N 130th Complete Streets Project: Pedestrian median island, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from SDOT Photos’s photostream

Pittsburgh is an old city with infrastructure that was built when some of today’s favored transportation methods didn’t yet exist. As we begin to see more people walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation we must adjust our policies to better reflect today’s transportation choices and build a safer environment for all of our residents and visitors. A complete streets policy is the most effective way to do this. Complete streets is a philosophy of planning and design that leads to streets that are safe for all users, not just cars or bikes or pedestrians – everyone. Planning and construction through a complete streets lens will beautify our neighborhoods, create safer streets and sidewalks, and lead to a more livable city.

1. Integrate Complete Streets Planning

For complete streets planning to be effective it must be incorporated into every construction project the city and private developers embark on. Every project, no matter how small, can lead to a safer and more attractive environment if the needs of all transportation forms are taken into account on the front end. And it makes sense to make upgrades in places where work is already planned. For example, if a street is being repaved bike and pedestrian infrastructure should be upgraded in the process. If a new traffic signal is being installed crosswalk signals should be retimed and upgraded to produce audible signals in the process. Every infrastructure project involving the public right of way should be seen as an opportunity to make common-sense quality of life and safety-related upgrades.

2. Strive for Complete Networks

One of the most important goals of complete streets planning is connectivity for all modes of transportation. Bike lanes should be added and upgraded to create or complete connections between neighborhoods and planning for new lanes or upgrades should focus on completing these links before starting new corridors.

3. Engage the Community

Complete streets design has to work in the context of the surrounding neighborhoods in order to be effective. Strong community input from start to finish is a key aspect of good complete streets planning and we must make sure that the community’s voice is heard and heeded throughout the process of designing and upgrading infrastructure. For example, a residential neighborhood may not need wider lanes or separated bike lanes – the resources for those upgrades may be better used in busy thoroughfares with high-speed traffic. Engaging community groups, transportation advocacy organizations, and business owners is critically important in the design and planning process.