The Need Of Bike Lanes And Public Art

Readers' Forum

To The Reader’s Forum:

The shortsightedness of city and county governments is evident again in the denial of plans for bike lanes and public art–both measures that could improve the quality of life and economies of the city and region.

The County Legislature recently let a proposal to add murals and giant chairs to the area’s public art offerings die on the vine. This work would have been funded from the county’s 3% occupancy tax reserve, money which can only be used for tourism-related projects of this sort.

Meanwhile, the Jamestown City Council rejected a plan to add bike lanes to East Second Street, citing “safety concerns” and the loss of on-street parking. Clearly, the safety concerns are not from cyclists’ point of view, and the parking concern favors car culture in an area with inadequate public transportation.

Both public art and bike-friendly initiatives in general have proven to have social, economic, sustainability, and quality-of-life benefits in other cities. The Urban Institute has cited seven ways that public art benefits communities, including improved physical and mental health and greater cultural inclusion.

Public art has also been shown to help attract and retain residents by enhancing the identity and character of communities and supporting cultural tourism and economic development strategies.

Making communities more bike friendly offers many of the same benefits–even more pointed in terms of the physical and mental health of residents, reduction of pollution and the attendant cost of motor vehicles, and improved walk-in (or “bike-in”) traffic for local businesses.

Jamestown’s efforts at providing safe, dedicated bike routes are far behind comparable communities like Cortland (which is pursuing both “Complete Streets” and public art initiatives). The existing network of bike lanes and trails is poorly planned and disjointed, leaving much to be desired by cyclists (and offering little incentive to those considering biking).

With all due credit to the bike-inclusive Complete Streets and public art measures implemented by the Jamestown DPW and JLDC, it’s not enough to limit such progress to the downtown core while ignoring outlying neighborhoods.

Consider our annual influx of summer tourists, who, after visiting the Comedy Center might spend a few extra hours in Jamestown biking around the city to see public art and promote the experience on social media. And consider the fact that such activity would likely mean an increase in shopping and dining revenue.

If initiatives such as these continue to be rejected or abandoned, Jamestown and Chautauqua County will continue to lose population and fall behind as places that retain or attract 21st century residents. They are not at odds with fiscally responsible government; they represent vital investments in the character and viability of a community–and opportunities to begin reversing our unfortunate reputation for making short-sighted decisions.

Eric Jackson Fosberg



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