In Favor of Complete Streets: Statistics, Examples, and the Safe Streets Act of 2013

Complete Streets

Guest post by Jessica Hersh-Ballering

A “Complete Streets: Improving Safety and Choices for All” briefing was held June 20 in Washington, D.C.

Sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the National Complete Streets Coalition (a program of Smart Growth America), the session was opened by U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA). With U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), Matsui recently introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2013, which would require each state to develop a Complete Streets policy to be applied to all federally funded projects. The purpose of a Complete Streets policy is to ensure that roads are accessible and safe for all users, including motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, individuals of all ages, and individuals with permanent or temporary disabilities.

Matsui was joined by a panel of advocates who described their experiences supporting and implementing Complete Streets projects at the national and local levels. Among the panelists were Geoff Anderson, president and CEO of Smart Growth America; Danny Pleasant, transportation director of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina; Camille Mittelholtz, environmental policies team leader of the U.S. Department of Transportation; and Angela Vance, associate state director for advocacy of AARP West Virginia.

Pleasant came to the briefing armed with powerful statistics. Sharing data from Charlotte, he showed that the cost of constructing a Complete Street was only 2.5 to 8 percent more than that of a traditional four-lane road with 12-foot-wide lanes. Given that the cost of road construction often fluctuates depending on the varying prices of materials and labor, Pleasant noted that the average cost of Complete Street construction is within the natural variance of traditional road construction costs.

Pleasant and Vance also suggested that the market is tipping in favor of Complete Streets as millennials, aging boomers, and many people in between these generations demand more transportation options and desire to age in place. Pleasant noted that in response to the question of whether streets should be available for all users, 82 percent of Charlotte respondents answered yes.

The value of a Complete Streets policy is especially apparent in the context of recent crash statistics and trends. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roadway fatalities dropped by 2 percent between 2010 and 2011. Conversely, during that same time period, deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists increased by 3 and 9 percent, respectively. Sixty-seven percent of the more than 47,000 pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2009 occurred on federal-aid roadways. Research shows that Complete Streets modifications, including sidewalks, bike lanes, and other street features that serve the needs of all road users, can significantly reduce crash rates, injuries, and fatalities.

For more information about Complete Streets, click here.

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