Complete Streets Fact Sheet
Complete Streets is a national movement to ensure that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind-including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
The California Bicycle Coalition, working in partnership with a variety of other transportation, environmental and health advocacy organizations, has taken the lead to establish Complete Streets statewide in California.
What are Complete Streets?
Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street.
Creating complete streets means transportation agencies must change their orientation toward building primarily for cars. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation agencies routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users. Places with complete streets policies are making sure that their streets and roads work for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as for older people, children, and people with disabilities.
What it takes to make a street “complete” varies depending on many factors, so there’s no single definition. However, ingredients may include sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible transit stops, frequent crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, and more. A complete street in a rural area will look quite different from a complete street in a highly urban area. But both are designed to balance safety and convenience for everyone using the road.
(adapted from Complete Streets FAQ, National Complete Streets Coalition)
Benefits of Complete Streets
- Increased Transportation Choices: Streets that provide travel choices can give people the option to avoid traffic congestion, and increase the overall capacity of the transportation network.
- Economic Revitalization: Complete streets can reduce transportation costs and travel time while increasing property values and job growth in communities.
- Improved Return on Infrastructure Investments: Integrating sidewalks, bike lanes, transit amenities, and safe crossings into the initial design of a project spares the expense of retrofits later.
- Quality of Place: Increased bicycling and walking are indicative of vibrant and livable communities.
- Improved Safety: Design and accommodation for bicyclists and pedestrians reduces the incidence of crashes.
- More Walking and Bicycling: Public health experts are encouraging walking and bicycling as a response to the obesity epidemic. Streets that provide room for bicycling and walking help children get physical activity and gain independence.
(from Complete Streets Implementation Action Plan, Caltrans, Feb. 2010)
Complete Streets in California
In September 2008, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 1358, the Complete Streets Act, co-sponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition and AARP California, and authored by Assemblymember Mark Leno of San Francisco. As of January 1, 2011, the law requires cities and counties, when updating the part of a local general plan that addresses roadways and traffic flows, to ensure that those plans account for the needs of all roadway users. In December 2010, the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research, with substantial input from CalBike and its allies, issued general plan update guidelines for implementing the provisions of AB 1358.
At the same time, the California Department of Transportation unveiled a revised version of Deputy Directive 64, an internal policy document that explicitly embraces Complete Streets as the policy covering all phases of state highway projects, from planning to construction to maintenance and repair.
Despite AB 1358 and Caltrans’ directive, and despite our continued advocacy to urge Caltrans to implement its own directive, it has failed to do so, and street repaving and repair projects on state-owned streets routinely fail to improve the streets for people using biking, walking, or transit.
In January of 2019, Senator Scott Wiener introduced SB 127 to strengthen California’s complete streets requirements, our second effort co-sponsoring legislation with the senator. SB 127 will flip the script and mandate the inclusion of bike and walk facilities in any Caltrans rehabilitation project unless Caltrans holds a public hearing where they justify an exception to the requirement. The California Bicycle Coalition and our partners are now hard at work on continuing our Complete Streets Campaign.
- Read the full text of Assembly Bill 1358, as chaptered on Sept. 30, 2008
- Read the final Assembly floor analysis of AB 1358 (8/27/08)
- Read General Plan Update Guidelines for AB 1385
- Learn about the Caltrans Complete Streets Implementation Plan
- Learn about the nationwide Complete Streets movement at www.completethestreets.org