Eugene Cummings of Evansville cycles south on the N. Main Street bike path Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. The street is one of the first in the city's Complete Streets to be finished with many more to come. Staff photo by Denny Simmons
Eugene Cummings of Evansville cycles south on the N. Main Street bike path Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. The street is one of the first in the city's Complete Streets to be finished with many more to come. Staff photo by Denny Simmons

EVANSVILLE — Evansville is aiming to make roadways more accessible for residents, no matter their mode of transportation.

Evansville City Council unanimously approved an ordinance adopting a Complete Streets policy last month. 

The city is joining a national trend of communities passing Complete Streets guidance to fix, and avoid, problems with roadways that don't consider the safety and movement of all users of a roadway, whether pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists or transit riders. The transportation section of the Evansville Climate Action Plan called for a Complete Streets policy for major construction/renovation by 2030. 

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And for councilman Ben Trockman, D-First Ward, it’s a perfect example of why he wanted to serve on City Council. Trockman, along with fellow Councilman Zac Heronemus, D-Third Ward, championed the new policy with the help of organizations like AARP and the Evansville Trails Coalition. 

“We did it the right way. We listened to all folks whether in favor or not in favor. That’s the way you’re supposed to do things, whether it’s on a community level or a state level, is listen to everyone and make adjustments,” Trockman said. “I would say we are pretty darn proud of the process. There’s a reason it passed unanimously. That’s because we listened more than we talked.”

Heronemus said those conversations began in late February, and this go-around they took into account the "rigid" design that stalled previous attempts to pass a Complete Streets ordinance.

The hope, Heronemus added, is that the policy will continue to grow "incrementally over years."

Complete Streets design includes elements such as sidewalks, bike lanes, sidewalk bump-outs, street furniture, audible pedestrian signals, lighting and bus pullouts.

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Heronemus said the ordinance takes into account that Evansville will not have the same leadership forever, and lays out the guidance for upgrades and public works projects to better connect neighborhoods. 

The ordinance states the city will bring together relevant internal departments to work with interested groups and public agencies to integrate Complete Streets into policies, planning and design for all types of public and private projects. There will also be a focus on non-motorized activity improvements to schools, public transit and healthy food access. 

Prior to passing the ordinance, council heard from residents like Robin Mallery, director of Urban Seeds, about the importance of Complete Streets in improving access to healthy food and other necessities for those who do not have a vehicle. 

Council passage of the policy signals to the city administration, the Area Plan Commission, the city engineer and the community that Complete Streets is something elected leaders believe in, he said.

The policy requires an annual report showing progress in implementing Complete Streets. There are also performance measures, like the total number of bike lanes, rate of crashes and number of approved/denied exceptions from the policy, to measure success. 

“What I hope that our community will see is projects like Covert Avenue, to projects like North Main Street, and somewhere in between,” he said. “Obviously, we would love to have all of the different components in every street but sometimes that’s not feasible or not possible.”

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