Introduction to Complete Streets
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Introduction to Complete Streets

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This presentation provides an overview of Complete Streets - what they are, why we need them, and what can be done. Please visit for more information. ...

This presentation provides an overview of Complete Streets - what they are, why we need them, and what can be done. Please visit for more information.

This presentation is free for for non-commercial use. Firms wishing to use our presentations and materials in working with clients should contact us at barbara [at] completestreets [dot] org.

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  • The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of our communities. They allow children to get to school and parents to get to work. They bring together neighbors and draw visitors to neighborhood stores. These streets ought to be designed for everyone – whether young or old, on foot or on bicycle, in a car or in a bus – but too often they are designed only for speeding cars or creeping traffic jams.Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to “complete” the streets. States, cities, and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build roads that are safer, more accessible, and easier for everyone. In the process, they are creating better communities for people to live, play, work, and shop.Photo: Charlotte NC DOT
  • Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities are able to safely move along and across a complete street.Photos, L-R: Pamela Palma,; Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute;
  • Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.Photos (all): Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • Tremendous potential for to convert short tripsfrom driving to walking/bicycling.Data: National Household Travel Survey, 2009
  • Walking is the 2nd most common form of travel, representing 10.9% of all trips. However, a full 1/3 of Americans report not taking a walking trip in the last week. Studies show how unsafe people feel on the roads in their communities – lack of sidewalks, poor lighting, and too few crosswalks. These problems with the built environment keep people from walking, biking, and getting to transit. Likewise, walking and bicycling are often the only viable option for low-income residents to get physical activity.Photo: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities InstituteData: National Household Travel Survey, 2009Policy Link, Prevention Institute, & Convergence Partnership. (2009). The Transportation Prescription
  • Source: CDC 2012, infographic from
  • Complete Streets policies are important for older adults, who want to remain in their communities and stay mobile. That makes Complete Streets very important for our nation, as by 2025, the number of people over the age of 65 will more than double (to about 62 million), representing 18 percent of the population (nearly one in five Americans). The AARP report cited here also notes that two-thirds of planners and engineers have not begun prepare for this.The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found that the percent of people who have stopped driving doubles each decade after the age of 65. About half of non-drivers do not travel at all, but would like to! The lack of opportunities to take transit, to bike safely, and to walk safely makes travel to the store, doctor, or to visit family and friends impossible.
  • Annual miles traveled by car among 16- to 34-year olds dropped 23 percent from 2001-2009 (Frontier Group). Miles traveled by drivers under 20 dropped from 21 percent to 14 percent of the total between 1995 and 2009 Source: FHWA Photo: Dan Burden, PBIC
  • Of pedestrians killed in 2007 and 2008, more than 50% died on arterial roadways, typically designed to be wide and fast.  Roads like these are built to move cars and too often do not have meet the needs of pedestrian or bicyclist safety.Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting SystemPhoto: Virginia (Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth)
  • Latino pedestrian fatality rate is 60% higher than for whites;African Americans, it is 75% higher than for whites; African Americans = ~12% of population but 20% of pedestrian deathsIn counties where more than 20% of households have incomes below the federal poverty line, the pedestrian fatality rate is over 80 percent higher than the national average.Adults over 65 made up 22 percent of all pedestrian fatalities from 2000-2009, despite being only 13 percent of the population, and those 75 and older were more than twice as likely to be killed while walking as those under 65. Older Latino adults are especially vulnerable, with a pedestrian fatality rate that is 173 percent higher than that of older white adults.Sources:Dangerous by Design 2011; “Where we need to go: A civil rights for transportation equity”; Photo: Wikipedia user Scheinwerfermann
  • Photo:Streetsblog- by Bryan Goebel
  • Many communities currently have overworked street networks that force neighborhood traffic onto larger arterial roads. This creates unnecessary traffic congestion and can be dangerous for drivers. San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates that part of that city’s downtown will be gridlocked with auto congestion within a generation due to job and population growth. In order to keep busy networks in growing areas operating smoothly for all users, including drivers, communities need to create alternatives to driving- including bicycling, walking, and taking transit.Source: San Francisco County Transportation Authority; StreetsblogImage Source: Oran Viriyincy via Flickr, Seattle, WA
  • All over the US, there areexamples of streets built with all users in mind…Photo: Andy Hamilton
  • Photo: Abby Hall, EPA
  • Photo by Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • But in so many parts of the US we are still building streets like this…
  • Photo: Barbara McCann, National Complete Streets Coalition
  • Photo, right: Jackson, Mississippi (Dr. Scott Crawford)
  • Photo: Charlotte NC DOT
  • This is what complete streets is about – making sure our transportation network works for all users every time there’s a new project.Photo:Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • Creating complete streets means transportation agencies must change their approach to community roads. By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation. This means that every transportation project will make the street network better and safer for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists – making your town a better place to live.
