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complete street

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. Complete Streets also create a sense of place and improve social interaction, while generally improving property adjacent land values.

Features

There is no prescription for a complete street, but the following features may be present:

Sidewalks
Bicycle lanes
• Wide shoulders
• Plenty of well designed and well placed crosswalks
• Crossing islands in appropriate midblock locations when block lengths are long medians
• Bus pullouts or special bus lanes
Raised crosswalks
• Audible pedestrian signals
Sidewalk bulb-outs
• Street trees, planter strips and ground cover, which tend to lower speeds and define an edge to travel ways
• Center medians with trees and ground cover
• Reduction in numbers of driveways
• On street parking and other visual speed reduction methods, when properly designed to accommodate bicycles

Effects

Complete streets policies direct transportation planners and engineers to consistently design with all users in mind. 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. Complete Streets improve motorist attitude and behavior toward other street users.

Safety

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.

Health

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.(5)

Transportation

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.

Social

As streets become more complete, green and attractive, human behavior improves. Drivers tend to be more courteous and vigilent on streets that provide a unique charaacter or personality, are sensitive to their neighborhood or main street environments and are green or well landscaped. Complete Street features, such as ground cover and trees help define the edges of the street and are a vital ingredient to placemaking. As people find streets more pleasing to travel or walk along they tend to come to these streets for greater social interaction. More people walking and driving through a place create more surveillance, and hence dampen the potential for crime.

Economic

As areas become more attractive and balanced land values increase. Some Complete Street projects have increased adjacent land values 30-100%. For instance, a road diet on South Olive Avenue (Complete Street and Road Diet) in West Palm Beach, Florida resulted in an increase in adjacent home values of $115,000 in just one year.(7)

Integrating sidewalks, bicycle lanes, transit amenities, and safe crossings into the initial design of a project spares the expense of retrofits later.

References

(1) B.J. Campbell, Charles V. Zegeer, Herman H. Huang, and Michael J. Cynecki. A Review of Pedestrian Safety Research in the United States and Abroad Jan. 2004, Federal Highway Administration, Publication number FHWA-RD-03-042

(2) King, MR, Carnegie, JA, Ewing, R. Pedestrian Safety Through a Raised Median and Redesigned Intersections, Transportation Research Board 1828, 2003) pp 56-66

(3) Koplan, J.P., Liverman, C.T., & Kraak, V.I. (Eds.). Committee on Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth. (2004). Preventing childhood obesity: Health in the balance. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine. Retrieved December 7, 2004 from http://books.nap.edu/catalog/11015.html.

(4) Teach Robbins, L., Morandi, L. Promoting Walking and Biking: the Legislative Role. NCSL, December 2002. access: www.activelivingleadership.org/pdf_file/Promoting_Walking_and_biking.pdf

(5) Powell, K.E., Martin, L., & Chowdhury, P.P. Places to walk: convenience and regular physical activity. American Journal of Public Health, 93, (2003): 1519-1521.

(6) Highway Statistics, 2001

(7) Ian Lockwood, P.E., 2006

This page was adapted, with permission, from informational materials developed by the National Complete Streets Coalition This information is in the public domain, and is not copyrighted material.

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