The Complete Streets movement is starting off the new year right: over 200 jurisdictions formally committed to Complete Streets before the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve.
This amazing milestone comes only 14 months after our 100th Policy Celebration, showing the success of the National Complete Streets Coalition members, partners, and allies in communicating the possibilities of accessible, multimodal, equitable, healthier – just plain better – transportation systems.
The message is resonating with people across the country, as more come to realize the increased choice and access available when streets are planned, designed, and constructed to allow safe travel for all, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.
They notice how much more control they have over household spending — a significant portion of which is put into transportation — when their kids can walk or bicycle to school instead of being driven in the family car.
And with the increasingly alarming statistics on obesity, diabetes, and heart disease making headlines, people are also recognizing that they time spent idle in traffic could, at least in part, be replaced by a bike ride or a walk to the bus stop if there were bike lanes or more crosswalks.
One of the communities where these realizations led to action – and helped us reach this milestone – has been working on the issues of access and safety for several years: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
In late 2009, AARP Puerto Rico began bringing together a host of key players to discuss ways to make the island more livable. They worked with the Professional College of Architects and Landscape Architects, the Professional College of Engineers and Land Surveyors, the Society of Planners, the Polytechnic University School of Architecture, and the University of Puerto Rico School of Planning to highlight the issues of community development and, specifically, Complete Streets.
AARP also helped to bring the idea to two state legislators: Representative José Rivera-Guerra and Senator Roberto Arango-Vinent. Representative Rivera-Guerra’s rural district of Aguadilla was ripe for more complete streets: people on foot and on bicycle there constantly faced difficulties along the rural roads. And Senator Arango-Vinent saw Complete Streets not only as a a key public policy issue related to mobility and transportation, but also fundamentally a far-reaching health and fitness concern.
In 2010, both legislators introduced bills in their respective chambers. The island-wide coalition was joined by dozens of nonprofit and community-based organizations representing public health concerns, disabilities, cycling, and running. Bolstered by a strong newspaper and radio campaign, Puerto Ricans flooded the legislature with support for the measure, and were rewarded with unanimous approval from the Senate and House.
The new law (.pdf), signed by Governor Luis Fortuño in December, establishes Complete Streets as the guiding policy for all construction, design, reconstruction, and remodeling of public roads. It also establishes a statewide committee to guide implementation of the policy, recommending changes to state rules and regulations and creating guidelines for the state and municipalities.