National expert to study pedestrian safety in Oxford

Efforts to get residents more active and outside moving around must also include making the sidewalks and roadways safer for all that activity.

A nationally-known professional is being brought to Oxford this month to help identify problems.

“Building a Healthier Community by Design” is the theme for a three-day visit by Mark Fenton, a national public health, planning and transportation consultant.

Fenton’s visit, funded by a wide range of local partners, will focus on helping participants understand the strategies they can use to make the community safer and allow residents to be more active.

The centerpiece for his visit will be a Walk Audit Monday, Sept. 25, in which he will lead participants on a walking tour of a section of South Locust Street.

Fenton will arrive earlier that day and be taken on a “windshield tour” by Parks and Recreation Department Director Casey Wooddell to help him better see and understand the issues involved.

The Sept. 25 Walk Audit will expand on the Locust Street corridor area of a walk audit last year organized by Mayor Kate Rousmaniere.

The mayor’s walking audit covered the area from Foxfire Drive north to approximately the area just past the Walgreens store but Fenton plans to expand that to at least High Street/Contreras Road and possibly the Uptown area.

“He will take folks on a walk and explain typical challenges to walking and biking. He will start at the library and look at the Locust Street corridor, looking at pedestrian demand,” said Amy Macechko, health and wellness coordinator for the Talawanda district and one of the organizers of the Coalition for a Healthy Community Oxford Ohio Area. “He will train us so we can do walk audits of our own community. It’s important to look at what we saw and compile it into a format we can use. That’s the part where we look to have the community involved.”

Organizers hope to have about 40 people take part in the walk audit.

Macechko said it is important to get an outsider’s perspective on issues involving safe travel as well as potential hazards for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Impetus from the mayor’s walk audit resulted in the addition of some sidewalks along Locust Street to make pedestrian travel safer — particularly in the areas immediately north and south of the Spring Street intersection.

“Amazing things are happening in the community,” Macechko said, citing the recent opening of a section of the recreational trail around the city, that improvement on Locust Street as well as last year’s addition of a playground in Darrtown and the community day at Merry Day Park in Oxford. “We have great strategies and practices in place. I hope we can continue that coordinated effort.”

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