Complete Streets

Ever walk down a street with no sidewalks?  Watched elderly folks trying to cross streets that are as wide as freeways?  Ridden on a street with no facilities, signage or room for bicyclists?

Complete Streets is a national movement that asserts that the streets of our cities and towns ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper.

Too many of our streets were designed without consideration of any user besides the motorist.  Now pedestrians and school children and retired persons and bicyclists are joining together both at the local and state level to ask planners, engineers and designers to build road networks for everyone.

To ensure this level of respect, policies and legislation are being written and passed.

Following this state decree, our regional transportation planning agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) adopted Resolution 3765 (pdf), a policy that declares that all projects “shall consider the accommodation of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.” MTC has since developed a Routine Accommodation checklist that all applicants for funding must complete. (Often in the planning/engineering/design world, “routine accommodation” is used instead of “complete streets.”)  This checklist is designed to ensure that the needs of cyclists and pedestrians aren’t overlooked during the planning, programming, engineering or construction of a road project.  If they are ignoring these needs, the checklist is written to determine why.

Visit the MTC website to view the checklist and current list of evaluated projects

Unfortunately, this checklist falls short of being used to determine funding eligibility.  Cities and counties fill the form out but aren’t incentivized (or punished) for how well they are executing Complete Streets.  Because of this, BABC continues to recommend to MTC that they use the Checklist to help measure the worthiness of a project.

On the legislative front, AB1358, California’s Complete Streets bill, was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2008 and takes effect January 2011. This makes California the first state in the nation to ensure that all local streets and roads accommodate the needs of bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders, as well as motorists. Read more about this bill here.

The League of American Bicyclists National has championed complete streets legislation since 1994 and is a key member of the Complete Streets Coalition which includes AARP, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the American Planning Association, Smart Growth America, America Bikes, and many other organizations.