12 December 2007

Complete Streets

I've been hearing more and more about the catch phrase "Complete Streets" which was started by bicyclists pushing for streets that are safer for all kinds of transport including bikes, buses and pedestrians. Here is an article about cities remking their streets with these goals in mind:

"Seattle is a great example of how to do it right,” McGrath says. The 569,000-population city passed a resolution in October 2006 and an ordinance in April 2007. The ordinance helps ensure that for each capital project in Seattle, there is a Complete Streets meeting, with participants from all the municipal departments that have a stake in the project — most notably Planning and Development, Public Utilities, and Transportation.

Ronkin encourages governments to adopt Complete Streets policies, but he urges them not to include design standards in their legislation. If rigid standards or dimensions appear in legislation, they often impede creativity, he says.
He also observes that major road projects are not where the greatest gains are to be made. Ultimately, greater progress can be achieved through routine work done by “maintenance and operations folks.” Because existing streets, crosswalks, signals, and other elements undergo continual maintenance and repair, Ronkin says advocates of pedestrians should seize opportunities to do such things as requiring that every time a signal is worked on, a pedestrian countdown signal will be installed.
To make conditions safer for cycling, Ronkin advises bringing the speed of cars and trucks down to 20 to 25 mph — a speed at which motor vehicles and cyclists can comfortably share the road. That also makes pedestrians safer and more relaxed.
In some areas, the city of Portland has extended its sidewalks, marked part of the broadened sidewalk for use by bicycles, and installed separate signals for bikes. “It’s a bike facility in every sense of the word,” says Roger Geller, bicycle coordinator for Portland’s Office of Transportation. “You feel separate from the roadway.”
Although some bicycling takes place on greenways or other routes dedicated to biking, “the great majority of utilitarian biking is done on the roads,” Geller points out. Thus, New Urbanism’s advocacy of extensively interconnected streets serves cyclists well. When there is a grid of streets, Geller says, “people naturally gravitate to sidestreets,” which are quieter and safer.

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