marking lanes for shared bike / pedestrian sidewalk

Complete Streets Policy needed in Richmond, Indiana

marking lanes for shared bike / pedestrian sidewalk
a shared use sidepath in Portland, Oregon.

Complete Streets refers to the concept of designing and operating roadways with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. Yesterday I was leafing through hundreds of pages of documentation about the U.S. 27 renovation through Richmond, and the importance of this hit home.

The documentation showed the many kinds of coordination and considerations that the state must go through to complete something which to some could appear to routine maintenance. During the “Early Coordination Phase” there are required considerations for hazardous waste, air quality, water quality, wildlife, historic homes, social justice, and the list goes on. Incredibly, although the project at hand is for transportation, there were not signs of due consideration given how the road update could impact other kinds of road uses besides driving cars. A “Complete Streets” policy would require this basic consideration.

To be clear, the current process gives some consideration to other uses– sidewalks are planned to be updated and some new crossing signals installed, but big picture consideration is clearly not present. The proposal straightens the road in some places, which will speed up traffic. This is done in the name of bringing the road up to current standards, with justifications like “correcting substandard horizontal curvature”. However, no consideration is mentioned for the negative impact that faster roads have on those walk and bike. Likewise, the project marches right by a major gap in our published bike route network with no consideration of the impact, or how this project could help complete the network.

I can see how the long list of considerations in road construction could feel like bureauracy, but it does seem like a major deficiency that considering other kinds of transportation options is not on the list. Locally, our city has other policies which include the intent of more sustainable transportation practices, but don’t spell it out so directly. Our Comprehensive Plan has a focus on sustainability and requires a “non-motorized network” to be completed, and the Mayor’s Climate Agreement includes this:

2. Adopt and enforce land-use policies that reduce sprawl,
preserve open space, and create compact, walkable urban

3. Promote transportation options such as bicycle trails,
commute trip reduction programs, incentives for car
pooling and public transit;

Adopting a Complete Streets policy could happen very quickly here, because it can done directly with a Mayor’s Executive Order, and a template for a document is easily borrowed from the Complete Streets Executive Order recently signed in Philadelphia. Around Indiana, Complete Steets policy is already being adopted. Bloomington passed a Complete Streets policy in 2009. Also, Madison County recently passed their own complete streets policy

At the same time, there currently Complete Street bills pending both for the State of Indiana and in the United States congress. Those efforts are documented on the Bicycle Indiana site while the best general information about Complete Streets is on the Complete Streets website. Until March 18th, 2010, there is still time comment on INDOT’s plan for 27 renovations in Richmonds. See my previous post for more context, and contact send your own comment to INDOT asking them include Complete Streets principles in their process for this project.

Update 2011: Richmond, Indiana recently approved a long term transportation plan based on Complete Streets principles.