Advocates for the "Complete Streets" standard for pedestrian and bicycling safety have started a petition drive to impress Kirkwood officials with what they see as a pressing need to upgrade the city's standards for street construction.
"We're getting something going," said Michael Carmody, a member of Safer Streets for Kirkwood, the group that is sponsoring the drive. "We've got nearly 600 signatures. This is the highest number of any initiative I've been involved with."
Carmody is hoping the petition will gain enough signatures to rouse the Kirkwood City Council to enact the Complete Streets standards into ordinance. Such a bill has been languishing on the council docket for a year or more, and now is in danger of being enacted in a watered-down form, he said.
"They're kind of backing up," Carmody said. "Some of the council members are saying, 'Let's not paint ourselves into a corner; let's call it a policy. That would be something you can do it if you want to, and if you don't want to, you don't have to.'"
The basic tenets of Complete Streets require much more conspicuous painting of crosswalks and bicycle lanes, in the strong "continental" style, along with clearer designation of parking spaces.
Such things cost money, but Carmody argues that it would not increase the city's real costs of building and repairing streets – at least in the broader sense.
"All it would do is make sure that when you do a street repair, it's done to the highest level of safety possible," Carmody said.
Carmody is peppering the city's Kirkwood Connect website with pictures of shabby crosswalks, which he calls the city's "Walk of Shame."
One sympathizer for Complete Streets in Kirkwood is Mayor Tim Griffin.
The petition drive is a fine thing, he said, but he, nevertheless, inclines toward putting the standards into a policy rather than adopting them as an ordinance.
"A policy puts Complete Streets in the forefront when doing a street," while preserving some financial flexibility, Griffin said.
The city currently is conducting a Complete Streets pilot project on about a quarter mile of West Woodbine Avenue, near Craig Drive. The project is a step in the right direction, despite several shortcomings, Carmody said.