Editorial: Achieving safety and vitality in Kings Beach
A harmful American trend has chugged along for the past 60 years.American streets, American automobiles and American waistlines have all been expanding since World War II.The resulting fat roads and skinny or nonexistent sidewalks have hurt more than American health; they are ruining the vitality of communities across the nation.People hop from garage to automobile to parking lot to building without the vital ingredient of lively towns walking.Kings Beach, we hope, will become a model of a community that fixes that problem.The Commercial Core Improvement Project is the Kings Beach communitys chance to create a unique downtown, encourage walking and boost business.Thats why we support wide sidewalks and a reduction to three lanes in downtown Kings Beach. Perhaps more important, we believe these options will also keep pedestrians safe transforming a Kings Beach stroll from a take-your-life-into-your-hands rendezvous with danger to an enjoyable and pleasant experience.One pedestrian has been killed and others injured recently on Kings Beachs main drag.Meanwhile, every seven minutes a U.S. pedestrian is injured in an accident, and an average of 13 pedestrians are killed each day, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. California, according to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, is one of four states that combined account for 40 percent of the pedestrian accidents in the nation.Narrower streets have proven to reduce traffic speeds. Reduced traffic speeds are proven to reduce the severity of pedestrian injuries.As Steve Filmanowicz from the Congress for the New Urbanism said in an interview with the Sierra Sun: If there is a wide lane and wider shoulders the cars see that as a signal to go faster.Much of the discussion about the Kings Beach redevelopment plan has centered on traffic. Will three lanes be able to handle all of the traffic? Will cars back up through town on busy weekends?What must be considered is Kings Beach needs traffic for business. The current problem is the town receives all the negative aspects of traffic speeding, unsafe street crossings, air pollution and noise without receiving many of the positives visitors stopping their cars to spend their money downtown.Theres good traffic and theres bad traffic, said Filmanowicz. In a downtown, you dont want cars speeding through.As for roundabouts, we urge the community not be swayed by scare tactics and misrepresentations about the intersections.While it is ultimately up to the Kings Beach community to decide whether traffic lights or roundabouts are appropriate for the town, choosing roundabouts will not cause the sky to fall or roads to snarl in horrible gridlock.They have worked well in mountain towns across the West, as well as the better portion of the world for decades.In choosing the right alternative in the Commercial Core Improvement Project (or a combination of the positive aspects of several), the Kings Beach community will ensure a vibrant town that invites motorists to get out of their cars, and a safe place for pedestrians.Kings Beach, we hope, will be an American town of expanding sidewalks, shrinking street widths and diminishing waistlines.
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