TOGETHER, WE CAN
The Department of Lands and Natural Resources’ announcement last week barring bicycles along the Gov. Froilan C. Tenorio Beach Road Pathway stirred discussions throughout our community about road safety and the pros and cons of this directive.
Runners and walkers, drawn to the pathway’s picturesque view of the Saipan lagoon, acknowledged that there have been instances when they were almost hit by bikers cruising on the pathway. However, they also understand that bikers, especially those who use their two-wheeler as a primary mode of transportation, need a place where they can ride safely.
All parties have valid safety concerns, which brought the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers to envision and present the Complete Streets in the Marianas initiative to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. The term “Complete Streets” refers to the strategic implementation of clearly marked bike lanes, sufficient sidewalks, proper parking lanes, appropriate signage, green spaces, essential lighting, and other innovations to road infrastructure that improve the safety and quality of life in a community.
Complete Streets programs around the United States create safer traffic pathways and encourage other transportation modes. The concept has helped revitalize communities and spur increased investments and employment.
As we’ve seen this past year, bikers, joggers, and walkers have hit the road as a part of their active and healthy lifestyles. It is worth noting that the number of people using our streets to exercise dramatically increased during the pandemic. This trend is expected to continue post-pandemic, as people remain conscious of the health, economic, and environmental benefits of having open spaces in our communities.
As we rebuild after back-to-back natural disasters and a pandemic, we are pressed to properly address these concerns. We are also fortunate to have the opportunity to fix our current infrastructure issues, thanks to financial assistance from the federal government. We must capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by increasing coordinated efforts to achieve the Complete Streets concept. Doing so will significantly improve overall safety in our community. It will also provide our residents and visitors with better access to public and private facilities in the Marianas.
The Office of the Planning and Development, led by director Kodep Ogumoro-Uludong, is taking charge of the road infrastructure projects and has started to assign one-way streets to better coordinate traffic flow within the Garapan Revitalization District as a first step.
Department of Public Works is another key agency that is involved. Public Law 20-52 gives DPW exclusive authority to enforce the rules and regulations pertaining to rights of way, encroachment, and obstruction by private landowners. Encroachment takes away spaces from designated lots, thus affecting the government’s ability to develop sidewalks, bike lanes, and center lanes.
While government agencies work together to strategically plan our roadways, the possibility for us to safely walk and bike around the villages and the scenic routes of Marpi and Beach Road is near. In the meantime, we can also do our part to keep our roads safe by observing traffic laws at all times, one of which is staying at least three feet away from bikers. Let’s give way to pedestrians and exercise care and courtesy wherever we go.
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Mike Sablan is vice president of Triple J Enterprises, Inc. and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.