If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city or town with pretty decent infrastructure that includes great sidewalks, well signed crosswalks, and safe places for cyclists you’re very fortunate. However, many of us don’t and that’s why there is a a movement called “Complete Streets.” Initially I thought that this was a bit of language play. Living in a country that is very car centric it is hard for me to believe that there is strong buy in to this idea.
However, for once I would like to concede that I’m probably wrong. If you look at current demographics, the majority of Americans now live in urban corridors. As more people move to these urban city centers, politicians in these cities are being compelled to change city infrastructure to accommodate more people: walking around, biking around, and driving around. There is also the addition of increasing public transit in a way that runs seamlessly with the other components of the city that allow people to move around their city safely.
The advocacy group, Smart Growth America, has some great information on how to motivate, create, and manage complete street development in your town. Smart Growth America does mention the following which I feel could be a deterrent: each complete street is different.
Clearly each city or town would need to make an assessment as to what’s working and what isn’t working in terms of safety and ease of movement around their city. In some places it a complete street would be created by the addition of a stop sign or traffic lights. In other places a complete street could be created by adding a dedicated bike lane.
To get a complete street policy to happen people need to communicate that there is a need. Needs are typically noticed after a series of negative circumstances such as: accidents, trouble crossing the streets: on foot, by bike, or even when driving. When speaking with politicians and other city officials always emphasize the long-term benefits of these policies that will balance out the short-term pain (cost) of getting infrastructure and systems in place to insure the safety of your city’s citizens.
If you are an advocate for the complete streets movement you may also want to research different grants that can be applied for by your city to help offset the costs. Break through the objections that people will give you and provide information and resources needed to be successful.
The bigger the city, the more challenging this can be but embracing complete streets policies is a common sense solution to our growing cities. We all want to be safe as we move around our towns it’s a no brainer. The big issue always is getting people to come to a consensus and move forward with a unified vision about what will work in your town.
Do you live in a town with an active Complete Streets policy? What works and what doesn’t? What would you change?