Secretary Foxx challenges mayors to a Complete Streets approach

Secretary Foxx and Charlotte
Left: Secretary Foxx, photo by USDOT. Right: people walking and bicycling in Charlotte, NC. Photo by James Willamor

Yesterday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx launched the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets—inviting mayors and other local elected officials to take significant action to improve the safety of their constituents who walk or bicycle in the next year.

Their first action: attending the Mayors’ Summit for Safer People, Safer Streets this March. Their second: taking a Complete Streets approach locally.

The Challenge is based on USDOT’s 2010 Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation announced by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and it includes several activities for Mayors to implement in their cities and towns. After not just committing—but actually taking—a Complete Streets approach, mayors should look to identify and address barriers for people of all ages and abilities, to gather and track data, to use solutions appropriate to the community and its goals, and to be opportunistic during routine resurfacing requirements.

Now is a great time for cities to take a leadership role in this issue. While pedestrian deaths dropped slightly in 2013, bicyclist fatalities continued to rise, and the combined fatalities for people walking and bicycling represented nearly 17 percent of all road deaths in 2013. And, as our 2014 Dangerous by Design report on pedestrian fatalities notes, these deaths are over represented among people of color and older adults.

In accepting the Secretary’s challenge to take a Complete Streets approach, mayors can change the ways transportation decisions are made, which results in a real evolution of their communities’ transportation networks. USDOT points to our resources in adopting comprehensive policies—an honor for us; recognition of the Coalitions’ work brining together key professions and public interest groups over that last decade to develop meaningful and, importantly, doable steps.

Crafting and adopting a Complete Streets policy is the first of those steps. Our Local Policy Workbook asks communities to consider their unique goals and qualities in developing appropriate policy language, and our annual collection of the best Complete Streets policies in the country (the newest version will come out on February 10!) gives real-world examples of well-written policies.

Instituting a Complete Streets policy is a smart way to expand choices and achieve multiple community goals with every transportation investment. We have identified five broad implementation steps for jurisdictions to consider, with references and examples from other communities:

  • Planning for implementation: Assessing current procedures and activities and planning for the full implementation of Complete Streets
  • Changing procedure and process: Updating documents, plans, and processes used in transportation decision-making, from scoping to funding, and creating new ones if necessary
  • Reviewing and updating design guidance: Updating or adopting new design guidance and standards to reflect current best practices in providing multimodal mobility
  • Offering training and educational opportunities: Providing ongoing support to transportation professionals, other relevant agency staff, community leaders, and the general public so that they understand the Complete Streets approach, the new processes and partnerships it requires, and the potential new outcomes from the transportation system
  • Measuring performance: Creating or modifying existing metrics to measure success in accommodating all users on the project and network levels

USDOT is casting a wide net to make sure that every city, county, and other jurisdiction has an opportunity to participate in this year-long challenge. Interested? Join USDOT’s informational webinar on Tuesday, February 10, from 3 to 4 PM EST for more information about the Challenge and Summit.

Ready to jump in? Sign up online today!

Complete Streets