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Walkability Virtual Academy

Walk this way: task force seeks to use grant for cross-'walkability' study

By Joanne Beck
Alz walk
File photo of a fundraising walk in the city of Batavia, by Howard Owens.

A walkability task force has tentatively put one foot in front of the other and landed at the Bank Street crosswalk between Main Street and Washington Avenue.

The task force, made up of six members of the county that include public health, planning, transportation, Office for the Aging, the Youth Bureau and an elected official, were given an assignment to take photos of various “walkability/rollability” successes, challenges and surprises in Batavia — one of the largest areas for pedestrians — and one spot popped up most frequently, participants Paul Pettit, director of the Public Health Department, and Kaitlin Pettine, communications rep for the department.

“Based on this assignment, one area that we believed walkability/rollability could be improved was Bank Street between Washington Avenue and East Main Street,” Pettine said to The Batavian on behalf of both. 

Backing up to the beginning of this project: It stems from a $10,000 grant to fund a walkability virtual academy for communities to explore and solve issues of poor walkability for pedestrians. 

This involved a training seminar and a photo assignment. Another step is likely to be some type of demonstration, perhaps at the site of the crosswalk, for the potential dangers and safety measures that can be taken, OFA Director and task force member Diana Fox said.

“It would be a pop-up demonstration,” she said. 

One of the problems with that section, with Bank Street itself, is that it is quite wide, and the city may be involved by narrowing the width and “shrinking the distance of the crosswalk,” she said.

“And so the pop-up is being able to do some demonstrations and purchase materials to create different crosswalks and designs to make some green space so that the edge of the curb comes out more so that you have to slow things down,” Fox said during this week’s Human Services meeting. “So that's one of the things that we're looking at doing with that, and creating a whole demonstration. We’ll probably do it by the end of the summer and in September.”

A video was made in May 2019 to promote that very crosswalk and how to ensure safety when crossing. Former City Manager Martin Moore and Former County Manager Jay Gsell assisted folks across the walk, offering advice in a campaign for safety awareness and education, Gsell said.

"We find this intersection is a heavily-used pedestrian traffic area, and there has been too many pedestrians 'near misses' between vehicles and pedestrians," Gsell said. "We said, 'let's make an effort to heighten awareness, and to also start the process to put signs up."

People park across the street, "like they're supposed to," he said, and then proceed to use the crosswalk, as they hope it's safe -- but that isn't always the case. Motorists sometimes blow through the walk without stopping or even slowing down. 

As for the task force's vision, this is all in the conceptual phases right now.

The Batavian asked if members of Healthy Living and GLOW YMCA would be part of this effort, given the brand new campus being built adjacent to the crosswalk.

“Healthy Living/YMCA folks were not involved in the academy, but will be invited to the table along with other interested stakeholders as the process moves forward,” Pettine said.  

Will the entire grant amount go towards the demonstration to be done in downtown Batavia or to be used for various walkability efforts?  
“The goal of the Walkability Virtual Academy (WVA) was to bring stakeholders together to participate in this academy so that we have the foundation for future planning around walkability/movability in our county. We hope that we can bring the knowledge learned to towns, hamlets, and villages to improve the collaboration among partners regarding future designs and plans that relate to walkability and movability,” Pettine said.  “Having this baseline work completed will also position us to be more competitive in future grants to address initiatives throughout the county."

How do you see the money being spent, and is there a chance that some of it could actually go to implement ideas that the task force comes up with?
“The WVA Taskforce is still in the planning process for how the $10,000 will be used. We just completed the academy classes and are in the process of developing an action plan,” she said. “What is written in the action plan will determine what the $10,000 will be used for. The funding could be used for pop-up demonstrations as well as walkability improvements.”

Since this is a federal grant, the task force must meet compliance obligations to receive the funding.

The Batavian reached out to Chief Shawn Heubusch for information related to the Bank Street crosswalk, and this story will be updated when those answers are received. 

To watch the entire video recorded in 2019, go HERE.

Are you a pedestrian in the city of Batavia? What do you think is the most dangerous “walkability” section here? Let us know at

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