Huntsville working to improve city’s walkability

Huntsville working to improve city’s walkability

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A lot of people are moving to Huntsville, and there’s a lot of construction. But a lot of areas aren’t built to take walks or bike to a school or a nearby store.

If you find yourself driving everywhere you need to be, you’re not alone. The city landscape in Huntsville forces parents or buses to take their kids to school because walking or using a bike is simply not an option. Schools aren’t the only issues because of the lack of walkability.

Scenes on Memorial Parkway with police and first responders rushing to the scene of pedestrians getting hit and some dying has been a problem for years. Crosswalks are few and far between. Depending on where you are, walking to them isn’t even an option.

“It doesn’t work. It’s hard to find sidewalks. It’s hard to cross. People 8 to 80 and anywhere in between simply have a hard time doing that,” said Councilwoman Jennie Robinson.

Robinson says a city not walkable hurts the quality of life for a lot of people.

“We have 14,000 direct jobs coming to Huntsville and we need people here to work. We want this to be a community that attracts people. They’re looking for access for connectivity, so it’s become a real critical issue for the city as a whole," she said.

“If I live on the east side of the Parkway but my son’s school is on the west side, there’s no way for him to ride his bike to school,” said Bekah Schmidt, director of the South Huntsville Business Association.

Dennis Madsen, Huntsville’s manager of urban and long range planning, says plans are in place to improve safety on the Parkway.

“What we want to try and do is make the safest route also the easiest route,” said Madsen.

Madsen is also working on hundreds of walkability projects all across the city. They include adding sidewalks next to Lowe Mill and locations next to parks, schools and stores.

“I think a lot of folks are discovering the advantages of just a daily 5 to 10 minute walk to school for kids but it could be really good for their health. He can also take a lot of time off of the parents schedule because instead of having to drop them off the kids can take themselves to school can kind of cut down on the length of car lines," he said.

Thousands of homes are currently being built in Huntsville, and one requirement for land developers like those working on Hays Farm is to build and connect streets with existing greenways.

“First of all there is a huge greenway system one of the largest in the state in that development but then secondly they’re actively looking at connecting those greenways to the neighborhoods so the neighborhoods can use the greenways to get to the school to get to the commercial area to get to the office space," said Robinson.

City leaders say they have a 20-year plan and vision focusing on walkability. They want to make it possible for you to walk more than 17 miles, from Alabama A&M to Ditto Landing using sidewalks, crosswalks, and greenways, without jaywalking.

Copyright 2020 WAFF. All rights reserved.