‘Complete streets’ policy available

Print Email

In many cities and towns across the country, the greatest barrier to walking and bicycling is poorly-designed streets, sidewalks, paths, playgrounds and parks, also known as the “built environment.”

Dangerous intersections, a lack of sidewalks, and bicycling lanes that are too close to high-speed cars are just some of the built environment barriers that lead residents to opt for driving over transportation that is physically active.

Biking and smart growth advocates developed the “complete streets” planning concept in 2003 in order to improve municipal transportation networks and make them more conducive to physical activity. The “complete streets” concept asks local officials, planners and transportation specialists to step back and examine how road design can best serve all users.

Typically, road design focuses on getting the most cars moving at the highest possible speed by building more lanes, making them wider and forsaking sidewalks, bus stops and bike lanes. The “complete streets” concept looks at alternate modes of travel, including non-motorized transport and public transportation, but also aims to improve travel options for residents who are elderly, disabled or unable to drive.

A “complete streets” sample policy has been developed to be used in Massachusetts as a town bylaw or as a city ordinance. The sample incorporates best complete streets practices and includes similar goals set out in the Massachusetts Highway Division’s “Project Development and Design Guide.”

Cities and towns are not expected to undertake street projects solely to implement complete streets concepts, but a local measure will ensure that the principles are addressed in all future development, reconstruction or street repair projects.

For more information about the complete streets concept, visit www.completestreets.org.

For an electronic version of the complete streets sample, contact D.J. Wilson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
Written by D.J. Wilson