Celebrating Complete Streets in April and Every Day

April’s arrival brings a number of reasons to celebrate and advance the Complete Streets movement: it’s National Landscape Architecture Month; through the 8th, it’s National Public Health Week; and yesterday was National Walking Day. The Complete Streets movement’s success is due to the strong, multidisciplinary partnerships it has created; the confluence of these reflect just a few of those partnerships.

Photo: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
Photo: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute

Landscape architects have long supported the concept of Complete Streets, and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) was among the first to support creation of a National Complete Streets Coalition. ASLA sits on our Steering Committee and its representative serves as our Treasurer.

Landscape architects have an important role in creating Complete Streets — understanding the human experience and translating mobility and access needs through design into safe, comfortable, and inviting streets for all. Landscape architects help the movement with innovative design strategies and the incorporation of “green” elements into street designs.

Of course, Landscape Architects have a role to play in improving public health — something they’ve recognized by dedicating this year’s National Landscape Architecture Month to the theme of Public Health & Active Living.

In turn, Active Living is one of the themes for National Public Health Week. Public health organizations and advocates are important partners in creating the broad movement we have today, and often bring a needed perspective on equity issues.

This afternoon, the American Public Health Association and Prevention Institute — both supporters of Complete Streets and the Coalition — are offering a free webinar on maximizing partnerships to achieve healthy communities. Other events are happening online and in communities across the country, many focused on changing our built environment to encourage active transportation.

National Walking Day was technically yesterday, but to many Americans, is every day. Walking is a fundamental activity and humans’ most basic mode of travel. Some of us are fortunate to live in communities that understand this, and provide sidewalks and good crossings, keep traffic moving at safe speeds, and employ other policy and design strategies that enable our safe travel and boost walkability.

A man walks in a worn dirt path near a bus stop and along a five-lane road. (Photo: Stephen Lee Davis, Transportation for America)
A man walks in a worn dirt path near a bus stop and along a five-lane road. (Photo: Stephen Lee Davis, Transportation for America)

Many, however, find walking to work or school scary and unsafe. They walk in worn grass paths, next to speeding cars, and crosswalks are few and far between. Our friends at Transportation for America did a wonderful job showing just how prevalent such pedestrian-unfriendly streets are. Many of the photos show younger, able-bodied folks, but what of the older adults? The people who are trying to get around in a wheelchair or crutches? The vision-impaired?

The truth of the matter is that as our communities grew, roadway policy and design stopped matching what residents need. Bringing us up to that basic standard of safe accommodation is at the very core of Complete Streets. And that’s why every day needs to be a ‘Complete Streets Day’, where everyone with an interest in our communities work together to advance our movement.

Complete Streets