New USDOT Policy Statement Endorses Complete Streets: On to Implementation

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has issued a new policy statement that calls for full inclusion of pedestrians and bicyclists in transportation projects, with particular attention paid to transit riders and people of all ages and abilities – essentially, a Complete Streets policy. “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,” he said in his blog yesterday.

Secretary LaHood made a big splash at last week’s National Bike Summit, but his enthusiastic tabletop speech is no match for yesterday’s new policy statement in scope and potential effect, as transportation agencies across the country begin to follow the USDOT’s lead and adopt Complete Streets policies.

The statement details what agencies large and small can and should do to integrate non-motorized modes into future projects:

  • Consider walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes;
  • Ensure convenient choices for people of all ages and abilities;
  • Go beyond minimum design standards;
  • Integrate bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on new, rehabilitated, and limited-access bridges;
  • Collect data on walking and biking trips;
  • Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling and track them over time;
  • Maintain sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are maintained, especially during snowy weather; and
  • Improve non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects.

We are thrilled and gratified.

This move will make our job easier, as we still have a long way to go toward full policy adoption: fewer than half the states have policies, Complete Streets has not yet become federal law, and only a small fraction of all cities and towns have policies.

The new USDOT policy signals that we are starting to turn a corner on policy adoption, which means we need to be working on the next step: effective policy implementation. Fortunately, we’re getting some help in this area. At its conference in Savannah yesterday, the Institute of Transportation Engineers (a long time Coalition member), unveiled its new Recommended Practice for designing multi-modal urban streets, Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach. This document has been in the works for quite some time, engaging the Congress for the New Urbanism and hundreds of transportation professionals to link land use context to multi-modal roadway design. It will be a great resource.

Later in the day, I learned that Berkeley researchers are helping the California Department of Transportation develop a whole new set of performance measures to gauge whether Deputy Directive 64-R1 (.pdf), the DOT’s Complete Streets policy, is achieving their goals for safety and mobility. Caltrans just issued a new Implementation Action Plan (.pdf), a significant milestone in transforming everyday practice to create a system for all users.

So we’re celebrating the new policy issued by the USDOT and rolling up our sleeves to ensure that this policy – and all Complete Streets policies – results in the transformation of our roads into welcoming corridors for people of all ages and abilities, however they choose to travel.

Complete Streets