Thursday, June 22, 2017

Grant County coalition wins passage of 'complete street' policies to improve the health of its citizens

Grant County High School student Brookynn Scudder urged
the Crittenden City Council to adopt a complete-streets policy.
A Grant County coalition has embraced a policy to make future streets in the county safer for all potential users, and one city's effort to enact such policies involved the county's youth.

The Fitness for Life Around Grant County coalition partnered with the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky to adopt "complete streets" policies that ensures future projects are planned and designed around not only automobiles, but also pedestrians, bikers, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.

Grant County is the first in Kentucky to enact a county-wide complete street policy, and such policies have also been enacted in its four towns: Corinth, Crittenden, Dry Ridge and the county seat of Williamstown.

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation, called complete-street rules "pro-health policies" that make it easier for community members to make healthier choices.

"People are more likely to forgo their cars when they have convenient, well-lit and well-maintained sidewalks, walking paths and bicycling lanes," he said in a news release. "And one of the best arguments for complete streets laws is they don't require a large up-front appropriation, because they guide future planning efforts and maintenance priorities."

Grant County's coalition is part of the foundation's "Investing in Kentucky's Future" initiative, a five-year, $3 million program, that provided matching grants and training to seven multi-sector community health coalitions across the state to address children's health issues. FFLAG selected childhood obesity as one of its issues to address under the foundation grant.

"The Foundation grant requirements, training and other support for changing systems and policy really spurred us to look at how we could improve walkability in our communities," Elizabeth Steffer, a health educator with the Northern Kentucky Health Department, which is a member of the FFLAG coalition, said in the release. "These new policies will lead to behavior changes that will long outlive the grant."
Example of the Grant County High School students' walkability assessment
presented to the Crittenden City Council to promote complete-street policies
Grant County youth played an active role in getting the policy passed in Crittenden, the most recent city in Grant County to pass the policy. Under Steffer's leadership, youth from Grant County High School worked with the coalition and the Step It Up Kentucky! campaign to get the policy passed.

The effort involved eight students who did a walkability assessment of Crittenden and then compiled their observations and photographs into a presentation to the Crittenden City Council in May, asking members to adopt the complete street policy, which they did on June 6.

"The students told council members that they had the power to make Crittenden healthier, and their presentation made all the difference in getting the ordinance passed," Steffer said.

Student Blake White said in the release that his work on the project was meaningful because it would help ensure the safety of his younger brother, who loves to ride his bike around the community.

The 2016 Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that one in four Kentucky adults rated their neighborhoods only a fair or poor as a place to walk, jog or bike. Two in 10 said their neighborhood was either somewhat unsafe or not at all safe for exercise.

"In addition to encouraging physical activity, enhancing community walkability attracts business investment and increases small business revenue," Chandler said.

Taylor Mill and Independence in Northern Kentucky have also passed complete-street policies.

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