Why Complete Streets

In my last post, I made reference to a Complete Streets policy as one of the deliverables promised by the mayor. It occurred to me that perhaps an explanation of Complete Streets and what it means to me might be in order.

A Complete Streets Policy (CSP) will spell out in detail what is expected of our planning and public works departments in accommodating people who walk and people who bike. It would require these departments to look at each project with the safety of vulnerable road users in mind. For too many years, these departments have focused almost solely on how to get as many motor vehicles as possible passing through any single point in the city. Consequently, the design of our road/sidewalk system is predicated on the few hours of rush hour traffic each day, and this design usually is at the detriment of the vulnerable road user.

What most people think of when they hear the term “Complete Streets” is likely similar to the one shown here. While appropriate for a major thoroughfare, such a design is overkill for most residential streets where people on bikes and people on cars can coexist on the same surfaces. In those cases, a more “subdued” approach is called for. However, any plan MUST give consideration to all users of the road.

What I hope for in a CSP is a blueprint for planning/public works to follow for each type of street. The blueprint would not be a hard and fast design, but provide a starting point. The policy would also require that the two departments justify any departures from the CSP in their transportation projects.

Finally, following a CSP will benefit everyone. People who walk and people who bike will be able to reach their destinations safely, while those who choose to continue in their motor vehicles will find the roads safer (as a result of slower speeds), less traffic (since more folks may choose one of the alternative transportation modes), and overall quicker since there will be fewer people who drive competing for the same limited number of parking spaces. So let’s get behind the concept and do it for EVERYONE’S benefit!

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