This post is the first in a series of excerpts from Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks, the forthcoming book from Island Press written by Barbara McCann, founder of the National Complete Streets Coalition. The book discusses the keys to the movement’s success, and how places and practitioners in the United States are tackling the challenges of putting a new transportation paradigm into daily practice. This series will run twice monthly. Look for the book out on October 11, 2013.
The passage of the 500th Complete Streets policy was a remarkable moment, especially for those of us who felt bold back in 2005 when we set the first goal for the Completing Our Streets coverNational Complete Streets Coalition: new policies in five states and twenty-five local jurisdictions, more than doubling the policies in existence at that time. Since then the Complete Streets movement has helped bring about a tremendous burst of activity in changing how roads are planned, funded, designed, and built.
The Complete Streets movement, though, is far from the first to point out that roads should be safe for everyone traveling along them, or to argue for more transportation choices. Why did the movement take off the way it did? What does this success teach us about the next steps in creating roads that are safe for all users?
Last year I stepped down from leading the Coalition to take some time to try to answer these questions. I knew that while supporters love the name, many don’t look beyond its definition as a street that is designed to be safe for everyone using it. I also knew that the movement’s success is rooted not in this simple definition, but in the strategies we have used to change transportation practice.
These strategies had little to do with defining exactly what an individual Complete Street looks like. The lack of a design focus may surprise anyone who is following the explosion of exciting new street design guidelines, manuals, books, and individual projects that are getting deserved attention in transportation circles these days.