A Complete Streets policy is just part of what makes it possible for a community to create safer streets, but political leadership is key. To help prepare more of our elected officials to effectively advocate for and support Complete Streets, Smart Growth America has launched the Champions Institute. We are accepting applications from local officials through September 17, 2020.
The leadership in a community can make or break its larger efforts to redesign streets so they safely serve all users. In Paris, for example, Mayor Anne Hidalgo is spearheading an ambitious effort to cut pollution, decrease traffic, and fight climate change by remaking the city’s streets for people, not just cars. Most recently the city built out more than 30 miles of temporary bike lanes during its two-month COVID-19 shutdown, a move that garnered international attention. But the quick bike lane build-out merely took advantage of empty roads to push forward an existing five-year plan that the Mayor has championed, and for which she has spent the political capital necessary to make it happen.
Similar plans and leadership in other French cities—like Strasbourg, Nantes, & Bordeaux—have resulted in big increases in bicycling rates as infrastructure investments have made it safe and comfortable for more people.
On this side of the Atlantic, cities across the U.S. have made comparable commitments and plans—more than 1,600 communities have adopted Complete Streets policies and hundreds of mayors in cities large and small have declared themselves Climate Mayors. What sets Paris & Mayor Hidalgo apart from many of her American counterparts though is the political leadership that is driving decisive action on the street.
That’s why we’re launching the Champions Institute, a new initiative to prepare mayors, city council people, tribal representatives, and other local elected officials to act as champions supporting plans, policies, and funding that promote activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations. Over the course of six months, participants will learn from experts and peers, covering all steps from envisioning a Complete Streets network to implementation.
In a community without a Complete Streets policy, a champion will be able to help develop and advocate for an equitable and effective Complete Streets policy that will make safer street design the rule instead of the exception. In a community that’s already passed a Complete Streets policy, a champion will be able to focus on making sure it’s actually implemented—and potentially strengthening the local policy if needed.
Understandably, local officials have a lot of competing priorities on their plates, but Complete Streets can help address multiple crises at the same time. They can provide more space for socially distanced and affordable transportation options during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. They can help us reduce emissions and fight climate change by making it possible for more people to walk, bike, or take transit. They can save thousands of lives each year by reducing the number of people walking who are struck and killed by drivers on dangerous roads. And they can help us create more equitable public spaces by ensuring that people of all ages and abilities can access our streets.
Does your community need a Complete Streets champion? Elected officials can apply now.Apply for the Champions Institute