We were excited to learn that this past Tuesday night, the Township of Maplewood adopted a Complete Streets policy. The policy, which was unanimously approved by the township committee, is intended to push the town to adopt measures that make streets safer for all users — cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. Maplewood joins a growing list of municipalities in New Jersey (and over 314 communities, counties, regions, and states nationwide) who are adopting Complete Streets policies.
Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that agencies think about, design, and operate rights of way to enable safe access for all users. In their Complete Streets Policy, the NJ Department of Transportation recognized these benefits of complete streets:
- Complete Streets improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, children, older citizens, non-drivers and the mobility challenged as well as those that cannot afford a car or choose to live car free
- Provide connections to bicycling and walking trip generators such as employment, education, residential, recreation, retail centers and public facilities
- Promote healthy lifestyles
- Create more livable communities
- Reduce traffic congestion and reliance on carbon fuels thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions
- Complete Streets make fiscal sense by incorporating sidewalks, bike lanes, safe crossings and transit amenities into the initial design of a project, thus sparing the expense of retrofits later
There is often some confusion about what is involved in the adoption of a Complete Streets policy. Some towns shy away from touching the issue out of fear that such a policy will make everything more expensive, or force them to retrofit all of their current streets for bikes and pedestrians. In reality, however, embracing transportation access for all users of our transportation system is a process that can happen over a very long time period. It can be done gradually, with simple measures, using existing funds.
Interested in learning more about Complete Streets or getting your community interested? GMTMA can help. Additionally, some good web resources include the National Complete Streets Coalition and New Jersey Department of Transportation.