Complete Streets have been critiqued as to whether they improve safety for all users. Research shows that integrating Complete Streets effectively results in significant increases in walking and bicycling. Effective policies require thoughtful implementation and accountability. Smart Growth America scores the latest Complete Streets policies to determine the strongest and most effective approaches for safer and more equitable streets. New policies are a good start to creating healthier and more equitable transportation networks, but implementing and monitoring them represents a complete overhaul of the decision-making process.
Cambridge has become the first city in the U.S. to require protected bike lanes on reconstructed streets, if those streets are part of the city’s 20-mile bicycle network plan. This is not just an internal policy, but is included in municipal ordinance. And being legally required—instead of just part of transportation planning documents—makes future bike lanes “bikelash-proof.”
Building Complete Streets can assure that our transportation network is safe and comfortable for all road users: people biking, walking, and taking transit, as well as drivers of cars. But which streets are most appropriate for Complete Streets treatments—to encourage non-driving modes and maximize the safety of people using these modes—can be a tough question to answer. A recent journal article describes the prioritization methodology used in Quebec City for making these decisions.
Phoenix has an exceptionally high rate of pedestrian fatalities compared to the rest of the country. It looked like the city was ready to tackle this problem, with a city staff naming 11 intersections and neighborhoods to study that had poor and unsafe pedestrian conditions. However, the citizen committee named to guide passage of a design guide to make the streets safer has become so frustrated with the lack of progress that they have quit en masse. What have other cities done when they have found themselves with a mounting pedestrian fatality rate and a reputation as a dangerous place to walk?
As part of its Complete Streets Implementation, the Florida Department of Transportation recently adopted eight context classifications to guide road design decisions. Under this new system, planners and engineers will consider existing and future characteristics such as land uses, building configuration, and street connectivity to ensure that roads are designed for the right vehicle speeds, road users, and trip types.
The National Complete Streets Coalition has released The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2016, the latest edition of the annual report that scores and ranks all of the Complete Streets policies passed during the previous year. Brockton, MA, Missoula, MT, and Wenatchee, WA tied for the top policy. In addition to looking at policy strength, for the first time this year the report also looked at the income and racial demographics of the communities that passed policies in 2016.
The Florida Department of Transportation has achieved a major milestone in its efforts to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. In late April, FDOT issued a draft of the new FDOT Design Manual, which integrates a context-sensitive Complete Streets approach and will replace the agency’s current Plans Preparation Manual. FDOT has also released a draft of its new Complete Streets Handbook to accompany the Design Manual. SSTI spoke with Billy Hattaway, P.E., former Secretary of FDOT District 1, about the Complete Streets implementation efforts.
In a presentation to the SSTI’s Community of Practice meeting earlier this month, Billy Hattaway, Florida DOT’s District One Secretary, described his agency’s ongoing efforts to improve statewide safety through road design and attention to land use. He emphasized that he prefers to see safety improvements made through engineering solutions, before relying on education and enforcement. The state’s complete streets initiative is a focal point of its recent efforts.
Austin, Texas has released a report detailing their 15-year effort to “right size” streets throughout the city, and the results have been positive. Travel times on the studied segments have not increased, crashes are down by as much as 38 percent, and high-risk speeding has significantly decreased. In some cases travel times and traffic volumes have actually increased because the roads operate more efficiently.
Federal ADA regulations aim to provide access to people of all abilities. As Complete Streets gains greater influence in street design, there is a clear opportunity to develop complimentary efforts to improve access to our transportation system, weaving ADA standards into CS policies and implementation that will benefit the entire community.