Complete Streets News – February 2014

Policy Adoption

Hot off the presses! The latest edition of the Coalition’s annual policy analysis, The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013, was released yesterday. Each year, the Coalition scores every ordinance and resolution in the country on ten elements of an effective Complete Streets policy. Of the more than 80 Complete Streets policies adopted across the country in 2013, the small Boston suburb of Littleton, MA, scored highest. Another 14 jurisdictions—large and small, urban, suburban and rural—were highlighted in the report for their well crafted Complete Streets policies, and representatives from most of the top-scoring communities participated in Smart Growth America’s webinar discussing their work. This year’s analysis found that adopted policies are getting stronger, with more jurisdictions including solid implementation steps than ever before. Read full report >>

The city of Evanston, IL, adopted a Complete Streets resolution in January. Citizen appointees on the city’s Environment Board had been developing the policy for over a year. The policy formalizes the Complete Streets approach the city has been following to accommodate its high proportion of active transportation users, including construction of the first protected bike lanes in Chicago’s suburbs.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation adopted a new internal policy late last year, pursuant to the state’s 2010 law requiring MnDOT to create a Complete Streets policy for the state’s trunk highway system. The new policy was developed along with a technical memorandum that directs the consideration of all users, abilities, and modes in planning, design, and construction of state road projects.
Read more >>

After several months of sharp debate, the County Council in St. Louis County, MO, voted 5-0 to approve a Complete Streets ordinance in January. Local nonprofit Trailnet worked with many County officials, staff, and other community organizations to develop the policy and advocate for its adoption.

Charlottesville, VA, adopted its second Complete Streets policy, along with a resolution calling for context sensitive design in the city. To ensure continued success in creating Complete Streets, the City Council also allocated $50,000 for consulting on implementation of the policy.

Policy Action

A plan to knit together the Birmingham, AL, region with 250 of miles of sidewalks, bike trails, and greenways is progressing well ahead of schedule, with some 30 miles of the network already in place. The Red Rock Ridge & Valley Trail System, which connects suburbs and downtowns with a network of non-motorized routes, was slated to have 50 miles of the network finished within five years, but is already 60% of the way to that goal just two years in. Communities in the Birmingham region have adopted a number of Complete Streets policies in recent years.

Athens-Clarke County, GA, which adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2012, will conduct a trial lane reduction this spring. The plan will temporarily take a portion of Prince Avenue from four lanes to three, adding pedestrian islands and distinctive crosswalks at a point where the street transitions from a state highway to a neighborhood business district.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Statewide Pedestrian Master Plan, which helps implement the state’s 2009 Complete Streets policy, has won a National Planning Excellence Award from the American Planning Association. A companion document, the Hawaii Pedestrian Toolbox, identifies best practices in designing for pedestrian safety and mobility.

A competitive grant program in New York State will deliver $67 million for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects. Federal Highway Administration monies covering 80% of project costs will be administered by New York Department of Transportation, with the remaining 20% of costs matched by local partners. The funds will help communities implement their Complete Streets goals and increase safety and connectivity throughout the state.

A new thoroughfare plan for Columbus, OH, will be based on Complete Streets principles, balancing the needs of all road users regardless of their mode of travel. The plan classifies and prescribes the design of streets throughout the city and will be a guiding document for every road project the city undertakes. Columbus passed both a Complete Streets resolution and an ordinance in 2008 but had yet to significantly update its internal policies and procedures to make Complete Streets the default approach.

A number of upcoming projects in downtown San Antonio, TX, are fulfilling the vision of the city’s 2011 Complete Streets policy and the region’s SA2020 “community vision,” which calls for the city to triple the number of miles of safe, efficient multimodal streets.

Federal Policy Update

On February 6, Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2014 (S. 2004) in the U.S. Senate. The measure would require all new federally-funded transportation projects use a Complete Streets approach to planning, designing and building roads to accommodate the safety and convenience of all users.

“I’ve been a proud supporter of Safe Streets policies since I was the mayor of Anchorage and I continue to support them here in the Senate,” said Senator Begich in a statement. “These policies lead to safer roads, less traffic congestion, higher property values, and healthier families. That’s why I’m pleased to introduce this common sense bill to strengthen our transportation infrastructure and enhance the quality of life in our local communities.”

Our Coalition partners at AARP were among the many organizations cheering Senators Begich and Schatz for introducing the bill in the Senate.

