On October 25, 2019, U.S. Representative Steve Cohen convened a roundtable about Complete Streets in his district, which includes most of Memphis, TN. Local advocates and people from the city, county, and state government attended to discuss the Complete Streets Act of 2019—legislation sponsored by Rep. Cohen—and other ways the federal government could assist communities creating streets that are safer for people biking, walking, or rolling. Below are comments from Sylvia Crum, the Commute Options Program Manager at Innovate Memphis, who spoke during the roundtable.
We took a look at one busy road outside of Orlando where a dozen people have been struck and killed by drivers in recent years. The mix of high-speed traffic with people walking, biking, and taking transit is a dangerous combination; in the event of a crash, people die. The Complete Streets Act of 2019 would go a long way to give local government more resources to redesign these dangerous streets so everyone can travel along them safely.
U.S. transportation policy focuses first and foremost on ensuring that drivers can travel with as little delay as possible. But this laser focus on speed sidelines other more important considerations like the preservation of human life and the health impacts of vehicle pollution. Prioritizing safety in our transportation policy—at the federal, state, and local levels—would be a major step towards a more equitable transportation system.
As the number of Americans walking and biking stuck and killed by drivers each year reaches highs not seen in decades, Rep. Stephen Cohen (TN-9) brought local stakeholders together in his Memphis district to address this crisis. His legislation—the Complete Streets Act of 2019—is a needed first step, but as local advocates noted, alone it won’t be enough to save lives and create the safe and modern transportation system that America needs.
What should we accomplish with the billions in transportation funding the federal government spends each year? That’s an open question that Congress has so far seemed unwilling to answer. New principles from our Transportation for America, program seek to paint a picture of what we can—and should—get done. Congress should take note; it’s long past time for a reset of broken federal transportation policy.
After more than a decade of working to build safer streets, strong Complete Streets legislation has finally been introduced in Congress. The Complete Streets Act of 2019 could catalyze the adoptions of thousands of local Complete Streets policies across the country, based on experience in Massachusetts.
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