People everywhere are demanding safer, innovative streets for their towns. One of the ways to go about this is to come up with new transportation policies that will accommodate every citizen, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and ability. The top 15 best policies to enhance localities’ roads for 2016 were named earlier this month.
In 2004, the community planning and advocacy organization Smart Growth America launched the National Complete Streets Coalition. The coalition was a call for localities across the country to draft policies for that Smart Growth calls Complete Streets, which are “for everyone,” meaning that they should be accessible to pedestrians, bikers, and people of all ages and abilities. A Complete Street includes sidewalks, special lanes for public transit, more median islands in crosswalks, and curb extensions. 2016 saw more than a thousand towns in the United States draft policies towards safer and more accessible streets. 2016 saw the most policies than any other year of the coalition existing, with a whopping 222 new policies drafted. They were also the strongest ever, many of them achieving scores of 90 or higher. Among them was our own Binghamton, NY, whose policy included adding more walkways for access to public transit, bike racks on buses to allow for more travel destinations for bikers, and add greenways in parks. These simple additions will improve air quality, increase physical activity, and will overall enhance quality of life for Binghamton’s residents.
On a national scale, the promises of safe streets are an immensely positive step, as these localities are leading the way in equitable and safe roads. The United States is steadily improving to avoid accidents and harm coming to pedestrians. A Smart Growth report called Dangerous by Design 2016 highlighted alarming statistics of disparate pedestrian accidents and deaths. It reported that the aging, low-income, and communities of color were the most susceptible to pedestrian deaths because of roads being more catered to cars. For example, Non-White populations make up 34.9 percent of the national population, but make up 46.1 percent of pedestrian deaths. At the same time, individuals that are 65 years or older are 50 percent more likely to be hit and killed by a car while walking. It also stated that many individuals in those communities do not have access to a car and must walk, putting them at risk of injury or death.
Not only is the sheer number of new policies monumental, it also shows a shift in the nation’s thinking. More and more, localities and states are implementing projects and policies to make their landscape more equitable and safe, taking the first steps to lessen the disparities between communities, building crosswalks instead of road blocks. We hope the results of Complete Streets will start a trend for even more localities to make their spaces more accessible and safe for everyone. The Advancing Prevention Project (APP) and DASH-NY are proud to support Complete Streets initiatives, which is part of our ongoing support to Local Health Departments’ Prevention Agenda plans and our advocacy for Active Communities around New York State.
Congratulations to all the ranking towns on their policies, keep paving the road for equity and justice.