The House version of the bill, H.R. 2468, continues to gather support from both sides of the aisle, including: Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR-3), Rep. Brownley (D-CA-26), Rep. Connolly (D-VA-11), Rep. Davis (R-IL-13), Rep. Ellison (D-MN-5), Rep. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11), Rep. Johnson (R-OH-6), Rep. Moore (D-WI-4), Rep. Moran (D-VA-8), Rep. Pascrell (D-NJ-9), and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27). Please join us in thanking the Senators and Representatives who have joined their colleagues in working for safer streets for everyone — or ask your Members of Congress to join them — with our online action.

Also new this month is the bipartisan New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 (H.R. 3978), which would help make streets and sidewalks safer through a federal credit assistance program that directs financing to projects in low-income communities.

Coalition News

Help document the national walking movement — Steering Committee member America Walks and the EveryBody Walk! Collaborative want to develop a national picture of the great community and statewide efforts to improve walking conditions and promote walking as an everyday activity. They need your help to understand and document the movement. Please take a few minutes to respond to their short survey today.

Nelson\Nygaard joins Steering Committee — The National Complete Streets Coalition is pleased to welcome its newest Platinum Partner Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates to its Steering Committee! Nelson\Nygaard is a long-time supporter of Complete Streets and the Coalition. With Principals among the Coalition’s respected workshop instructors and advisors on major projects, Nelson/Nygaard has worked with Coalition staff and members to bring technical expertise to neighborhoods across the country and elevate the practical application of Complete Streets policies. We are proud of past partnerships on tools and resources for local communities, including the Mid-America Regional Council’s Complete Streets Handbook, the San Mateo Sustainable Streets Plan, and the recent celebration of Memphis, TN as home to the 500th Complete Streets policy. We look forward to their staff’s continued leadership in our work on state-level project development and delivery and research into the return on Complete Streets investment.

Renewing members — The Coalition thanks its Partners who recently renewed their support: Silver Partner Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson and Bronze Partners Local Government Commission and Whitman, Requardt & Associates, LLP.

Support the Coalition’s work by becoming a Partner today! Upgrade or join and receive a signed copy of Completing Our Streets: The Transition to Safe and Inclusive Transportation Networks by Barbara McCann.

Complete Streets News

Sneckdowns in the news — The term “sneckdown”—a mashup of “snow” and “neckdown”—started as a wonky Twitter hashtag but has sparked a broad discussion on how street space might be better used. Referring to the temporary narrowing of a street that occurs after a heavy snowfall, a sneckdown is nature’s way of revealing opportunities for expanding the pedestrian zone. Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson made a brief film on them, and he and the Coalition’s own Stefanie Seskin were quoted in a BBC piece on growing public awareness of the phenomenon this snowy season. Planners in Philadelphia reported a recent street project was inspired by such formations in the snow.

Help fund a film about the movement for livable streets — With just about a day left in his Kickstarter campaign, documentarian Todd Drezner is close to successfully funding a new film about the reinvention of streets in cities nationwide. Among the topics Drenzer hopes to address are fears of gentrification and traffic violence.

Phoenix, AZ continues working on its Complete Streets policy. A policy proposal is making its way through the committee process and may reach the full City Council by the end of April.

In Pasadena, CA, the city the once had the highest rate of car ownership in the world, residents and officials are talking about makeover for Colorado Boulevard. This iconic leg of Route 66 has become denser, with mid-rise mixed-use development replacing low-slung strip malls. City planners say that the increasing foot traffic in the area means it’s time to think about widening sidewalks, removing travel lanes, and reconfiguring parking to make the street more friendly.

BikeWalkLee, a coalition advancing Complete Streets implementation in Lee County, FL, released its 2013 Accomplishments report and priorities for 2014. The activities and long-term vision articulated in the report are a model for other communities and organizations looking to achieve for Complete Streets success.

Several small communities in rural Chautauqua County, New York, are embracing Complete Streets. The Chautauqua County Health Network has already helped the village of Silver Creek adopt a policy and is now working with the communities of Dunkirk, Hanover, Fredonia, and Lakewood on strategies to increase pedestrian safety and bring life back to Main Street.

The Toledo, OH Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) is following the lead of other Ohio regional planning agencies by developing its own Complete Streets policy. The draft policy would require projects funded in TMACOG’s Transportation Improvement Program to demonstrate how a project would help build a “balanced transportation system” for the region. The policy may be up for consideration by TMACOG trustees by early April.

