Applying a Complete Streets Lens to Action on Capitol Hill

Walking, riding a bike, hopping on a bus, and driving a car -- all ways that Americans nationwide get around. Photo: Laura Sandt,
Walking, riding a bike, hopping on a bus, and driving a car -- all ways that Americans nationwide get around. Photo: Laura Sandt,

Complete Streets is about creating a transportation system that safely serves people however they travel. It recognizes that an individual may have different travel identities: as driver when they commute; as bicycle rider when they head to a friend’s house; as a pedestrian and bus rider when they head to the big game.

Unfortunately, the House transportation bill pushed by the Republican leadership presents a stratified — and outmoded — view of transportation. By devoting all of the funding to highways, it assumes that Americans are drivers. Period.

It is no coincidence that a lot of the people the bill ignores are those who have a limited set of travel identities: those who can’t afford to own a car or continue to pay rising gas prices, and rely on public transportation and walking to get where they need to go. Coalition partner Transportation for America is opposing the bill, and is urging you to call your member of Congress today.

The bill, HR 7, also assumes that the federal government knows that the best transportation solution for communities is a highway and mandates that federal transportation dollars serve only this one (expensive) purpose.

That’s a waste.

We know that with a Complete Streets approach, every transportation dollar can do double- or even triple-duty in achieving community goals and creating jobs. We have just issued a preview (.pdf) of a report we’re preparing on the success of Complete Streets in California. It details the ways that complete streets projects are bringing transportation options, economic vitality, and health to California communities.

The Senate is also moving on a transportation bill, led by Senator Barbara Boxer, and it presents a more complete vision. At this writing, the bill includes a bipartisan Complete Streets provision that would require states to think about the safety of all users of the transportation system in every project — a common sense measure that will save money and lives. The Senate bill still needs to be fixed to preserve local control over funding to build sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways for safety: Coalition Partner America Bikes urges you to call in support of the bipartisan Cardin-Cochran amendment and our Partners at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership have put together a quick, online tool to send them a letter.

In a highly unusual moment, both houses may consider these multi-year transportation bills on the floor in the next two weeks. Follow the links above (today!) to voice your support for a Complete Streets vision in our federal transportation program.

Complete Streets