Policy #6: Road design leads to real Complete Streets

A Complete Streets policy cannot be implemented without an understanding of how to improve the physical environment. Jurisdictions should prioritize appropriate design guidance into their policy and implementation plans. The way roads are designed can influence traffic speed, safety, comfort, and many other factors that affect all people who use the street. We’ve updated this policy element to require jurisdictions to adopt or design guidelines in addition to adopting a policy.

Complete Streets

Implementing Complete Streets in small towns and rural communities

(Image courtesy of Alta Planning + Design)

Successful implementation of Complete Streets requires much more than a one-size-fits-all approach. Rural and small towns often face distinct challenges from urban areas when it comes to improving the conditions for people walking and bicycling. The National Complete Streets Coalition recently spoke with Andrea Clinkscales, Senior Planner at Alta, to learn about some of the obstacles smaller communities may face, along with potential solutions to implementing Complete Streets.

Complete Streets Rural Development

USDOT proposes to remove restrictive design guidelines that make safer streets more difficult to build

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Crossposted from Transportation for America.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) took an encouraging and surprising step this week to make it dramatically easier for cities and communities of all sizes to design and build complete streets that are safer for everyone by easing federally-mandated design standards on many roads.

Currently, FHWA has a long list of design criteria that local communities and states must adhere to when building or reconstructing certain roads, unless they choose to go through an arduous process of requesting an exception to do things like line a downtown street with street trees, reduce the width of lanes to add a bike lane, or curve a street slightly to slow traffic and make it safer for people in cars and on foot.

In this new proposed rule, FHWA decided after a thorough review to scrap 11 of 13 current design criteria for certain roads because they decided these criteria have “minimal influence on the safety or operation on our urban streets” and has a stronger connection for rural roads, freeways and higher speed urban arterials.

Complete Streets

Tell the Federal Highway Administration to make good street design the standard

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THIS DOESN’T LOOK LIKE A HIGHWAY. US-62 in downtown Hamburg, NY is part of the National Highway System, and an example of why the system’s design standards should be flexible. Photo by Dan Burden.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is poised to issue new guidance about street design across the country. Will the new guidance include walking, bicycling, and transit facilities?

Last month, FHWA proposed revisions to its rule governing design standards for the National Highway System (NHS). That system includes interstates and other high-speed, high-volume roads, but it also includes a whole lot of routes you’d more likely call “Main Street.” Thousands of miles of the NHS are streets that serve commercial centers, homes, shops, parks, schools, and hospitals—places where people often walk, bike, or take public transportation, in addition to driving.

Complete Streets

A Deluge of Policies

In just the last nine months, 45 communities have adopted Complete Streets policies – just two shy of the record number of policies adopted in all of 2009. The sheer number of localities realizing the benefits of Complete Streets is inspiring, but it’s becoming more difficult to track. Help out by sharing your successes with us!

Complete Streets