Last Tuesday, Tupelo and Hernando joined the growing number of communities establishing a healthier, safer future through complete streets.
Tupelo is on the map after two months of exploration and debate among City Council members, who first heard the proposed ordinance in February. Their approval on Tuesday was unanimous. “I’m proud of our City Council’s unanimous support of this initiative as we pro-actively change Tupelo’s culture into a more walkable, cyclist-friendly community,” said Mayor Jack Reed.
The same night, the Hernando Board of Aldermen approved their own complete streets policy. Aldermen carefully considered how the policy would impact economic development, concluding that complete streets would help attract new residents and businesses. Mayor Chip Johnson remarked, “This policy will create a safer and healthier environment for all the citizens of Hernando.”
Both mayors see complete streets as an important piece in their efforts to provide more opportunities for physical activity and to encourage healthy living. Both Mayors are outspoken advocates for improved health and obesity reduction. Hernando Mayor Johnson has spoken at and participated in national childhood obesity events and helped introduce Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program. Tupelo Mayor Reed campaigned on better health and quality of life, and his Healthy City Task Force has sponsored a number of community-wide events to promote exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle changes.
Interviewed on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Mayor Johnson emphasized that Hernando’s complete streets efforts grew directly from community desires. At Tuesday’s Council meeting, Tupelo residents spoke in favor of more complete streets, especially to provide safe crossings, sidewalks, and streets for children. One citizen described the worn sections of grass along roadways: proof that people want to walk along those routes.
The mayors also announced their support of the U.S. Department of Transportation Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation, issued by Secretary Ray LaHood last month. The Policy Statement promotes “fully integrated active transportation networks” and calls on every transportation agency to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling.
This proactive policy shift in Tupelo and Hernando has attracted attention from many local and statewide media outlets, as well as garnering attention from national organizations. The policies adopted by these pioneering Mississippi cities will be a model for developing livable, attractive, and healthy communities throughout the state and across the country.