  • Complete Streets is not about special projects. It’s about changing the way we approach transportation projects on all streets. It’s not about specific design elements. Implementation of Complete Streets is flexible and context-sensitive. Adopting a policy doesn’t mean all roads have to be changed all at once. Changes can be made a little at a time and done along with routine maintenance. Complete Streets won’t address all concerns, which will still need attention. Complete Streets policies are one important piece in ensuring our states are fiscally and physically healthy.
  • And when applied to transportation projects, a Complete Streets policy results in streets that are safer for everyone and that compliment the surrounding community – from rural areas to urban.Photo: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • And when applied to transportation projects, a Complete Streets policy results in streets that are safer for everyone and that compliment the surrounding community – from rural areas to urban.
  • And when applied to transportation projects, a Complete Streets policy results in streets that are safer for everyone and that compliment the surrounding community – from rural areas to urban.
  • And when applied to transportation projects, a Complete Streets policy results in streets that are safer for everyone and that compliment the surrounding community – from rural areas to urban.Photo: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • And when applied to transportation projects, a Complete Streets policy results in streets that are safer for everyone and that compliment the surrounding community – from rural areas to urban.Photo by Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • Raised islands typically placed in the middle of four-way intersections, traffic circles are used to address speeding and traffic accidents and are most effective on neighborhood streets. Traffic circles reduce accidents and vehicle speeds but not necessarily traffic volume, benefitting residents on adjacent streets by avoiding traffic diversion and residents on treated streets by calming traffic. Seattle residents like them so much that they submit upwards of 700 requests for new circles each year. Traffic circles also benefit bicyclists because they decrease the difference in speed between bicycles and automobiles, making streets feel more comfortable. Sources: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a form of public transportation that offers riders improved service, similar to a rail system, but costs significantly less than a rail system to build and operate. The goal of BRT is to save passengers time and provide a higher quality of service. Successful BRT systems benefit existing riders while attracting new transit users. Key features of true BRT systems include dedicated bus lanes, off-board fare collection, signal priority, and at-grade boarding. Other design features can include center median alignment, system branding and attractive stations. BRT should be integrated with existing transit network and be accessible by foot and bicycle. BRT has been shown to benefit local economies: cities such as Cleveland and New York City have seen new economic development and decreases in retail vacancies along system corridors. In Cleveland, the Health Line has stimulated over $5.8 billion in development and increased ridership 60 percent since it opened in 2008 on the Euclid Avenue corridor.Sources: Metropolitan Planning Commission:, Institute for Transportation and Development:, Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority:, NYC DOT: by CianGinty (wikipedia)Orange Line, Los Angeles
  • Neighborhood greenways are slow-speed, low-volume streets where neighborhood residents who are walking or bicycling are given priority. Designing streets as neighborhood greenways reduces automobile speeds and cut-through traffic; provides safer, more attractive bicycling and walking links; and makes residential streets safer and quieter. In developing neighborhood greenways, planners and designers utilize tools including special signage, bicycle-friendly speed bumps, and adding traffic barriers. Neighborhood greenways are opportunities for creative landscaping, public art, and community spaces. In Portland, Oregon, planners utilize a variety of infrastructure tools to develop an extensive neighborhood greenway network that allows bicyclists comfortable and safe ways to move through the city, including crossing larger streets.Sources: Active Transportation Alliance:, Portland Bureau of Transportation:, Streetsfilms: Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute
