Today marks the launch of “Complete Streets Week” in New York State, a grassroots initiative drawing attention to the dangers of incomplete streets. Volunteers across the state – organized through AARP’s Create the Good initiative – are meeting up to survey how their local roads and intersections address the needs of pedestrians, especially in terms of safety. Streets and intersections in communities on Long Island, up through Albany, and west to Buffalo will be subject to walkability audits that will survey issues such as the presence of continuous sidewalks, properly marked crosswalks, and appropriate times for crossing.
New York State has the third highest number of fatalities among pedestrians over 65, and many volunteers will visit areas that were not designed with pedestrians of any age in mind. “Complete streets are vital for older residents to maintain an independent lifestyle. That is why AARP’s Create the Good has organized this initiative to evaluate roads and intersections in New York and help community members document the problems in their neighborhoods,” said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. Assessments collected this week will be a powerful demonstration of the need for Complete Streets policies in local communities and for the State Department of Transportation. Legislation is currently pending in the State Assembly (A 8587) and Senate (S 5711), and a number of communities have committed to a complete streets approach.
These New Yorkers are part of a surge in support for transportation choices across the U.S., as evidenced by the rapidly growing number of communities adopting complete streets policies and by recent polling that finds two-thirds of all Americans want more choice in getting where they need to go. Six state legislatures have introduced Complete Streets bills this year. In Washington, DC, legislative support for the Complete Streets Act continues to grow as more and more constituents ask for safe choices.
Fortunately, the U.S. DOT is aware the multitudes of Americans demanding safe environments for walking, riding a bus or train, or bicycling: last month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a new U.S. DOT Policy Statement in support of fully-integrated transportation networks that consider the needs of all users, regardless of age or ability. The policy calls on state and local governments to adopt such policies themselves – and the activities in New York are setting the state on the right path.