Excelsior! Complete Streets Will Be Law in New York

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced yesterday that he would sign the state’s Complete Streets (S5411.A/A8366) bill into law.

Before the bill unanimously passed in both the State Senate and Assembly, Complete Streets supporters worked tirelessly across New York and within the walls of the Capitol to show the necessity of the bill.

Along the way, they grew in ranks: support came from AARP and the New York State Association of Area Agencies on Aging; transportation advocacy groups such as Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the New York State Transportation Equity Alliance; public health organizations organized as the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance; professional organizations American Institute of Architects New York State and American Planning Association NY; environmental advocates Sierra Club and New York League of Conservation Voters; and organizations that represent many who will be implementing the law, the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association and the Association of Town Superintendents of Highways.

This amazing assemblage found a unifying voice in Sandi Vega, who lost her daughter Brittany last year. Brittany, just 14 years old, was like many other students across the state that September morning: on her way to school. She was killed by a car as she crossed Sunrise Highway in Wantagh. Sandi Vega campaigned for a statewide Complete Streets policy to prevent other parents from mourning a child lost too young.

Despite such impressive support for Complete Streets, proponents feared the bill would meet the same fate as last year’s effort, when the legislative clock ran out before a bill made it through the Assembly.

With Governor Cuomo’s signature on the bill — known as “Brittany’s Law” in honor of Vega — New York becomes the seventeenth state, including Puerto Rico, to have Complete Streets legislation on the books.

The new law’s many supporters are taking a well-deserved moment to celebrate before working on implementation.

“Complete streets design principles have been proven to reduce fatalities and injuries, and by taking them into consideration on future projects we will greatly improve the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers of all ages and abilities. This new law will result in safer roadways and I thank Governor Cuomo for supporting this law which will help save lives, prevent injuries, and make New York a safer place for all,” said Senator Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick), the bill’s champion in the Senate.

Assemblyman David Gantt, who shepherded the bill through the Assembly, said, “With this legislation, future state and local transportation projects will be planned in a way that is more mindful of all users of our roadways. Thanks to this new approach to road design, New Yorkers will be able to realize the convenience, energy savings and health benefits that all forms of mobility have to offer.”

“I’m overjoyed by the knowledge of the impending signing of Complete Streets. I know Brittany is looking over us thinking it’s wonderful that we are helping other families keep their loved ones safe from these busy, congested, dangerous streets,” said Sandi Vega. “I will sleep a little better knowing that we are moving forward toward making NY a more pedestrian friendly state.”

Lois Wagh Aronstein, AARP New York State Director, noted, “New York ranks fourth in the nation for pedestrian fatalities for people age 65+. Twenty-two percent of total traffic deaths in the New York are pedestrians – more than double the national average. Maintaining an independent lifestyle is key to enabling people to age in place, and it can only happen if people are able to negotiate the streets and roads in their own neighborhoods.”

With such enthusiasm for Complete Streets in New York, and policies in place in more than half the states, we’ll continue to keep an eye on our nation’s Capitol Building. We hope they’ll hear the call for streets that better serve communities and incorporate a meaningful Complete Streets measure into upcoming federal transportation decisions.

Complete Streets