Building a quality pedestrian network, one alternative mode at a time

single-meta-cal August 17, 2021

What makes a “healthy” city?

According to Dennis Madsen, manager of Urban and Long-Range Planning for the City of Huntsville, a healthy city is one that offers physical activity built into everyday life.

“Comfortable sidewalks that encourage walking, connected bikeways that make cycling safe and practical, and a greenway network that is accessible and enjoyable,” he said. “All these elements can make it easier for residents to get out and experience their community, not just physically, but socially as well.”

Two women walking on sidewalk

Having a safe, quality pedestrian network enables citizens to more easily access employment, goods and services in Huntsville.

While physical activity contributes significantly to overall health, mental wellness also plays a critical part.

“Providing places for folks to reconnect with natural Huntsville or casually run into neighbors,” Madsen said. “These are the sorts of experiences that can have a positive impact on well-being.”

This month, the City’s Long-Range Planning Division released its third annual Alternative Modes Review, a summary of Huntsville’s progress on alternative transportation infrastructure projects built for safety, quality of life and recreation.

Madsen hopes the report gives citizens a better appreciation for the breadth of investment Huntsville is making in alternative modes.

“And I hope they can see (that investment) into the future and look forward to a fully connected network of neighborhoods and activities,” he said.

Breaking it down

You may be wondering – what is an alternative mode? Simply put, an alternative mode is a mode of transportation other than a motor vehicle. It includes walking, biking, running, jogging and even mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers.

To increase traffic safety, quality of life and recreation, the City regularly invests in alternative modes by building sidewalks, ramps, crosswalks and bike lanes. New greenways, trails and cycle tracks also improve street safety for citizens and visitors.

When compiling the Alternative Modes Review, Madsen said the process involves a “whole lot of emailing, calling and texting.”

“As is illustrated in one of the graphics, there are a lot of different departments and agencies that are involved in the planning, design, funding, construction and maintenance of the various modes, so it takes a lot of communication to track it all and bring it all together in one place,” he said.

What’s new?

The Alternative Modes Review provides status updates on the City’s greenway, sidewalk, bike and street projects. The 48-page report also includes a section on special initiatives and a behind-the-scenes look at the City’s alternative modes planning process.

Madsen encourages everyone to read the report and provide feedback through The BIG Picture website.

“Every year, the report is different because every year sees the initiation or completion of new projects,” he said. “This year’s is a little abbreviated due to COVID, but there is still the same great content about supporting and growing our sidewalks, bike infrastructure and greenways.”

When thinking about current and future City projects, Madsen said the Grissom-to-Ditto and Meek greenways will be assets the whole community can enjoy.

He’s also excited about the City’s renewed focus on connecting neighborhoods to schools via sidewalks.

“I grew up walking and biking to school, and it seemed to be a practice that had completely died off,” he said. “But as we gradually improve the sidewalks and connections between where kids live and go to school, we can re-establish that practice. I’m also especially excited to see the Singing River Trail come to life. I really like the potential connections beyond Huntsville to the surrounding communities and think it’ll be an incredible resource when it’s built out.”

READ NOW: 2021 Alternative Modes Review

For more information, visit Transportation and Modeling.