Most San Diegans tell us they would rather be able to safely walk and bicycle than to save one or two minutes on their commute.  So why aren’t cities implementing Complete Streets?  In short, there are a number of real or perceived obstacles.  To address these, WalkSanDiego and the American Planning Association-San Diego Section jointly released a guidance on implementing Complete Streets in our region.

“Complete Streets” are roadways designed to meet the needs of all travelers safely and conveniently, going beyond minimum standards that fail to serve all but the most intrepid walkers, bicyclists, and transit riders.  The 80-page report, From Policy to Pavement: Implementing Complete Streets in the San Diego Region can be downloaded free from the WalkSanDiego website or the San Diego APA website.

Greg Konar, APA Section President-elect and a long-time WalkSanDiego member, stated, “The report explains how Complete Streets contribute immensely to a community’s health and prosperity, and how cities can overcome the legal obstacles and entrenched ways of designing streets.”  With a few noteworthy exceptions, cities in the region are just beginning to rethink how streets are designed, and to incorporate such features as traffic calming treatments, high-visibility crosswalks, buffered bike lanes, and more comfortable transit stops.

As the report points out, every dollar invested in walking or biking yields many times that in health and safety benefits.  Complete Street retrofits can also lead to enormous economic benefits, as exemplified by the dramatic revitalization of La Jolla Boulevard in the San Diego neighborhood of Bird Rock.  Ironically, it is drivers who benefit most from Complete Street treatments, since the improved safety translates to significant reductions in crashes of all kinds, but especially vehicle crashes.

Complete Streets don’t just happen: local governments must adopt strong policies to pave the way.  The report lays out various policy choices, with their pros and cons.  It also addresses how to overcome vehicle flow requirements, known as “Level of Service,” that for decades have prioritized congestion reduction above every other role streets play, with often disastrous results for pride of place and the safety of all users of the street.  The first place to start is to ask residents what they want, and then to align policies, plans, and standards to make it happen.  Download here: From Policy to Pavement.