Albion looks for ways to make community more pedestrian-friendly
By Thom Jennings, Orleans Hub correspondent
ALBION – A group of Albion government and community leaders put their best foot forward on Monday as they took part in a walkability audit funded by the Genesee Transportation Council.
The group of about 20 people included elected representatives from Orleans County Legislature, the town and village of Albion and the town of Gaines, as well as village employees and representatives from the Albion Merchants Association, Albion Central School, RTS Orleans, Orleans County Health Department and The Albion Running Club.
“This community has a tremendous amount of natural assets,” noted Justin Booth during a presentation to the group. Booth led the audit and has conducted similar ones throughout the region, and was visiting Albion for the first time.
“It is amazing how intact your historic district is, that is something you should be proud of,” Booth said. “Many communities have wedged in fast food places in between buildings.”
The purpose of the audit was to begin the process of finding ways to make the target communities not just walker friendly, but to examine accessibility for bicyclists as well. Booth noted that an increasing segment of the population is becoming health conscious, and thus they are looking for communities that are easy to travel around in using non-motorized forms of transportation.
During his presentation to the group, Booth spoke about the economic benefits to a community that is safe and accessible for walkers and bicyclists, and showed some strategies that other communities have used to slow down traffic and create safe passage for pedestrians.
The session was not confined to the Village Hall as the entire group visited various locations in Albion, the first was near the intersection of King Street and West Avenue.
While the group convened at the intersection, Booth noted that there were good sidewalks along that stretch of West Ave and a good-sized shoulder for bicyclists. The one area of concern was the lack of signage alerting motorists that there is a crosswalk.
The second area audited was the intersection of Main and Park streets. Booth noted that the intersection is the gateway to the historic district and would be a prime spot for a small island in the center. The island would force motorists to slow down and create a safer environment for walkers and bicyclists.
The group then walked down Main Street, spending a short time at the corner of Main and State, before they moved to their final location, the corner of Linwood and Main Street.
It was at the corner of Linwood and Main where the discussion turned to a lack of sidewalks on many of the side streets in the village, including Linwood Avenue.
Village Trustee Stanley Farone noted that the village is in the midst of a tough budget process and has limited resources, but urged citizens to attend meetings and voice their concerns.
“Our meetings are open to the public,” Farone said. “We welcome input from the citizens.”
Booth remarked that some communities have created specially designated sidewalk districts or even shared installation costs with homeowners. This can only be achieved with the full support of the homeowners impacted.
In the meantime, it is important to engage the community in a dialogue about creating a community that is pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
The audit concluded with an exercise where small groups were tasked with creating a walkable community. They approached the task without considering the costs.
The groups targeted areas that were in need of sidewalks and bike paths, and when they were done some people noted that these were things that have been discussed for the last 10 years, but the resources are simply not available.
“Many communities face the same challenges that you are,” noted Booth, “but the fact that so many of you came out for this audit says something positive about your community.”
The next steps include creating a community vision, and creating long-term and short-term goals.
Albion was one of 10 communities selected by the Genesee Transportation Council for walkability audits. Medina also was picked for the audit, which is scheduled for later this month.
Wendel Engineers will compile a final report with a list of recommendations and possible strategies to all of the communities later this year.