The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013

More than communities, states, counties and planning agencies adopted complete streets policies in 2013, according to Smart Growth America, which tracked their approximate locations.
More than 80 communities, states, counties and planning agencies adopted complete streets policies in 2013, according to Smart Growth America.

A growing number places are adopting policies to create safe space on the streets no matter how you get around. This year 80 new complete streets policies were passed by municipalities, states, counties, and planning agencies around the United States looking to make walking and biking safer. That brings the total number of such policies in the nation to more than 600.

Complete streets policies are also getting better compared to earlier iterations, according to a new report from Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition. The way current policies are being written and enacted is much more likely to ensure strong results.

So what makes a complete streets policy great? SGA ranked the best policies enacted in 2013 according to 10 criteria, including “vision” and the strength of performance metrics, among other factors.

It’s important to have an implementation plan with teeth, or else a complete streets policy won’t make much of a difference. Karen Mendrala, a livability planner for Fort Lauderdale, said her city compared every existing street to its standards for complete streets. The idea is to systematically identify all the gaps in the city’s walking and biking networks — and fix them.

Fort Lauderdale also developed a design manual, another key element recognized by SGA, which stresses the importance of recognizing modern design guidelines for multi-modal streets (NACTO’s street designs guide comes to mind; AASHTO’s Green Book does not).

According to the SGA system, the best new complete streets policies last year were enacted by:

The number of city, state and regional complete streets policies is now up to 610 nationwide, according to Smart Growth America.
The number of city, state and regional complete streets policies is now up to 610 nationwide. Graphic: Smart Growth America
  1. Littleton, Massachusetts
  2. Peru, Indiana
  3. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  4. Auburn, Maine (tie)
  5. Lewiston, Maine (tie)
  6. Baltimore County, Maryland
  7. Portsmouth, New Hampshire
  8. Muscatine, Iowa
  9. Piqua, Ohio
  10. Oakland, California

Piqua scored points for passing a policy that all street interventions — not just road reconstruction or resurfacing — bring the project area into compliance with complete streets standards. Complete streets policies that only apply to new construction or are ambiguous about what projects they apply to get docked in SGA’s rating system.

SGA says the best policies also establish standards and procedures for granting exemptions. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation scored points for its handling of this issue. If a project in Massachusetts doesn’t meet the state’s complete streets standards, it can’t continue without approval from the secretary of the DOT, the state’s top transportation official.

  • Dave Weckl

    Love the SGA rating system. The graph looks like some type of S curve where policy implementation may be flattening out. Have we reached peak complete streets? The NACTO guide has some great pictures.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

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. Reps. […]

Complete Streets Bill Introduced in Senate

|
Earlier this week, 12 senators, led by Tom Harkin (D-IA), introduced the Complete Streets Act of 2011 (S.1056), a companion to the House bill we reported on a few weeks back. The purpose of the bills is to push states and metropolitan planning organizations to fully consider incorporating pedestrian and bicycle safety measures when roads […]

Complete Streets Planning Becomes Law in Hawaii

|
In more and more communities around the country, the benefits of complete streets — designed for the benefit and safety of all users, not just automobiles — are becoming clear. The latest advance comes in Hawaii, where the governor has signed legislation that makes building complete streets a state policy. Today on the Streetsblog Network, […]

Meet the Man on a Mission to Make Florida Walkable and Bikeable

|
Billy Hattaway just might have the most challenging job in any American transportation agency. As the Florida Department of Transportation’s lead official on bicycle and pedestrian safety, he’s charged with making Florida — consistently rated among the deadliest states for walking and biking — safe for people to get around under their own power. Since FDOT hired him […]

How to Write a Complete Streets Policy

|
Step one: Do it like Indianapolis. Of the 130 complete streets policies passed in 2012, the one passed by Indianapolis gets the highest score in a new ranking by Smart Growth America and its National Complete Streets Coalition. “The Complete Streets movement fundamentally redefines what a street is intended to do, what goals a transportation […]