Friday, July 24, 2009

Complete Streets

In urban planning and highway engineering, complete streets are roadways designed and operated to enable safe, attractive, and comfortable access and travel for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transport users of all ages and abilities are able to safely and comfortably move along and across a complete street.[1] Proponents claim that Complete Streets also create a sense of place and improve social interaction, while generally improving property adjacent land values.

Complete streets policies direct transportation planners and engineers to consistently design with all users in mind.[citation needed] These policies have been adopted by a few states (including Oregon, Florida, South Carolina) and a number of regions and cities. Places that adopt complete streets policies ensure that their streets and roads work for drivers, transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as for older people, children, and people with disabilities.[citation needed] Complete Streets improve motorist attitude and behavior toward other street users.

A Federal Highway Administration safety review found that designing the street with pedestrians in mind—sidewalks, raised medians, turning access controls, better bus stop placement, better lighting, traffic calming measures, and treatments for disabled travelers—all improve pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist safety.(1) One study found that installing these features reduced pedestrian risk by 28%.(2) Other experiences show reduced crashes of 50-76%, especially when medians, proper turn radii, and access controls are added.

The Institute of Medicine recommends fighting childhood obesity by changing ordinances to encourage construction of sidewalks, bikeways, and other places for physical activity.(3) A report of the National Conference of State Legislators found that the most effective policy avenue for encouraging bicycling and walking is complete streets.(4) One study found that 43% of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes of home met recommended activity levels, while just 27% of those without safe places to walk were active enough.

About one-third of Americans do not drive.(6) Complete streets help provide safe access for people who use wheelchairs, have vision impairments, and for older people and children. More than one quarter of all trips are one mile or less – and almost half are under five miles. Most of those trips are now made by car. Streets that provide travel choices give people the option to avoid traffic jams and increase the overall capacity of the transportation network.