Complete Streets in FHWA
A Complete Street is safe, and feels safe, for all users. The majority of States and hundreds of local jurisdictions have adopted Complete Streets Policies, and FHWA is supporting these transportation agencies to plan, implement and evaluate equitable streets and networks that prioritize safety, comfort, and connectivity to destinations for all people who use the street network. Complete Streets serve pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation users, children, older individuals, individuals with disabilities, motorists, and freight vehicles.
A Complete Streets implementation strategy combines innovations from multiple disciplines to achieve the creation of safe, connected, and equitable street networks. This web portal will provide links to resources to support transportation professionals in developing and implementing a Complete Streets strategy. They are drawn from the FHWA Complete Streets Working Group, FHWA program offices, FHWA’s implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as well as from other agencies and organizations. Watch for frequent updates as new information and resources become available.
What is a Complete Streets Implementation Strategy?
Complete Streets implementation starts with people, not transportation mode. The elements of a Complete Street vary based on community context and the role that a particular street needs to serve in the multimodal network. Not every street requires bicycle lanes or public transportation stops. Instead, creating a safe, connected, and equitable Complete Streets Network is an iterative strategy that involves:
- Understanding the community and network context;
- Identifying safety, connectivity, and equity concerns;
- Implementing improvements over time; and
- Evaluating impacts by monitoring and measuring success.
Complete Streets is a Safety Strategy
Progress in reducing traffic deaths in the United States has stalled over the last ten years, and the recent increase in traffic deaths have led to the declaration of a national crisis. An increasing portion of crash fatalities are people outside of vehicles, primarily pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. By recognizing that streets and networks should prioritize the needs of all users, not only vehicle throughput, Complete Streets prioritize safety for all users at every part of the transportation process. Complete Streets is an implementation strategy of the Safe System Approach, which sets an ethical imperative that no one should die or be seriously injured while using the street network. Transportation agencies and professionals following this Approach implement proactive, redundant systems of safety to prevent crash fatalities and serious injuries. Complete Streets addresses two of the five elements of a Safe System (Safe Speed and Safe Roads), and advances the proactive implementation of safety infrastructure.
Complete Streets is a Connectivity Strategy
Along too many roadways, people on foot or bicycles do not have safe sidewalks or bike lanes to help them safely reach their destination or their bus stop. Connectivity across the transportation network for all users is a foundation of creating streets that are safe for all users. A connected multimodal network allows people to travel safely and comfortably by whatever mode they choose or rely on, including people who do not drive or do not have access to a motor vehicle. High-quality, connected networks play a key role in making bicycling, walking, and public transportation safer, more convenient, and more prevalent. Use of these active, low-emission modes of travel can help with the climate crisis as well as improving individual health.
Complete Streets is an Equity Strategy
The burdens of our transportation network, including traffic fatalities, air pollution, and absence of connected networks, are disproportionately borne by underserved populations as a result of historic disinvestment and exclusion from transportation decision-making processes. Implementing Complete Streets equitably includes identifying underserved communities, recognizing their varying transportation needs, and prioritizing the creation of safe, connected networks in these communities. The desired outcome is a fair, safe, accessible, and healthy transportation network. Practitioners can address inequity in the transportation system by collecting and considering social and demographic data, disaggregating measures of performance, engaging with communities, and ensuring that project prioritization considers existing disparities.
Complete Streets is a Climate Strategy
The transportation sector is responsible for 29 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Among other actions, the United States can reduce carbon pollution from transportation by encouraging vehicle electrification, including providing charging infrastructure, and by investing in safe infrastructure for low or zero carbon modes such as public transportation, walking, and bicycling. Complete Streets implementation will help to routinely provide the safe infrastructure that is fundamental to encouraging more use of low and zero carbon modes. Communities can reallocate street space to support connected networks and effective curbside management, and to encourage vehicle electrification by providing charging infrastructure.
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