Oxford among the elite

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When Oxford first implemented its Complete Streets Policy in 2011, it received a low score from the Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition.

Two years ago, University of Mississippi sustainability intern Sara Douglas made it her mission to tweak and improve Oxford’s policy. Meghan Coyne, a law student at Ole Miss, further updated the policy.

Not only did they improve it, but it’s also now one of the best in the county.

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In 2011, the policy scored 13 out of 100.

“Most of the issue was because we stated a lot of our policy in the preamble and they didn’t take the preamble into consideration,” said Oxford Pathways Commission chairwoman Kate Kellum on Monday.

The Best Complete Streets Policies Report 2015 listed Oxford’s policy now at 83.2, just 0.8 away from placing Oxford’s Complete Streets Policy in the Top 10 of the country. The No. 1 policy is from Reading, Pennsylvania.

Several Mississippi towns and cities scored well below Oxford. Tupelo scored 46.8, Greenwood scored 39.2 and Columbus scored 46.8.

In 2015, the Oxford Board of Aldermen adopted the updated version of the Complete Streets Policy.

The policy’s goal is to establish a densely connected network of streets and roads to guide future growth that equally serves vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and transit; increase walking and bicycling opportunities for improved health, reduced traffic congestion, provide a more livable community and more efficient use of road space and resources.

The Complete Streets guiding principle is to design, operate and maintain streets to promote safe and convenient access and travel for all users, including individuals with disabilities and those who do not or cannot drive and make sidewalks, bike paths, multi-use paths and vehicle lanes safer for all users.

The policy states that bike lanes or a paved shoulder should be included in the construction of all new public roads where traffic is greater than 1,000 vehicles a day.

Kellum said that not only does the policy benefit Oxford residents, but it also helps bring people and potential businesses and industries to the area.

“Having a high-scoring policy definitely helps in those discussions,” she said.