When a town puts walking before driving

Hamburg, New York. It’s a village of 10,000 south of Buffalo. Along with many other villages and towns that thrived when the steel mills were going strong, it has suffered the last few decades as the mills closed.

But this is not the reason why this town recently was featured in The New York Times and then The Atlantic Cities.

Back in 2001 the state department of transportation recommended that US 62, which is the main street through Hamburg, be widened to accommodate more cars. Residents didn’t agree and instead voted for an alternative plan which would rebuild the streets with traffic lanes that were narrower, have room for trees and wider sidewalks. Intersections were replaced with roundabouts. In the two years following construction, crashes and injuries dramatically decreased.

According to The Atlantic Cities article, “property values in the once-fading downtown have doubled and local business owners are investing millions in new projects. New residents have been attracted by the appeal of a village center where a simple walk up and down Main Street is a pleasure rather than something to be endured. Hamburg was, like many American towns and cities in the Rust Belt, in decline. Now it is thriving.”

Many towns and villages should be paying close attention. My wish is that my new hometown, Cortland, can follow the example of the town where I grew up. It’s been a long time since I’ve been back to the Village of Hamburg. I grew up outside the village and left back in the 1970s. Now I have a good reason to return.

Jan

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