U of M researchers studying Sweet Streets initiative
Do sidewalks really make a difference? Does a safer street lead to more pedestrian activity? Those are just two of the questions the City of Richfield is trying to answer as it partners with the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to study the impact of the city’s recent transportation infrastructure improvements on residents.
Researchers are asking Richfield residents to respond to a short online survey that asks questions about transit use, overall health, and the use and walkability of Richfield streets.
“The goal of this survey is to assess the social and economic impact of the city’s Complete Streets approach to infrastructure planning,” says Transportation Engineer Jack Broz. “We need residents, employees of city businesses, non-profit organizations and employers to all participate in the survey.”
By asking residents and local businesses to respond to the survey, the researchers will be able to see how the infrastructure improvements, known colloquially to Richfield residents as the Sweet Streets campaign, has influenced the health and activity level of residents and the performance of local business.
Property values will also be examined as part of the research.
The results of the survey will inform the city on ways to better support the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and drivers. Researchers will examine the survey responses to discover the connection between residents’ health and wellness with their access to transit, sidewalks and other transportation improvements.
“Historically, roads have been designed for cars,” says Robin Phinney, lead researcher from the University of Minnesota. “However, we know other types of users need the roads too. Rebuilding them makes the roads safer and more enjoyable for users, and can also induce more people to get out and be active in those spaces.”
The Sweet Streets campaign has been driven by a desire to connect the people of Richfield across all modes of travel while rebuilding some of Richfield’s main thoroughfares into what is known in the engineering profession as “Complete Streets.”
Complete Streets are characterized as streets that support multiple types of users. When designing a Complete Street, planners will look at the design from the perspective of a pedestrian, biker, transit user and car.
Since adhering to the Complete Streets concept in 2013, the city has seen the reconstruction of 66th Street, the redesign of Portland Avenue, and the current overhaul of Lyndale Avenue.
In the coming years, reconstruction of 65th Street will also take place, along with the long-awaited 77th Street underpass towards the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The results of the survey will help guide city staff as they undertake future projects.
“We hope that the study will provide baseline data for Richfield moving forward, stated Phinney. “It will provide information between roads and activity of residents now, and can hopefully be measured again in the future.”
The online survey will be available until October 31 and is available in both English and Spanish.