On the campus of Montevallo, AL. Photo by Larry Miller, via Flickr.
This is a guest post written by Ryan Parker, of our coalition partner Conservation Alabama.
Montevallo, AL is preserving its unique blend of college culture and country charm by making intentional decisions about expansion and development.
The small town of 6,000 residents in the heart of Alabama has a vibrant downtown, a Greenway National Recreational Trail, three beautiful parks, an art gallery, and Alabama’s only public liberal arts college, the University of Montevallo.
Over the last several years the City and the University have worked together on projects to make downtown Montevallo an even better place to live and work. “The very best colleges in the country, most of them have lively, attractive downtowns,” said John Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo. “We literally want Main Street and the campus to blend into one plan.”
One of those projects is ValloCycle, the first bike share program in the state of Alabama. The City launched the program in 2011 to expand transportation options for its residents. With over 70 bikes and 3 stations, ValloCycle members and supporters turned their attention to ensuring riders feel safe and comfortable as they navigate local roads.
Another is a recently completed promenade project that connects the University to the shops and restaurants along Montevallo’s Main Street, improving access to the area for thousands of students and staff. “Share the Lane” signs featuring ValloCycle’s logo were installed throughout town in 2012, and more dedicated space for cyclists and pedestrians is a priority for city officials as future maintenance projects arise.
City leaders wanted to make sure the momentum from these investments continues into the future for Montevallo. To make that happen the council passed a Complete Streets resolution on April 22 to officially endorse the approach of designing and building roads for all users.
Montevallo’s policy was modeled on the City of Birmingham’s Complete Streets policy, which has resulted in over 20 miles of storm-damaged roads being rebuilt with accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians. Montevallo leaders felt the commitment to promoting people using all modes of transportation could have similar results in their city, even though the landscape was different and size was much smaller.
Members of the ValloCycle board and Conservation Alabama staff worked with Montevallo City Council to craft a resolution that would incorporate biking, pedestrian and transit considerations in all transportation decisions made by the city.
“One of our primary concerns as a city is to protect our citizens,” said Mayor Hollie Cost, one of the founders of ValloCycle. “A Complete Streets approach provides us an avenue to incrementally increase road safety for everyone through routine maintenance projects. Instead of simply repaving roads for certain users like they were designed before, we decided to view each project as an opportunity to improve safety for everyone, which simply creates a more vibrant place where people want to live.”
The progress that has already been made in providing transportation choices has only increased the excitement of Montevallo residents for future projects. As more students begin walking to school, as more cyclists explore the downtown area and the trails, and as more people travel to their everyday business on foot or by bike, the city is committed to ensuring everyone is safe and protected.
With over 15 cities in Alabama with a Complete Streets policy, the effort to improve the health of citizens, ensure cleaner environments, and promote stronger communities through increased transportation options is generating growing support among local officials that see the daily benefits to residents. As more cities embrace strategies that ensure safety and increased freedom for all road users, a reliably red state will begin to see decidedly green benefits.
Learn more about Complete Streets policies and how your community can create one from the National Complete Streets Coalition.