Let’s Complete Our Streets!
There is currently a national movement underfoot called complete streets and is led by a wide variety of groups that include AARP, Smart Growth America, League of American Bicyclists and the American Council of the Blind. In cities and states across the country this movement is quickly growing. And to date, over 50 jurisdictions have passed such policies including Seattle, Salt Lake City and the State of Illinois.
So what are complete streets? Well, I can assure you that it’s not for building more roads. On the contrary, complete streets is simply the idea that our roadways need to be available for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shop keeper. But currently, too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars. They are unsafe on foot or bicycle and unpleasant for everybody.
If we continue to design our city for automobiles the result is that more people will drive and more parking for our cars will be needed. When cities become better places for automobiles they become less humane. We know that the design of our built environment determines a way of life and until we can define Buffalo as a city for people, a city that takes care of its most vulnerable citizens, persons with disabilities, seniors and youth, we will continue to be a less humane city an never able to capitalize on our full potential for rebirth..
Several National polls have indicated that more than half of Americans would like to bicycle more, walk more and drive less. However, a major contributing factor to low pedestrian and bicyclist utilization of community streets is the lack of infrastructure in place to accommodate their safe travel. Complete Street polices are being passed to ensure the routine inclusion and accommodation for all travelers, not just cars, and the benefits speak for themselves; improved safety, enhanced opportunities for physical activity, improved air quality, enhanced economic vitality and overall better quality of life.
In cities in New York State, across the country and throughout the world we are seeing a shift to create a balanced transportation system. This shift is changing the emphasis away from moving automobiles to moving people. The same philosophy goes for people as it does for automobiles, if you design streets that invite people to walk, bicycle or take public transit they take you up on the invitation.
To learn more about complete streets visit www.completestreets.org. The City of Buffalo’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board has recently filed a policy brief on complete streets with the city council with a proposed draft resolution for our city. If you believe Buffalo should complete its streets let your council member know.