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To drive or to bike; that is the question

Charleston hired consultants to help develop a downtown development plan and a citywide comprehensive plan. After months of consultations with residents, the consultants presented ideas at a public forum this week.

The 100 or so people who attended were asked to rank the issues they would like the city to address in order of importance.

Top priority among those attending? Development of mixed-use facilities along the downtown side of the Kanawha River - described in the options as "living, shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation opportunities that connect to the river."

First runner-up? "Adopt re-use strategies for vacant and underutilized properties and buildings."

Third priority? Build a network of trails and routes to make it easier for people to bicycle around the city.

Well, OK. People who don't decide where they want to go don't go anywhere. It makes sense to have consultants take a look.

But Charleston Mayor Danny Jones immediately identified a reality: A lot of people who live or work in Charleston value the Kanawha Boulevard as a way to get somewhere, and don't want the city to disrupt traffic flow.

In fact, motorists mutter every time the city closes the Boulevard to traffic to accommodate special events - concerts, car shows, etc.

Although many of these events are popular and well attended, they're not popular with people who have to detour around them.

People can see the sense in better connecting downtown Charleston to an underutilized asset - the Kanawha riverfront. Many can see the value of developing better walking and biking routes.

A much smaller number of people are enthused about disrupting traffic.

The consultants are to present their draft proposal this winter. Let's wait and see what they can do to reconcile these points of view.

That's the point of hiring consultants with a broad base of experience in other communities.


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