They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this one is no exception. This is me on my 16th birthday. Yes, I asked for and was given a bicycle for my 16th birthday. I also got a car that year, but if I showed you a picture of it (a late 70’s chevette) you might see why I look so happy to have my new bicycle (and that super 90’s era helmet). I think that bicycle may have cost more than the car, but that’s beside the point. The point is I had the choice to walk on a sidewalk, ride my bicycle on a road wide enough for bicycles and cars or take public transportation. This town had Complete Streets. The connections in my hometown from school to work and play were, and still are, easy to find and well used by people of all ages. But not everyone’s hometown is built this way. In fact, lack of safe connected sidewalks are one of the reasons that pedestrian injury is a leading cause of unintentional, injury-related death among children, age 5 to 14.
The name “Complete Streets” says it all. Complete Streets allow safe opportunities for transportation on foot or on wheels - two, four and more. Complete Streets make it more likely that you will walk or ride a bicycle to school and work because there are sidewalks, bike lanes and footpaths. Complete Streets include safe street crossings and traffic speeds that are enforced. Complete Streets provide dedicated space for bicycling and walking and help communities stay physically active.
Cities across the United States are looking to Complete Streets policies to make their communities healthier and more appealing to tourists and businesses. Complete Streets increase safety and decrease air pollution. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is working in communities to encourage the passing of Complete Streets policies. Recently, the City of Memphis, Tennessee created a video to help explain the benefits of Complete Streets. Memphis expects to see the passing of a citywide policy by the end of 2012.
If your community is just getting started on a Complete Streets policy you can visit the Safe Routes to School National Partnership learning library for help. A federally-funded Safe Routes to School project in your community can be the beginning of a Complete Streets project or can augment a policy already in place. Once a policy is passed adding sidewalks, updating crosswalks and way finding signage becomes a part of the routine maintenance and construction of your city allowing all users safe, accessible transportation. As a resident of the great state of Tennessee, I believe all people should benefit from Complete Streets, just like I did in my hometown.