The following is posted with permission from WalkBoston and written by Gwen Miller who is the Land Use Director and Town Planner for Lenox, MA. This article was featured in WalkBoston’s October 2017 newsletter.
Lenox, in the Berkshires, has just over 5,000 residents. It is largely rural with a small downtown, parks, public art, great restaurants, Tanglewood, and The Mount/Edith Wharton’s Home. In Lenox, you get the small-town vibe but big-city culture.
Residents want to stay in Lenox as they age. Millennials across the country are opting to live in traditionally dense, accessible neighborhoods. So in the past year, Lenox has embraced walkability and adopted a Complete Streets policy. The process started by conducting two walk audits with WalkBoston and working with local partners to install “pop-up” Complete Street interventions. Working with Age Friendly Berkshires, the town installed two temporary curb extensions on Main Street and ordered “WalkYourCity” signs directing residents and visitors to destinations such as Tanglewood, Shakespeare and Co., restaurants, and playgrounds.
Getting decision makers and stakeholders into the neighborhood has been a big “win.” Seeing is believing. The “pop-up” curb extensions were a low-cost and very effective tool to demonstrate how to slow down car traffic and give walkers better visibility and more ability to be seen.
During one walk audit, a Board of Selectmen member joined us. Noting an inaccessible curb ramp, the group stopped to take a look. The Selectmen asked the Department of Public Works Superintendent and Town Planner to fix the ramp before the current repaving project ended. It got fixed that week.
Partnerships, walk audits, temporary, low-cost installations all make what often seem like lofty or challenging goals and solutions, seem doable. You leverage resources and expertise, and get feedback immediately.
We plan to submit our curb extension project as part of our Complete Streets Tier III funding request. This project makes the street safer for all users and we know we have support after testing and educating people about the benefits.
This effort has been positive due to the many partnerships including WalkBoston, Mass in Motion, Be Well Berkshires, MassDOT Complete Streets Program, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, Age Friendly Berkshires, the Department of Public Works, and members of the Board of Selectmen.