Everyone Wins With Complete Streets

February 4, 2011 21 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Complete streets are those designed and operated to enable safe access and travel for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit users, and travelers of all ages and abilities will be able to move along the street network safely. Here are a few benefits for incorportating the concept of Complete Streets into urban Jacksonville's landscape.


Mass transit Rights-Of-Way can be designed to also serve as a refuge for cyclist and pedestrians along arterial roadways.

Benefits: Older Americans

- 21% over 65 do not drive

- Over 50% of non-drivers stay at home on a given day because they lack travel options

- 54% of older Americans living in inhospitable neighborhoods say they'd walk and ride more often if things improved.

Benefits: Health

- Now Americans move without moving (move while sitting down in automobiles)

- 60% are at risk for diseases associated with inactivity: Obesity, Diabetes, High blood pressure, Other chronic diseases

Benefits: Physical Activity

- Residents more likely to walk in a neighborhood with sidewalks

- Cities with more bike lanes have higher levels of bicycling

- 1/3 of regular transit users meet minimum daily physical activity requirement during their commute

Benefits: Safety

- Intersections designed for pedestrians can reduce pedestrian risk by 28%

- Sidewalks reduce pedestrian crash risk by 88%

Benefits: People With Disabilities

- Improved mobility for disabled people and reduced need for expensive paratransit service

Benefits: Better Use Of Transit Funds

- A year of paratransit service for a daily commuter: $38,500

- Making a transit stop accessible: $7,000-$58,000

Benefits: The Environment

- Fewer emissions

- Less noise pollution

- Less wear & tear on our roads

- Less need to widen roads

Benefits: Less need to widen roads

Trips in metro areas:

- 50% of vehicle trips in American metropolitan areas are less than 3 miles

- 28% of vehicle trips in American metropolitan areas are less than 1 mile

- 65% of trips under 1 mile in American metropolitan areas are now taken by car

Benefits: The Economy & Your Wallet

Multimodal streets:

- Increase Home Values

- Revitalize Retail

- People can leave their car at home

Source: Michael Ronkin, National Bicycle and Pedestrian Expert


Street repavement projects give cities the ability to change the nature of existing urban streets.

Although the guiding principle for complete streets is to create roadways and related infrastructure that provide safe travel for all users, each complete street has to be customized to the characteristics of the area the street serves. A complete street also has to accommodate the needs and expectations of the travelers who want to access or pass through the surrounding neighborhood, community, or region.

According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, typical elements that make up a complete street include sidewalks, bicycle lanes (or wide, paved shoulders), shared-use paths, designated bus lanes, safe and accessible transit stops, and frequent and safe crossings for pedestrians, including median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, and curb extensions. Certainly, a design for a complete street in a rural area will look quite different from one in an urban or suburban area. For example, a complete street in a rural area could involve providing wide shoulders or a separate multiuse path instead of sidewalks. The common denominator, however, is balancing safety and convenience for everyone using the road.

Transit, including bus and fixed-rail services, can become a more attractive option when access points that comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act are integrated into roads, sidewalks, and parking areas to allow easier, safer access for all users.

In addition to the new USDOT-HUD-EPA partnership, many other programs at the Federal, State, metropolitan, and local levels already embrace the complete streets approach—or provide the framework to do so—and can help foster more livable communities.

Beaver Street is an example of an urban Jacksonville corridor that would benefit from Complete Streets strategies.

With a massive budget already dedicated to maintaining and repaving existing roadways through Jacksonville, applying complete streets solutions to these projects can be done at minimal expense to what has already been budgeted.  However, the result can help pedestrian, transit and bicycle connectivity, preserve and enhance neighborhood character and reduce the need for roadway capacity expansion projects.  Jacksonville, what are we waiting for?

Article by Ennis Davis