Complete Streets

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"Complete Streets” policies 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.

Historically, local planners and engineers 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 and engineers to “complete their streets,” by planning, designing, upgrading and building road networks that are safe and accessible for drivers, pedestrians, public transit riders and bicyclists, regardless of age or ability.

Transportation strategies that promote active lifestyles include the development of safe bicycle paths, the adoption of zoning rules favoring sidewalks in residential and commercial areas, traffic-free areas and traffic patterns that encourage people to walk, measures to ensure safe streets, and incentives to encourage the public to use mass transit rather than private cars.

Public health lawyers, working with other public health professionals, city planners, and local stakeholders can help craft Complete Streets policies and related initiatives 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.