Complete Streets: A Simple Idea that's Sweeping the Nation

| 1/28/2011 1:50:45 PM

completestreetspoliciesFor those of us in the advocacy world, political change often moves at a painful, microscopic, glacial pace. So when progressive legislation suddenly catches fire, spreading quickly from coast to coast, it's something to celebrate.

Well, put on your party hats bike-ped fans, because that's exactly what's been happening with Complete Streets. This month, the National Complete Streets Coalition celebrated a major milestone, noting that the number of complete streets policies hit 200 before the end of 2010. That’s up from 100 policies just 14 months ago.

If you're not a transportation planner or a wonky advocate like me, you're probably wondering what a jargon-y term like Complete Streets means. Well, it's an increasingly popular concept that puts equity back into transportation policy at the local, state and, hopefully one day, federal level. Our culture has become so addicted to cars that we've all but forgotten that streets aren't meant exclusively for automobiles. They're meant for buses and bicycles and pedestrians, too. Complete streets' policies simply require planners to account for all users, not just motorists.

Stefanie Seskin, state and local policy manager for the National Complete Streets Coalition, notes on the organization’s blog that a growing number of people are recognizing “the increased choice and access available when streets are planned, designed, and constructed to allow safe travel for all, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.”

“They notice how much more control they have over household spending — a significant portion of which is put into transportation — when their kids can walk or bicycle to school instead of being driven in the family car,” Seskin writes. “And with the increasingly alarming statistics on obesity, diabetes, and heart disease making headlines, people are also recognizing that time spent idle in traffic could, at least in part, be replaced by a bike ride or a walk to the bus stop, if there were bike lanes or more crosswalks.”

Complete streets policies aren't just catching on in progressive enclaves; they're taking root in communities large and small in virtually every state across the nation. Just one example: Take a look at my (semi-)home state of Missouri.

2/5/2011 1:40:31 PM

That's great news! Have you seen the TED talk about the downsides of requiring bike helmets? If you haven't already blogged on it, it's likely to generate some conversation. . .

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