Historically, local planners have created roads with one use in mind: driving a car. “Auto-centric” road design can discourage active living, such as walking to the grocery store or biking to the park. A growing number of communities are asking their local planners to plan, design, upgrade, and build road networks that are safe and accessible for drivers, pedestrians, public transit riders, and bicyclists, regardless of age or ability.
Planning for “Complete Streets” is one way to do this. Complete Streets programs help promote more active lifestyles, such as encouraging children to walk to school and seniors and people with disabilities to lead more active and independent lives. These policies also improve safety; bolster economic growth and stability by providing efficient connections between residences, schools, parks, public transportation, offices, and retail destinations; ease transportation problems; reduce costs by eliminating the need for expensive retrofits; and result in a cleaner environment.
There are ways to plan for active transportation beyond a Complete Streets initiative. Local or regional bodies can produce active transportation plans or bicycle/pedestrian plans to guide governments in developing transportation networks that accommodate all forms of transportation, not just the car. These plans can recommend the implementation of new bike paths or sidewalks, the improvement of existing bike/pedestrian infrastructure, “road diets” (reducing the number of car lanes and/or shrinking lane widths) to calm traffic, and many other strategies. They can also designate or prescribe funding sources to implement their recommendations.
Public health lawyers, public health professionals, city planners, policy analysts, and local stakeholders can help craft active transportation policies that meet a community’s transportation, safety, economic and public health needs. They can work within the community to ensure that policy directives are clear, unambiguous, broad, and flexible. The directives should also contain specific implementation steps, deadlines, and accountability measures, such as reporting requirements.
Map sharing Kansas counties that have Complete Streets or other active transportation policies.