Bipartisan Bill Would Make Complete Streets the National Standard

Nearly 500 cities, states, and counties around the United States have enacted complete streets policies, according to Smart Growth America. Now a bipartisan team of lawmakers has introduced legislation to make it a matter of national policy that streets should be designed not only for driving, but for walking, biking, and transit as well.

Consideration of complete street measures would become a requirement for federal funds, under a new bill proposed this week. Image: ##http://www.trailnet.org/##Trailnet##

Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and David Joyce (R-OH) yesterday introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2013 [PDF], which would require states and regional planning agencies to develop complete streets policies for federally funded projects within two years.

“Too many of the roads in our country are designed solely with drivers in mind,” said Rep. Matsui in a press release. “The risks of such design are evident in the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths and injuries we see every year, and often discourage more people from considering other transportation methods.”

Co-sponsorship by Rep. Joyce, who replaced the famously bike- and transit-friendly Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette following his retirement early this year, seems like a promising sign that the new congressman will continue his predecessor’s legacy as a key GOP supporter of multi-modal transportation policy.

“I’m pleased to be part of the bipartisan effort to make our roadways safer, particularly for seniors and children,” Joyce said in a press release. “It’s important we take steps to improve safety in our communities and this bill is a step in the right direction.”

Smart Growth America applauded the introduction, saying it is “another sign that Congress is responding to the demands of the American public for travel options that are safe and convenient for all users of our transportation system.”

The bill was introduced with the support of a variety of advocacy groups, including the League of American Bicyclists, AARP, Transportation for America, Safe Routes to School, and the American Planning Association.

The law would exempt the type of roadways where pedestrians and cyclists are not allowed, such as freeways. It would also provide an exemption if compliance is “cost prohibitive” or if a project is in a rural area where “there is a clear lack of need for complete streets.”

  • Anonymous

    What is a “rural area with a clear lack of need for complete streets”? America’s rural areas are some of its most impoverished, and yet some of its most car-dependent. As we know, high car-ownership rates only perpetuate poverty because of the high cost of owning a car. Combined with the inefficiency of transit in rural areas due to their low population density, it seems like these areas need good bike and walking paths just as much as cities do.

    Excluding interstates seems silly as well. Oregon allows bicyclists on interstates. While that just seems dangerous, there should be a provision in this bill that requires “equal and parallel” routes for bicyclists when an interstate is rebuilt or expanded. The idea that bikes are not good for long-distance transportation seems heavily embedded in the american psyche, but highways have parallel bike paths in the Netherlands and Denmark, so there is no reason they can’t here…

    I realize these provisions were probably put in to make the bill politically palatable to rural republican legislators, and thus maybe they are necessary for it to have any chance of passing (and obviously something is better than nothing) – nonetheless, they seem shortsighted.

  • Joe R.

    Anyone who thinks human power isn’t viable over long distances needs to see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPgDdAx9K7E

    15 km in about 13 minutes. Granted, this was a very strong rider, but the larger point is someone in average shape could pedal that velomobile at 30 mph for an hour or more. And if we put some R&D money into the aerodynamics. I’ll bet we could eventually have a road worthy velomobile which someone in average shape could pedal at 50 or 60 mph.

  • Urban Reason

    GUYS. For posts like this, can you start including contact information so we can quickly and easily contact our representatives and let them know we want them to support/not support this bill?

  • Nathanael

    “What is a “rural area with a clear lack of need for complete streets”?”

    I suppose one with dirt or gravel roads and correspondingly low speed limits, so that cars have no advantage over pedestrians? Or perhaps a rural road with extremely low traffic where you can see a car coming a mile away?

    Rural two-lane highways with 55 mph speed limits are perhaps the single area with the *greatest need* for full-scale pedestrian facilities. This is where people get in their car to drive across the street because it’s too dangerous to walk.

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