communities that prioritize active transportation tend to be healthier by enabling residents to be more physically active in their daily routines and by having cleaner air to breathe,” according to the Partnership for Active Transportation.
Half of the trips Americans take are within range of a 20-minute bike ride, with more than one-fourth within range of a 20-minute walk.
Yet the vast majority of even these short trips are taken by car, it states. They add that in many places, it’s simply difficult or dangerous to walk or bike to destinations.
But many people, even in car-dominated cities, can’t drive or don’t own vehicles and are hampered by lack of access, group officials say.
“Children, the elderly, the visually impaired or otherwise physically challenged, those with lower incomes, or those who simply choose to not have access to a car, are among the groups that benefit most,” they write.
Along with health, there’s an economic benefit, they state, as some of the fastest-growing cities are those that are providing easier means for their residents to walk or bike in a safe manner.