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.
Low-income communities can benefit most from accessible cities
America’s outward, car-oriented growth has meant that people now travel much farther for basic needs. According to new research, only 12.1% of trips to basic amenities happen within a 15-minute walking radius of residents’ homes in the median U.S. neighborhood, and the frequency of those types of trips varies greatly depending on income.
Big data sheds new light on the pedestrian safety crisis
Federal crash data released just this past April confirms what earlier reports had already suggested: 2020 was the deadliest year for walking in the past three decades, marking a 50 percent increase in just 10 years. A new report analyzing the data calls out the most dangerous cities and states across the country, while leveraging emerging data sources to understand how increased walking may have contributed to pedestrian deaths during the unique pandemic conditions of 2020.
A new playbook is emerging for managing local travel demand
Over time, transportation demand management has shifted from mainly reducing single occupancy commute trips to something more encompassing, a larger shift toward active and shared transportation for all types of trips made by all types of people.
Facilities for walking and biking can increase safety, but intersections still lag
The death of a well-known cyclist in Phoenix, Arizona, persuaded the city DOT to scrap changes it had proposed for an essential local street, in favor of protected bike lanes. As the Phoenix New Times reported, the death of a cyclist and downtown ambassador in central Phoenix galvanized supporters to call for protected bike lanes in the area of the crash. The city Street Transportation Department moved away from installing lanes shared by drivers and bicyclists, to painted, buffered bicycle lanes, and, on some blocks, fully protected bike lanes.
Caltrans joins MassDOT in requiring road projects to serve all modes
Culture change at large agencies like state DOTs is slow but steady. In California’s case, the agency has taken several important steps, prompted partly by SSTI’s 2014 external review. The agency started by updating its mission, vision, and goals—shifting its focus from strictly “mobility” to “a safe, sustainable, integrated and efficient transportation system.” It is now formalizing that mission in its design process through a Complete Streets policy directive.
Bike facilities often follow income gains, not the other way around
A new study found little evidence that new bike infrastructure leads to displacement of low-income households or people of color, despite the two sometimes being linked in public discourse. The data reveal some bias toward mostly white neighborhoods in terms of where new facilities are installed, but sharrows, or markings that indicate a preferred bicycle route, account for more of the difference than separated bike lanes.
Small investments can go a long way towards safer, inclusive streets
There is a growing public clamor for better access by people to the places where they live, work, and spend their recreational time. However, a majority of transportation investments are spent on moving people through places, typically by driving.
Is bigger better?
New analysis of FARS data by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points to crashes being more survivable for drivers of large SUVs than for drivers of smaller cars. While driver death is one measure of safety, there are a number of other criteria that offer a richer story of SUV safety, such as their contribution to emissions and increased dangers to those not inside the vehicle.
Short commutes and multimodal access motivate housing choices
In choosing where to live, people strive for a combination of short driving commutes and good transit access, according to a new study spanning three large regions: Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit. Walkable neighborhoods are also a plus, depending on the region.