Why every city should want 'Complete Streets'

Complete Streets provide safe sidewalks, roadways and crosswalks that effectively balance multiple forms of transportation with the needs of all pedestrians.

Already proven successful in London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, and Copenhagen, a Complete Street can incorporate any number of planned infrastructure elements. Some distinguishing features may include: protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, accessible public transportation stops, safe crosswalks, and ADA compliant walkways, curbs, signals and more.

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Complete Streets are designed to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, enhance walkability, and increase transit efficiency. As cities and urban areas swell in population, more and more citizens are demanding Complete Streets.

In early 2019, protestors in Miami, Florida rallied for safer streets. They compared the crossing of busy Biscayne Boulevard to an extreme sport and wanted better conditions for walking pedestrians and cyclists. Around the same time, officials in Atlanta, Georgia hosted community meetings and surveyed thousands of residents about how to create safer roadways. Motivated to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, citizens responded with a resounding 75% voting in favor of funding Complete Street projects.

In Brooklyn, New York, bus ridership dropped 10% from 2012 to 2017. Residents believe that implementing a dedicated bus route – which would give buses the right of way – would prevent unnecessary slowdowns and inconsistencies, enabling buses to be faster and more reliable.

Success stories

New York City was the first American city to embrace the protected bicycle lane. Since its 2007 implementation on Manhattan’s 8th and 9th Avenues, the results show a 35% decrease in injuries to all 8th Avenue users, and a 58% decrease in injuries to all 9th Avenue users.

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Over in California, Santa Monica’s iconic Ocean Boulevard underwent a renovation in 2008 to include bike lanes, parking, and a middle left turn lane. Within the first nine months, the data revealed a 65% decrease in overall collisions, and a 60% decrease in crashes that resulted in injury.

The city of San Francisco put into effect three bus lanes in 2014 by simply painting the street lanes red. The results were astonishing: a 25% increase in transit reliability, 16% decrease in collisions, and 24% fewer crashes that resulted in injury.

What can infrastructure planners do?

Cities such as Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Los Angeles, Honolulu and more have since followed suit, implementing various combinations of Complete Street features. Here are a few steps for infrastructure planners to take in order to put these features into action for their cities:

• Utilize real-time and historical data to identify where a Complete Street will have the biggest impact.

• The number of traffic-related accidents, traffic congestion, vehicle speeds, and population growth should factor into the consideration and planning of a Complete Street.

• Conduct resident surveys to learn about their concerns and gain valuable insights while educating them on this topic.

• Enable cyclist safety in urban environments. Work with advocacy groups and the local chamber of commerce to institute better infrastructure for a safer, healthier population.

Though still relativity new in America, Complete Streets have been proven to promote alternatives beyond private vehicle-based commuting and empower individuals of all ages and abilities to navigate cities safely and effectively.

Topics: Editor's Picks, Smart Cities, Infrastructure, Mobility

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