The AARP Livable Communities blog takes a look at how Texas cities are working to make more walkable, age-friendly places. A crosswalk in Austin, a walkway in Dallas, and a whole network of streets and trails in Brownsville are adding up towards an environment that works better for all users and all ages. Complete Streets policies in Houston and San Antonio, and another in the works in Austin, are helping to build the legislative framework to keep this momentum going.

Jim Bacon makes that case that it’s time for Virginia Department of Transportation to rethink its mission, and start designing streets to move people, rather than cars.

Incomplete Streets death: Ahmaad Sarod Henderson — Ahmaad Sarod Henderson, 31, was struck and killed by a driver of a pickup truck on Pennsylvania Avenue in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Henderson was the third pedestrian killed in two months on this dangerous stretch of road, where the design encourages excessive speeds by motorists in a poorly lit area with few crosswalks. Read more >>

Resources

Study: Safety Impacts of Complete Streets — Researchers with the Minnesota Department of Transportation have published a technical study of safety impacts of implementing Complete Streets in the state and found that safety was generally improved among the 11 studied sites. The findings are based on both qualitative and quantitative data about operations and safety, including frequency and type of crashes, vehicle volume, driver behavior in mixed-modal flows and surrounding land use. While the sample size was limited, the data “suggests that accommodating all modes of travel can be accomplished without negatively impacting safety or operations, and that even nonstandard design elements should be considered to do so.”

Report: Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places — The Urban Land Institute’s new Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places guides cities integrating health into their plans, processes, and places. Among its recommendations are those related to equitable access for all people, mixed-use development, healthy foods, and streets that are designed for the safety and comfort of all users. The authors, and their team of advisors, posit that, if acted upon, these principles will help people live longer, more productive lives, re­duce unhealthy lifestyles, help improve a community’s competitive advantages, and allow developers, investors, local governments, and citizens to prosper in the 21st century.

Handbook: The Innovative DOT, second edition — Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative to develop The Innovative DOT, a resource for state transportation officials. Developed with input from top transportation professionals and officials at state agencies around the nation, the handbook documents 34 innovative approaches state leaders are using to make systems more efficient, government more effective and constituents better satisfied. The 2014 edition adds three new strategies for reform, 20 new case studies, and numerous updates.

Report: Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business — PeopleForBikes and the Alliance for Biking & Walking, a Coalition Steering Committee member, have compiled the stories of entrepreneurs and business leaders in 15 U.S. cities who see the benefits of nearby protected bike lanes. The report also includes data on national trends related to boosting downtown businesses, including changing demographics and preferences.

Study: Building Transit Decreases Driving and Increases Walking (Even In LA) — Researchers at USC looked at households near stations on Los Angeles’ new Expo light-rail line, comparing the same households before and after construction to control households outside the corridor. They found that household vehicle miles traveled dropped by 10-12 miles per day in station-area households while staying constant outside the station areas. Physical activity also rose in the households near transit, presumably due to the ability to access more amenities on foot rather than by car. Read more >>

Tool: Chronic Disease Cost CalculatorA new tool from the Center for Disease Control helps communities understand and communicate the cost of chronic health conditions in terms of both direct medical expenditures and lost productivity from absenteeism and missed work. Covering ten conditions, including diseases like heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes that can be strongly influenced by the built environment, the tool calculates state-level costs for both public and private payers, and projects costs through 2020.

Quotes

“Too many people are killed or injured each year because our streets are simply not designed and built with the safety of everyone—including pedestrians and bicyclists—in mind. Our communities deserve safer streets. Many of our roads in Hawai’i and across America make travel difficult for seniors, families, youth, and others who are unable or choose not to drive. Our legislation provides commonsense solutions to consider the needs of our seniors and children, encourage alternative forms of transportation, and make our roads and communities safer for everyone.”

Senator Brian Schatz (D, HI) on the Safe Streets Act

“If you had to think about Complete Streets, what I keep coming up with is the word equitable. If you think about Phoenix and how we’ve developed in the past 50 years, we’ve developed around the concept of the single family vehicle. What complete streets does is try and shift the balance toward other modes of transportation.”

Kerry Wilcoxon, city traffic engineer, Phoenix, AZ

“Complete Streets are not just about cycling with traffic or in newly constructed bike lanes. The policies ensure all modes of transportation, and all people, are considered equitably in street projects. The passage of this bill would at least provide a safeguard that there is complete consideration when spending taxpayer funds on streets.”

J. Aaron Hipp, assistant professor, Washington University in St. Louis

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