Complete Streets is a concept whose time has come. With the emphasis on the word “livability” coming from Washington and our state capitols this year, the idea of reclaiming our streets and roads for all users, instead of just the automobile, is gaining ground around the country.
In late 2009, the New Jersey Department of Transportation adopted a Complete Streets policy for our state roads. They felt that this was the quickest way to get the concept into planning in our state – quick because a policy does not have to go through the same legislative process that a law does, and can be put into effect without the governor’s signature.
But a policy is just that – a policy. It does not have the teeth of an actual law – and it is time now to transform our policy into our law. Join with NJBWC in the fight to get a Complete Streets law on the books in New Jersey, and help us get this law down to the counties and municipalities on whose streets and roads we walk and ride.
Many New Jersey municipalities and counties have taken action themselves. Complete Streets ordinances have passed in eight municipalities and one county, but that leaves plenty of room for improvement, considering our state has more than 500 municipalities! For more information, including some sample policies and presentations, please visit our friends at the Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center.
Thanks to the National Complete Streets Coalition for much of the information below on the concept of Complete Streets.
What is a Complete Street? A Complete Street is one that is designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit, the handicapped must all be accomodated. This accomodation includes safe means of crossing these streets as well as travel along them. Transportation agencies must change their orientation and design/build for all users, not just automobiles.
A Complete Street Looks Like? The look of a Complete Street can vary from location to location but common elements would include sidewalks, bike lanes or wide shoulders, bus lanes if the street is part of the mass transit grid, frequent crossing opportunities, median islands, curb extensions and more.
Why Do We Need Complete Streets? Complete Streets improve safety, and also encourage bicycling and walking with their resultant health benefits. More than half of all trips in the US are three miles or less, and 90% of these are done via automobile. If a safe means of non-motorized travel was availabe, more of these trips could be done on foot, or bike, or by mass transit. This helps us with the twin problems of climate change and oil dependence. Finally, Complete Streets build stronger communities, more livable communities.
New York has just enacted a Complete Streets law. Connecticut did so in 2009. A number of other states took this step in 2010, including Minnesota and Michigan. It is time for New Jersey to join this list. If you would like to help us get the job done, please contact us as we gear up for the fight.