Complete Streets are streets designed and operated to enable safe use and support mobility for all users. Those include people of all ages and abilities, regardless of whether they are travelling as drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, or public transportation riders. The concept of Complete Streets encompasses many approaches to planning, designing, and operating roadways and rights of way with all users in mind to make the transportation network safer and more efficient. Complete Street policies are set at the state, regional, and local levels and are frequently supported by roadway design guidelines.
Complete Streets approaches vary based on community context. They may address a wide range of elements, such as sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bus lanes, public transportation stops, crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, modified vehicle travel lanes, streetscape, and landscape treatments. Complete Streets reduce motor vehicle-related crashes and pedestrian risk, as well as bicyclist risk when well-designed bicycle-specific infrastructure is included (Reynolds, 2009). They can promote walking and bicycling by providing safer places to achieve physical activity through transportation. One study found that 43% of people reporting a place to walk were significantly more likely to meet current recommendations for regular physical activity than were those reporting no place to walk (Powell, Martin, Chowdhury, 2003).
Related Transportation and Heath Tool Indicators
- Commute Mode Share
- Complete Streets Policies
- Housing and Transportation Affordability
- Land Use Mix
- Miles Traveled by Mode
- Physical Activity from Transportation
- Proximity to Major Roadways
- Road Traffic Fatalities by Mode
- Road Traffic Fatalities Exposure Rate
- Public transportation Trips per Capita
- Use of Federal Funds for Bicycle and Pedestrian Efforts
- VMT per Capita
How can this strategy result in health benefits?
- Address chronic disease (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
- Increase physical activity
- Improve safety
- Reduce human exposure to transportation-related emissions
- Reduce motor vehicle-related injuries and fatalities
- Reduce transportation's contribution to air pollution
How has this worked in practice?
The City of Saint Paul, Minnesota, is an innovative leader in the implementation of Complete Streets. Funded by a U.S. DOT TIGER II Grant (grant to fund capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure), the city developed a Street Design manual to implement its Complete Streets policies. Multiple pilot projects are underway that include public workshops to prioritize potential street improvements. In 2013, a “Better Block” event was held to illustrate the Street Design Manual. For the event, a block was temporarily transformed into a complete street with walkable and bikeable amenities, pop-up businesses, and street art.
Where can I learn more?
The Bicycle & Pedestrian Program of the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Human Environment provides extensive bicycle and pedestrian resources and guidance.
The Smart Growth America National Complete Streets Coalition works to promote Complete Streets. Their site includes fundamental information about Complete Streets, support for implementing Complete Streets, fact sheets, and news updates.
Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices summarizes successful policy and implementation practices based on the examination of 30 communities across the country.
Complete Streets in the Southeast: A Tool Kit, a partnership between AARP Government Affairs, Smart Growth America, and the National Complete Streets Coalition, is a how-to guide for implementing Complete Streets.
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