Complete Streets or Complete Networks?

The “complete streets” idea - the concept that streets need to be designed for all users, including pedestrians and cyclists as well as SUVS and fire trucks - has caught on well in recent years. Maybe it’s caught on too well, in fact.

That was one of the messages in the NU 202 session on “Implementing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares” at CNU 19.

Scott Polikov, principal of Gateway Planning Group and moderator of the session, said “Complete Streets” is a great concept.  But he’s worried about the idea that every street has to accommodate every mode. Specifically, he objected to the idea that you have to be able to bike every street. Bike lanes along major arterials may not always be a good fit - or get much use.

And, as was also noted in the session, Florida has done “complete streets” with sidewalks that no one uses. If a place remains essentially a driving community, just adding sidewalks won’t help.

Marcy McInelly, president of Urbsworks, offered an alternative goal: “complete networks” ensuring that the network of a place, as a whole, works for all users, even if some single streets do not.

Still, there was strong feeling about the primacy of streets for pedestrians. And McInelly offered this interesting factoid as well: The more bikes you have on a road, the more you slow down auto speeds. “The more bikes there are, the safer it is for everyone.”



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