Brief Thoughts on Complete Streets Paul Selden July 18, 2016

Benefits of Complete Streets Ordinances and Policies are Well Known
Benefits related to proper implementation of Complete Streets ordinances and policies include
improvements in public safety, economic development, expansion of individual opportunity, health,
transportation network connectivity, liveability, place-making, etc.
Model Complete Streets Guidance and Examples Are Easy to Find
Helpful guidance and examples related to developing local Complete Streets Policies are widely
Enacting Model Complete Streets Policies Can Reap Additional PR Benefits
Smart Growth America publicizes an annual “top 10” list of Complete Streets Policies, based on
rankings scored by the National Complete Streets Coalition.
Reading, PA (Ranked #1 in 2015)
West Hartford, CT (Ranked #2 in 2015)
Misconceptions I’ve Heard Locally vs. Facts
A lack of education about what “Complete Streets” means can lead to misconceptions. I’ve found
fact-based education and awareness-building are helpful when introducing such policies.
“Complete streets mean sidewalks next to every cornfield and bike lanes on every street.”
Complete Streets follow the principle of community context sensitivity, which means that
changes to existing design are made selectively, targeted to the needs of the community at each
specific location. Urban, suburban and rural needs require context-sensitive solutions.
“It will cost too much.”
Complete Streets policies follow a principle of cost-effectiveness, where exceptions are made if
the “cost of accommodation is excessively disproportionate to the need or probable use.”
Changes due to Complete Streets are more often an investment that pays dividends.
“It could lead to more government interference in our lives down the road.”
Road design, construction and improvement is already subject to many codes and regulations.
Complete Streets policies reinforce what many such agencies and jurisdictions already require.

“This policy won’t benefit our own neighborhood, so I’m not for it.”
Complete Streets policies have been successfully introduced in communities with very
diverse populations. They tend to enable individuals of all ages and backgrounds who
rely on walking, bicycling, and the use of mobility assistive devices to expand
opportunities, access to jobs, shopping, entertainment, healthcare, and many other
amenities. Your neighborhood may directly or indirectly gain more than you realize.
“We need a detailed plan and operational procedures before we enact a policy.”
Experts recommend letting the details flow from, and follow policy. Smart Growth
America states, “It is extremely difficult, and perhaps inappropriate, for elected officials
to tread into the territory of prescriptive street design. … In our systems approach to
Complete Streets, the redefinition of the problem is the purview of decision-makers,
while the final approval of the designs to achieve the desired outcomes lies with the
traffic engineers”