Complete Streets: The Road to Better Communities

Imagine if there were a place in your city where you could meet all of your daily needs; where you could walk or bike to work, cross the street safely, shop and play. This the core concept of Complete Streets.

Complete Streets are designed to accommodate all community members, regardless of age, ability or modality, making spaces safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit rides and drivers alike. A complete street is fully personalized, meaning there is no one concrete definition of what it will look like because it responds to the specific needs of the community.

Busy Downtown Complete Streets. Image via

Complete Streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation.” – NCSC 

While each complete street is different, based on location, population and other factors, they all follow basic design principles to guide development.

Some elements of design may include: specialized sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), designated bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts… the specific elements are infinite.


Complete Streets and Your Health

In an age of automobile dependency, rising oil prices and declining human and environmental health, the Complete Street aims to promote active mobility by making it safe and convenient. Complete Street initiatives are not an attack on automobile drivers, but rather an incentive to encourage multi-modality and active transportation by accommodating all forms of travel, safely and efficiently.

Policies adopting Complete Streets initiatives are popping up all over the country; from California to Florida, from Connecticut to Minnesota, complete streets planning is guiding better city development. The Complete Streets revolution is changing the face of American cities. You may recall a previous PowerHouse Growers article on the transformation of the BLVD in Lancaster, CA. Planners there were guided by complete streets principals and the result has been positively amazing.

Smart Growth America is an advocate for Complete Streets design. They offer information on how to advocate for policies in your own community, offering downloadable materials at no cost, to help interested parties to get started. They also, as part of the National Complete Streets Coalition, offer workshops and fact sheets that detail the benefits of Complete Streets Policies and Design from “A to Z.”

Transportation Planning

It doesn’t take much more than a look around the typical urban or suburban community to see that previous methods of city planning have lead society to automobile dependent and sedentary lifestyle. The proof is in the expanding waistlines of Americans and the continuing rise in associated health problems.

While Complete Streets may not save the world, it may very well save communities, by encouraging transportation planning that accommodates all users, completely. 

Featured Image: Smart street design, complete with bike lanes. Image via Ingimage.

About The Author

Melodi McGee
Melodi McGee works in Public Administration for a municipality in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated in 2014 from California State University Northridge with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Urban and Environmental Planning and a minor in Sustainability. Melodi is extremely passionate about the environment and education and believes that the key to ensuring the longevity and vital of our planet lies in promoting healthy environmental attitudes and practices to youth. Her greatest passion is her who children who inspire her to make the world a better place to be. Melodi is a self proclaimed life-long learner and is excited to be a part of the PowerHouse Growers contribution team and share ideas and innovations with like minded individuals.