1,000 Jurisdictions Now Committed to Complete Streets

A Sustainable Cities Network article (2017-06-17) reported that more than 1,000 jurisdictions in the United States have committed to the “Complete Streets” initiative at the end of 2016. The Complete Streets program is designed to make streets safe and accessible to everyone regardless of “age, income, race, ethnicity, physical ability, or how they choose to travel.” The findings are based on a report by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. From the article:

Communities adopted a total of 222 new complete streets policies that year. Nationwide, a total of 1,232 policies are now in place, in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, including 33 state governments, 77 regional planning organizations, and 955 individual municipalities.

These policies are the strongest ever passed. When the National Complete Streets Coalition first evaluated complete streets policies in 2006, the median score was 34 and by 2015 the median score had risen to 68.4. In 2016, the median score leapt to 80.8. Before 2012, no policy had scored higher than 90. And it wasn’t until 2015 that any policy scored a perfect 100. In 2016, 51 policies scored a 90 or higher, including 3 policies that scored a perfect 100. These gains are a testament to communities’ commitment to passing strong, impactful policies.

By passing strong complete streets policies these communities are making a clear commitment to streets that are safe and convenient for everyone. And they do so at a time when our country desperately needs safer options for biking and walking. …

Complete streets is more than a checklist. It’s a frame of mind. A complete streets approach integrates the needs of people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of transportation networks. Complete streets redefines what a transportation network looks like, which goals a transportation agency is going to meet, and how a community prioritizes its transportation spending. It breaks down the traditional separation in planning for different modes of travel, and emphasizes context-sensitive, multimodal project planning, design, and implementation. In doing so, a complete streets approach can make streets safer and more convenient for everyone.

The article also explained the need for programs such as Complete Streets:

As a nation we face an epidemic of obesity and its related illnesses. The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended making biking and walking a routine part of daily life to help address this health crisis, yet in too many communities streets are not built to safely accommodate these activities. Smart Growth America’s recent report Dangerous by Design 2016 outlined the enduring problem of pedestrian fatalities in the United States, and highlighted the 46,149 people who were struck and killed by cars while walking between 2005 and 2014. Over that period Americans were seven times as likely to be killed as a pedestrian than by a natural disaster. During the same period, more than 7,000 people were killed while biking.

Dangerous by Design 2016 also showed that people of color and older adults are over-represented among pedestrian deaths, and that pedestrian risk is correlated with median household income as well as rates of uninsured individuals. That means people of color most likely face disproportionately unsafe conditions for walking, and low-income metro areas are predictably more dangerous than higher-income ones.

Because of this context, for the first time this year the study looked at the income and racial demographics of the communities included in its analysis. The data showed that communities passing or updating a complete streets policy in 2016 were, on average, slightly more white and more wealthy than the United States as a whole. The average racial makeup of these communities was 76.3 percent white, 10.3 percent black or African American, 0.8 percent American Indian, 5.3 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Pacific Islander, 4.1 percent other, and 3.1 percent two or more races. In all, 77 percent of localities that passed policies in 2016 had white populations greater than the national average of 73.6 percent. The median household income of communities who passed or updated a policy in 2016 was $59,347, about 10 percent above the national average of $53,889.

Taken together, it is clear that communities are consistently passing stronger and more effective complete streets policies, a significant accomplishment. It is also clear that the challenge now is to help communities of all income levels and ethnicities benefit from this progress equitably.

The article noted that the top three scoring jurisdictions with perfect scores of 100 were: (1) Brockton, Massachusetts; (2) Missoula, Montana; and (3) Wenatchee, Washington. In Maryland, jurisdictions or agencies with Complete Streets initiatives include: (1) the State; (2) State Highway Administration; (3) Baltimore City; (4) Baltimore County; (5) Montgomery County; (6) Prince George’s County; (7) Annapolis; (8) the City of Frederick; (9) Rockville; and (10) Salisbury.

Useful Links

Best Complete Streets Policies of 2016 Report

Dangerous by Design 2016 Report

Smart Growth America Website

National Complete Streets Coalition Webpage