By LAUREN CARDONI
Published in This Week Community News
As transportation planners, we tend to use a lot of terminology to describe our work, which often creates more confusion than clarity.
One of those terms is “complete streets.”
A “complete street” is a roadway that provides safe accommodation for anyone traveling along or across it. This includes people driving in cars, as well as people walking, bicycling, scootering and using public transportation.
Not every complete street will look the same. The intent of complete streets is that each roadway design responds to its specific context and community needs. Complete streets also provide numerous community benefits related to quality of life, traffic safety, public health, community aesthetics and more.
In 2010, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission adopted its Complete Streets Policy – one of the first regional policies in the country. This policy has been a driving force behind much of the change we have seen in the region toward designing safer streets. Any roadway project receiving federal transportation dollars through MORPC is required to comply with the Complete Streets Policy.
Traffic safety is a primary reason why many communities have been redesigning their roadways as complete streets.
Over the past 10 years, our region has seen a significant increase in the number of traffic-related deaths. Last year was the highest on record, with more than 140 fatalities reported. Preliminary data shows 2021 is on pace to set another record, with the highest number of fatalities reported year-to-date.
People walking and bicycling represent a disproportionate number of traffic fatalities in our region, accounting for more than 20% each year. Many of these fatalities occurred on four-lane arterial roads with posted speed limits of 35 or 45 mph. Research has shown that speed is a critical factor in crashes involving people walking and bicycling, with the risk of fatality reaching 50% at speeds greater than 30 mph – double the risk of only 25% at 25 mph.
Although it might not be possible to prevent all crashes, local agencies can design roadways in a manner that helps to reduce the severity of crashes. Complete-street design elements like sidewalks, bike lanes and well-marked crosswalks can help keep people walking and bicycling safe and can contribute to safer conditions for drivers.
We also have the ability as humans operating large vehicles to be more mindful of other people using the roadways with us. As someone who enjoys walking and bicycling on occasion but also gets around by car, I strive to do my part to drive in a manner that keeps everyone around me safe. I implore you all to do the same.
To learn more about MORPC’s Complete Streets Policy, go to morpc.org.
Lauren Cardoni is a senior planner for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. MORPC’s purpose is to bring communities of all sizes and interests together to collaborate on best practices and plan for the future of the region.