2023 Complete Streets Dinner: Celebrating progress toward safer communities


A dining room filled with people seated at long tables below a chandelier at the 11th annual Complete Streets Dinner.
Alt text: a dining room filled with people seated at long tables below a chandelier at the 11th annual Complete Streets Dinner.

On Tuesday, January 10, 2023, Smart Growth America hosted the 11th annual Complete Streets Dinner to celebrate the work of the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America that works to create safer, more complete streets and communities. Speakers included SGA President and CEO Calvin Gladney, representatives from sponsor organizations, and Coalition Chairman Jeff Riegner. The keynote speech was given by the Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Ravi Bhalla, and Hoboken Director of Transportation Ryan Sharp.

The 11th annual Complete Streets Dinner was filled with celebratory energy as the coalition reflected on successes within the Complete Streets movement in the past year, including reaching over 1,600 Complete Streets policies on the books across the country, releasing an updated version of Dangerous By Design, a report which highlights the ongoing epidemic of people being struck and killed on our streets. Additionally, the Complete Streets Leadership academies were launched in three states to support state and city governments in creating temporary public safety projects.

The Complete Streets Dinner is held to honor the Complete Streets Coalition, a non-partisan alliance of public interest organizations and transportation professionals who contributed greatly to these accomplishments and more. The Coalition works to create a healthier community, where it is safe and convenient to travel — whether you walk, roll, bike, or use public transit.

Alt text: Photo of Smart Growth America CEO Calvin Gladney speaking at a podium.

“The evolution of the coalition happens through our partners, SGA staff, and the Complete Streets steering committee.”

Calvin Gladney, President & CEO of Smart Growth America

President and CEO of Smart Growth America Calvin Gladney started the Complete Streets Dinner off by noting an important fact—we have achieved what most said was impossible. With zero traffic fatalities in the past 6 years, Hoboken, New Jersey serves as a reminder that when people say “we can’t”, we show them what we can do through hard work, perseverance, and passion.

“Complete Streets is about making it safer for everyone — include the mom with a stroller.”

Peter Quintanilla, National Director of Design Hub at Michael Baker International

Peter Quintanilla said that when he became a parent, he fully realized the importance of the Complete Streets movement. As walking outdoors with a stroller became part of everyday life, he started to notice dangers he had never considered. High-speed traffic, lack of safe crosswalks, and the absence of curb cuts are problematic for everyone—especially those with strollers who simply want to transport their children safely. Peter and his colleagues at Michael Baker International generously support the National Complete Streets Coalition in doing work that will make communities safer for everyone.

“We [Hoboken] have a story to tell, and I’m here in D.C. tonight to tell that story.” —Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Ravi Bhalla

Among the highlights of the event was the keynote speech by Mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, Ravi Bhalla.

Under his leadership, Hoboken—which is the 4th most densely populated city in the United States—has lowered speed limits to 20 miles per hour. Perhaps most impressive among Hoboken’s Complete Streets accomplishments, is that their city has had no road deaths in 6 years. Mayor Bhalla highlighted the importance of collaboration and the fact that it takes passionate people working together to achieve this kind of success.

Alt text: A tweet from Mayor Bhalla reads “It was a pleasure to deliver the keynote on complete streets/Vision Zero w/ @completestreets, joined by my terrific team: Olga Garcia, Ryan Sharp & Greg Franchese. We are passing along lessons learned in creating safer streets to other cities, while learning about how to improve.” Above is a photo of the Mayor and his team.

“Instead of trying to reinvent the game, we’re using a Tim Duncan approach.”

Ryan Sharp, Dir. of Transportation and Parking, Hoboken, New Jersey

If you want to know how Hoboken achieved all this, Director of Transportation and Parking Ryan Sharp, says to look to the basketball player Tim Duncan. Nicknamed “The Big Fundamental,” Duncan was known not for flashy tricks, but for devastating opponents by mastering the basics of the game. Sharp explained that this philosophy guided the success of Hoboken—sticking to tried and true principles that are known to create Complete Streets and safer communities.

Alt text: Director of Transportation for America Beth Osborne speaks at a podium.

Closing out the evening was Director of Transportation for America Beth Osborne, who celebrated the energy that each person in the room brings to the Complete Streets movement. She remarked that whether someone has been in the work for decades or is just starting, everyone has a unique impact that will propel the movement forward.

It is critical that everyone has access to safe, robust travel options whether they happen to walk, roll, bike, or use public transit to get where they need to go. Smart Growth America is honored to have hosted excellent speakers and attendees who empowered one another to continue creating safe and thriving communities.

We’d like to thank staff, attendees, and our generous sponsors and partners Michael Baker International, Nelson\Nygaard, and AARP who made the 11th Annual Complete Streets Dinner an incredible success.

Check out this blog post to learn about individuals making great Complete Streets progress, and look out for the release of our latest Best Complete Streets Policies report in spring 2023! You can also connect by signing up for our mailing list and following the Coalition on Facebook and Twitter.

Complete Streets Uncategorized