Sunday, August 1, 2004

Sidewalk plan backers hope for next step

By Cindy Schroeder
Enquirer staff writer

ERLANGER - The health of a city's residents could be linked to how many sidewalks it has.

That's the theory behind the year-old Step Forward, Erlanger program, which encourages residents to adopt a healthful lifestyle.

On Tuesday, Erlanger City Council will be asked to endorse a sidewalk master plan.

The Step Forward, Erlanger Committee has proposed 38 projects throughout the city to create a "closed loop'' sidewalk system in the Kenton County suburb of 16,676. The goal is to eventually connect all of Erlanger with sidewalks.

On other fronts:

•  The Northern Kentucky University nursing program is coordinating a four-year study of a class at Lloyd High School to assess whether walking or biking to school results in a healthy Body Mass Index, or measure of body fat based on height and weight.

•  Since spring, the Erlanger Walking Club has met at 7 p.m. the second Monday of the month at the city building to match residents with walking partners.

•  During the first year of a city-sponsored fitness program, 37 percent of Erlanger's full-time employees met personal wellness goals, including losing weight, reducing bad cholesterol and quitting smoking, said Erlanger Administrator Bill Scheyer.

•  The city is supporting the proposed Terrace Towne Center, a pedestrian-friendly development that would be built on 200 acres around Erlanger's Showcase Cinemas. The project would include corporate offices and condominiums, as well as shopping, dining and entertainment.

"You could live there, work in the office building, go to the movies and go out to eat,'' Scheyer said. "The idea is you could do everything you wanted to without ever getting in a car.''

•  This October, The Step Forward, Erlanger Committee plans to start a "Safe Routes to School'' program in an undetermined Erlanger elementary school. The program, part of a national initiative, educates children and parents on bicycle and pedestrian safety, said Julie Sparks, senior health educator with the Northern Kentucky Independent District Health Department.

"A parent or two might lead a group of kids to school on foot through a 'walking school bus,' or senior citizens in the community might be 'eyes on the street' by sitting on their front porch or making themselves visible as kids walk to school,'' Sparks said.

Although 70 percent of parents walked or bicycled to school, only 18 percent of their children do, according to a recent national survey, Sparks said. Reasons children no longer walk to school include distance, heavy traffic, fear of crime and inconvenience. In many communities, subdivisions lack sidewalks or are separated from school by a busy road, she said.

A May survey by the committee of 167 Erlanger residents 14 and older found that 65 percent believe childhood obesity is a problem in Erlanger, Sparks said. Twenty-four percent said they walk to school or work, while 51 percent said they would walk more if there were more or better sidewalks.

Connecting all of Erlanger with sidewalks would cost about $1.5 million and would take several years, Scheyer said.

"The goal is to have every household in the city within a couple of blocks of a sidewalk and have that sidewalk be part of a completely interconnected system that will let you walk around the entire city,'' Scheyer said.


A Top 10 list of sidewalk improvements as proposed by Step Forward, Erlanger Committee:

•  Add section on east side of Baker to connect Commonwealth to Erlanger Road.

•  Complete the sidewalk along Hulbert Avenue to the library and Riggs Avenue.

•  Finish sidewalk on McAlpin from Cowie to Hope.

•  Connect new sidewalk on Hope to existing sidewalk between Hope and Lori.

•  Finish sidewalk on Commonwealth Avenue from Baker to Elm.

•  Identify and complete curb repairs along Stevenson.

•  Connect end of sidewalk on Rankin to new sidewalk on Lloyd via one block of Forest Avenue.

•  Add new section of sidewalk on Lloyd from Forest to McAlpin.

•  Complete stamped crosswalk system along Stevenson from Fieldcrest to Kimberly and re-work the traffic island on Kimberly.

•  Finish connecting piece along middle of Silverlake Avenue.

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