Safety Demonstration Projects: Case studies from Durham, NC, Huntsville, AL, and Pittsburgh, PA

In the past three years, drivers struck and killed more people walking than in three decades. This happens in part because we continue to design our streets to prioritize moving cars—not people—as quickly as possible, creating a dangerous, high-speed environment for all people who use the street. To test out creative approaches to safer street design, the National Complete Streets Coalition launched the Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy. We worked with three cities around the country to build skills in safer street design, creative placemaking, and community engagement, then helped the cities put these skills into practice. Through demonstration projects, the Cities of Durham, NC, Huntsville, AL, and Pittsburgh, PA transformed their streets and intersections into slower, safer places for people. Communities around the country can learn from the stories of these demonstration projects to test out low-cost ways to create safer streets.

Complete Streets

Pittsburgh, PA demonstration project: Lincoln and Frankstown Avenues

Pittsburgh’s demonstration project made it safer and easier to cross the streets surrounding an elementary school by reconfiguring a dangerous intersection and introducing protected pedestrian refuges at crosswalks.

Through the Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy, Smart Growth America worked with three cities around the country to implement temporary safety demonstration projects. The City of Pittsburgh historically relied on 311 requests to help decide which streets need safety improvements, but when a team from the city looked more closely at the data, they realized they were not reaching the whole community through this process. In particular, they were not addressing key locations with high crash rates in low-income communities of color because this traditional channel of collecting complaints. In partnership with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, the Allegheny County Health Department, the Port Authority of Allegheny County, and PennDOT, they launched a demonstration project at one such site to implement safety projects and to establish new partnerships with the community. Working closely with a local school, they added crosswalks with protected refuges to help children reach school more safely, and they also redesigned the intersection of Lincoln and Frankstown Avenues to make it less stressful for all people—including drivers—in the process.

Complete Streets

Huntsville, AL demonstration project: 4 Mile Post


Huntsville’s demonstration project added more intensive improvements to an existing crosswalk on a high-speed road where very few drivers yield to people crossing and filled in a missing bike connection to a nearby greenway.

Through the Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy, Smart Growth America worked with three cities around the country, including Huntsville, to implement temporary safety demonstration projects. The City of Huntsville partnered with the South Huntsville Business Association, AARP, and the Rotary Club to implement a demonstration project on 4 Mile Post. The project makes it easier and safer for people to walk or bike along and across the street, and it also restores missing connections between nearby destinations, including homes, parks, trails, and employment centers. Along the way, the team faced resistance from elected leaders outside the project area who opposed any project—even a temporary one—that would take space away from cars, but thanks to their persistence and close engagement with the community, they won the support they needed to install temporary safer streets improvements on 4 Mile Post and to work toward making these changes permanent.

Complete Streets

Durham, NC demonstration project: West Club Boulevard

Durham’s demonstration project on West Club Boulevard introduced a new, much-needed mid-block crossing between a major bus stop and a shopping mall. The project also closed a lane of traffic to create a space for buses to pull over and to encourage drivers to slow down and yield to people crossing.

Through the Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy, Smart Growth America worked with three cities around the country, including Durham, to implement temporary safety demonstration projects. The City of Durham recognized their demonstration project as an opportunity to try out more intensive, inclusive methods of community engagement to reach segments of their community they have not connected with in the past. They identified a dangerous site along West Club Boulevard, where a frequently used bus stop across from a shopping mall offered no safe, convenient way for bus riders to cross. The team conducted intercept surveys at the bus stop to learn more about the safety challenges people experienced and to guide the design of their demonstration project. Based on these insights, the team reduced the number of lanes on West Club Boulevard and installed a new mid-block crossing, resulting in safer, slower driving speeds and better yielding to people crossing. The project also spurred important conversations and partnerships with bus riders and with a local bike advocacy group.

Complete Streets

A Mississippi community plugs into internet to power up downtown


Natchez, Mississippi has never been connected to the interstate highway system. But today, with help from Smart Growth America, the city is revitalizing its historic downtown and also working to connect to the rest of the world through a newer medium: high-speed, broadband internet. 

Economic development Rural Development Technical assistance

An Alabama city grapples with its development decisions


Atmore—a rural city in southern Alabama—is poised to make some key land use decisions that will have a great impact on both its long-term economic prosperity and its fiscal health. To grapple with these choices, the city partnered with Smart Growth America to gain a better understand their impact.

Economic development Rural Development Technical assistance

Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy takes its next steps in Durham


For the second meeting of the Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy, teams from Huntsville, AL and Pittsburgh, PA traveled to meet their peers in Durham, NC. During the meeting, teams honed in on next steps for their safety demonstration projects and talked about how to define success and measure the outcomes from their demos. Teams also worked to strengthen skills in community engagement and collaboration across sectors and jurisdictions.

Complete Streets

Launching the Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy in the Rocket City

This November, teams of planners, engineers, and law enforcement and public health officials from three cities convened in Huntsville, AL for the first workshop of the Safe Streets, Smart Cities Academy. Over two days we covered how cities are addressing emerging new mobility technologies, how to engage the community more inclusively, and began the process of identifying sites for the temporary safety demonstration projects each city will implement in the coming spring.

Complete Streets

Looking back at what we’ve accomplished


Thanks to support from the Economic Development Administration, Smart Growth America and Recast City are pleased to provide a second round of small-scale manufacturing technical assistance. Homegrown maker economies are emerging in all corners of the nation and show no signs of slowing. Cities are supporting various businesses that fall under the umbrella of small-scale manufacturing—metalworking, woodworking, screen printing, and brewing to name a few—by crafting supportive policies, reworking their zoning, and initiating workforce training programs.

Economic development Technical assistance