July 1, 2010
This week, the state House of Representatives passed HB615, requiring the State Transportation Commission to adopt a Complete Streets policy for MDOT and a model Complete Streets policy for municipalities and counties, not later than two years from the effective date of the bill.
Complete Streets is a design or planning principle. According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. The coalition's Web site indicates that, "Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation agencies routinely design and operate the entire right-of-way to enable safe access for all users. Places with complete streets policies are making sure that their streets and roads work for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as for older people, children, and people with disabilities."
The bill would also establish a Complete Streets Advisory Council within MDOT to provide education and advice to the State Transportation Commission, county road commissions, municipalities, interest groups, and the public on the development and implementation of Complete Streets policies.
This is a good idea, one that SEMCOG supports and worked with the bill sponsors, MDOT, the County Road Association (CRAM), the Michigan Municipal League (MML), and others to help craft. We are finally coming to the conclusion that the public right-of-way should be used safely and efficiently by more than just cars. Buses, bikes, and pedestrians need and should have safe access as well. However, the tricky part is that you can’t safely provide for safe movements by all sectors of the public on every roadway – nor does it make sense to do so. This means that you need to develop a plan on where people most likely want to travel to and by what mode. Where are the transit routes? Can I safely walk to them? Are there sidewalks and shelters in the right of way? If I am in a wheelchair, can I get to the stop? Can I bike to the parks and/or school? Can I safely cross busy streets to get there?
These are only some of the issues we have to a better job of addressing if we are going to develop more attractive communities and provide more options for people to travel and recreate.
The bill goes on to the state senate for action. Please read it and let’s be prepared to work together to make it happen. A copy of the bill and analysis is available at www.legislature.mi.gov, then enter 6151,6152 (no spaces) into the Search by Bill Number search box.