Sunday, March 06, 2011

Completing the Streets: A Simple Discourse

As gasoline prices continue to soar, Americans are beginning to feel the pinch enough to desire an understanding of the intricate nuances of multi-modal transportation options. One of the key concepts emerging at all levels across the nation is called Complete Streets.

Two simple words that on their own merit are innocuous:

Complete, having all necessary parts, elements, or steps.

Streets, thoroughfares, especially in a city, town, or village that are wider than an alley or lane and that usually include sidewalks.

However, paired together and people, especially folks who do not have engineering or planning backgrounds, begin to sweat. The heart rate soars, the throat becomes scratchy, the breath comes in short gasps. I know that first-hand. As a bicyclist who wants the rights of the road extended to me (and my breathren) I am in favor of policies that incorporate safe passage. But, the idea was daunting. After all, if it is a concept germinating in minds of educated people with far more time to consider it constituents parts, it has to be more complex than this dumb old country boy bicyclist can comprehend, right?

Not exactly . . .

The paradox stems from the fear being both easy and hard to see. It's easy to envision because any time talk starts about infrastruture changes in the road building and maintenance theatre, John Q. and Joan X. Public sees gargantuan dollar amounts and massive interruptions on the horizon, although usually in the opposite order. "Why are we doing this project?" questions first arise after the couple, and many more like them, begin falling prey to the traffic delays that seem to occur primarily when they are behind the wheel in the project area. If John and Joan are of the fiscal mindset, they will soon discover the project is costing tax dollars they fork over. If they cannot see where the project benefits them, and immediately I might add, they begin to voice objections.

Conversely, the fear is diffcult to understand because the idea is so simple, sometimes not as costly as one might think, and extremely beneficial in both the short- and long-term. The only groups who seemingly do not benefit from a Complete Streets initiative are the auto and fossil fuel industries and the associated child enterprises. I say seemingly because only the most myopic proponents of these transportation resource gluttons do not consider how all transportation components can operate more efficiently if all are allowed, and encouraged, to operate together.

In short, there will be better resource climates for all when all are allowed to operate in the same comparative climate. It is often, though, a tough battle to fend off the more powerful commercial sectors whose real catalyst is GREED.

The National Complete Streets Coalition is the place to find a greater understanding of the concept. But it is basically summed up as the official mandate to plan and engineer streets to include all facets of multi-modal transportation options within the body governed by the proposed area. That is, the federal government can have a policy, but the states don't have to follow it on their 'private' roads. Likewise, a state can enact a policy, but a city doesn't need to adhere to it on roads they govern.

One of the most misunderstand precepts is that the policy will be the same at all levels. That is a false idea, but highly favored as propaganda by the Bastardians of Avaritia set. Even within cities of a like size, whether or not they are in the same state, the policy should be what all people in that area need to see as viable transportation options.

  1. Complete Streets all begins with a vision . . . and a vision should be the property of the people, not the select few.

  2. Complete Streets specifies that a road covered by the policy includes all users. That means pedestrians, bicyclists and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles.

    (Sadly for operators of single-digit horsepower riding mowers who insist on taking their prized vehicle down to the local Bubba's Beers and Butts for noxious refills, it does not include you.)

  3. Complete Streets covers all road projects, including new and retrofit projects, provisioning for design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.

  4. Complete Streets does not say that a body must do these things today, in an otherwise tight public funds fiscal landscape (Again, be mindful that the B of A lobbyists will be shouting this falsehood from rooftops . . . and probably FOX News). It just says that when things are done, they must be done with all users in mind.

So the next time you hear the term Complete Streets being considered in your community, county, state, or even the nation, perk up your ears and get involved with the process. And even if you do not believe the action or idea benefits you today, think ahead to the future: It might benefit your children and grandchildren.

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