  • Angled head-out parking is on-street parking where drivers back into parking spaces, placing the rear of the car closest to the curb. This strategy improves safety for occupants of the car and for passing vehicles and bicyclists. Angled head-out parking provides drivers entering traffic with greater visibility, decreasing the likelihood of crashes. By changing the orientation of the car so the trunk is close to the curb, angled head-out parking improves safety for children getting out of the car and people loading items in their trunks. In the first four years of implementation in Tucson, AZ, treated segments went from 3-4 auto-bicycle crashes a month to no reported crashes. This type of parking benefits local economies because it uses less curb space per car than traditional parallel parking and is often used on main streets. Sources: Nelson\\Nygaard Consulting Associates: by Eric Fredericks (
  • Cycle tracks are on-street bicycle facilities separated from vehicle travel lanes, parking lanes, and sidewalks by medians, bollards, and markings. Cycle tracks combine the user experience of a separated path with the on-street convenience of a conventional lane. In separating bicyclists from automobile traffic, cycle tracks can make bicyclists feel more comfortable and attract new bicyclists. They also clarify expected behavior for bicyclists and automobiles, decreasing the risk of bicyclists being hit by open car doors. Cycle tracks are growing in popularity in North America and can be found in cities such as Cambridge, MA; New York City, Portland, OR; and Washington, D.C. In Montreal, streets with this treatment have 2.5 as many bicyclists and 28 percent lower injury rates than streets without cycle tracks.Sources:; NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide,; Lusk, C., Furth, P., et al. (2011). Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus the street. (2011).; Photo: photo by Orange Bikes
  • Modern roundabouts channel intersection traffic in a circular pattern where incoming traffic yields to the flow of traffic within the roundabout. They are effective tools in urban and rural areas at major intersections and near freeways to improve safety and manage speed. Converting to a modern roundabout can lead to dramatic reductions in severe traffic accidents: up to 82 percent when converting from a two-way stop controlled mechanism and up to 78 percent when converting from a signalized intersection. The Federal Highway Administration recommends modern roundabouts for new and retrofit construction.Source: FHWA: Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities InstituteHonolulu, HI
  • The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities recommends adding paved shoulders to rural roads to accommodate for bicyclists. Paved shoulders create space for those traveling by bike – and by foot! – on these roads. Because these user groups are not competing for space at different travel speeds, paved shoulders help improve safety for all. Shoulders are also a useful tool for those who are driving, providing safe space to pull over if needed. Many states have policies to provide paved shoulders. The Wisconsin DOT, for example, paves 3-foot shoulders on highways where daily automobile traffic exceeds 1,000 vehicles if bicyclists regularly use the road.Sources:
  • Our website is home to many resources, including fact sheets, policy tracking and examples, information on changing policy from advocacy to implementation, links to research and publications, and information on federal policy. From our website, you’ll also find our blog and twitter feed, which are great ways to stay up to date on complete streets and transportation issues in general.Photo:Dan Burden, Walkable and Livable Communities Institute


  • 1. Introduction toComplete Streets January 2013
  • 2. What are Complete Streets?Complete Streets are streets for everyone, no matterwho they are or how they travel. 2
  • 3. What are Complete Streets? Safe Comfortable Convenient 3
  • 4. What are Complete Streets? Safe Comfortable Convenient 4
