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A bicycle commuter who rides four miles to work, five days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving and about 2,000 pounds of CO2 emissions each year.

New report offers guidance on Complete Streets policies

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One of the best ways to make a street safer for everyone is making it a Complete Street. These are streets that can be safely used by everyone regardless of their age, ability or travel mode.

Complete Streets are designed to accommodate people walking, biking, using wheelchairs and using transit and cars.

To ensure that these types of streets are built, communities often put in place a Complete Streets policy.

Active Trans recently developed a report that analyzes the process for creating Complete Streets policies in Illinois communities. The goal was to provide local communities interested in the development of safe and accessible transportation networks with good advice on creating Complete Streets.

Municipalities that implement a Complete Streets policy may not know where to begin as they are faced with reforming planning, funding, design, construction and maintenance practices.

The report examines barriers to implementing Complete Streets projects and provides advice from communities on how to overcome these issues.

We conducted surveys and interviews with eight communities in Illinois that have adopted Complete Streets policies — Berwyn, Blue Island, Champaign, Des Plaines, DuPage County, Lemont and Park Forest.

Planners and engineers from each community spoke about how their city, village, or county’s processes around road construction or reconstruction have changed since the adoption of their Complete Streets policy. Many of the engineers and planners we interviewed stressed the importance of inter-departmental collaboration in both policy development and implementation. Recommendations included involving staff members from public works, community development, planning, and parks and recreation in the review of infrastructure construction or reconstruction projects.

This ensures policy compliance and increases overall awareness of the needs of all users.

Implemented projects discussed in the report range from on-street bicycle paths, ADA-compliant sidewalks, pedestrian crossing signals and back-in parking spaces. Despite issues like a lack of funding or political will, many communities we spoke with were excited about both their completed projects and those currently in the design and planning stages, which are highlighted throughout the report.

We hope this report is useful to communities that wish to learn more about the process involved in creating safe and accessible streets for all users.

This blog post was written by Ellen Gottschling, a former Active Trans transportation planning intern.

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