  • 5. Americans want choices of Americans want more transportation66% options so they have the freedom to choose how to get where they need to go.73% currently feel they have no choice but to drive as much as they do.57% would like to spend less time in the car. Future of Transportation National Survey (2010) 5
  • 6. Getting Out of Traffic Future of Transportation National Survey (2010) 6
  • 7. The tremendous potentialOf all trips:39% 17% 47%are less than are less than are driven3 miles 1 mile of these trips… National Household Travel Survey (2009) 7
  • 8. The tremendous potentialEvery trip starts and ends with walking. 8
  • 9. People will walk Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012, 9
  • 10. Who wants Complete Streets?47% 54% 56%of older of older Americans express strongAmericans say living in inhospitable support forit is unsafe to neighborhoods say they would walk and adoption ofcross a major bike more often if the Completestreet near built environment Streets policies.their home. improved. Planning Complete Streets for the Aging of America, AARP 10
  • 11. Who wants Complete Streets?Millennials are driving less and looking for othertransportation options. 11
  • 12. Incomplete streets are unsafeMore than 40% of pedestrian deaths in 2007 and2008 occurred where no crosswalk was available. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Reporting System 12
  • 13. Incomplete streets are unsafeEspecially for: • People of color • Low-income communities • Older adults 13
  • 14. Streets are inadequate• No sidewalks• Too dangerous to cross on foot 14
  • 15. Streets are inadequate• Unsafe for bicyclists 15
  • 16. Streets are inadequate•Traffic jams on arterials•Too many crashes 16
  • 17. Streets are inadequate • Uninviting for bus riders 17
  • 18. Streets are inadequate• Inaccessible for wheelchair users 18
  • 19. Streets are inadequate• No room for people! 19
  • 20. We know how to build right 20
  • 21. We know how to build right 21
  • 22. We know how to build right 22
  • 23. Yet too many roads still turnout like this: 23
  • 24. or this: 24
  • 25. or this: 25
  • 26. The Solution:Complete Streets Policies 26
  • 27. Complete Streets policiesEnsure that the entire right-of-way is planned,designed, constructed, operated, and maintainedto provide safe access for all users 27
  • 28. Complete Streets means:High-level policy directionChange the everyday decision-making processesand systemsIncremental approachLong-term results 28
  • 29. Complete Streets does notmean:One ‘special’ street projectA design prescriptionA mandate for immediate retrofitA silver bullet; other issues must be addressed: Land use (proximity, mixed-use) Environmental concerns Transportation Demand Management 29
  • 30. Many types: rural streets 30
  • 31. Many types: shared streets 31
  • 32. Many types: skinny streets 32
  • 33. Many types: main streets 33
  • 34. Many types: urban streets 34
  • 35. Many types: traffic circles 35
  • 36. Many types: Bus Rapid Transit 36
  • 37. Many types: neighborhoodgreenways 37
  • 38. Many types: angled head-outparking 38
  • 39. Many types: cycle tracks 39
  • 40. Many types: modernroundabouts 40
  • 41. Many types: paved shoulders 41
  • 42. For more information• Fact sheets, photos, hand outs• Information on changing policy• Policy tracking & examples• Complete Streets blog & monthly newsletter• Links to research & publications 42
  • 43. National Complete Streets Coalition Steering CommitteeBenefactor BronzeAARP Active Living by DesignAmerica Bikes Alliance for Biking & WalkingAmerican Planning Association Association of Pedestrian and BicycleAmerican Public Transportation Professionals Association SupporterBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota America WalksNational Association of REALTORS Institute of Transportation EngineersSmart Growth America League of American BicyclistsPlatinum National Association of CityAmerican Society of Landscape Architects Transportation OfficialsSvR Design Company 43
  • 44. Copyright & UseThis presentation is licensed under a CreativeCommons license permitting non-commercial use withattribution. Any of these conditions may be waived withpermission.For-profit organizations wishing to use thispresentation should contact us or 773-270-3534.For more information about this license, please visit: 44
  • 45. Smart Growth America is the only national organization dedicated to researching,advocating for and leading coalitions to bring smart growth practices to more communitiesnationwide. 1707 L St. NW Suite 250, Washington, DC 20036 | 202-207-3355