The Cascade advocacy team has been on the road over the past couple weeks conducting half-day workshops in communities around south and east King County on Complete Streets. So far, we’ve been to Snoqualmie, Federal Way, Des Moines and Burien, with upcoming workshops in SeaTac and Kent. In each of the cities, the workshops have been met with optimism and enthusiasm about the concept of Complete Streets. Trainings have been well attended, with participation from key city staff, city council members, and local bicycle and pedestrian advocates. We look forward to continuing to collaborate as these cities pursue the adoption of a Complete Streets policy or ordinance.
Our work has been motivated by two driving factors. First, in August we received funding through Public Health – Seattle & King County as part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant, to work with six jurisdictions in south and east King County to provide guidance on the development and adoption of policies, like Complete Streets, that support active transportation. The funding has allowed us to devote time and resources to producing user guides and conducting trainings in each community to achieve these goals. The second driving factor behind our work is the overall importance of Complete Streets in our communities.
Complete Streets can help cities begin to address deficiencies in their transportation systems that have historically been designed around the automobile. With streets comprising up to one-third of a community’s land, the opportunity exists to activate these public spaces in ways that serve multiple purposes and multiple modes of transportation. With nearly one-third of the population considered ‘non-drivers,’ and even more who would prefer not to drive, there is significant demand for cities to provide safe and efficient alternatives to driving. Moreover, as the demographics of our communities shift over the next 25 years, the number of people over age 65 is projected to increase by 80 percent– placing even greater demand on the provision of transportation options within communities.
In addition to providing transportation options for people, public health is at the heart of the Complete Streets movement and CPPW. The design of our communities plays a critical role in the choices that we make, such as how we get around, which ultimately influences our health and well-being. In places where people have more diverse transportation options (transit, bicycle and pedestrian networks) people are more likely to use active modes of transportation and ultimately more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity.
Becoming a Complete Streets community pays off. Cities that have invested in their bicycle, pedestrian and transit networks have in turn experienced growth in the number of people choosing these modes of transportation. For example, between 1992 and 2009, Seattle’s downtown bicycle counts increased by 136 percent; between these same years, the city expanded the bicycle network significantly (see image).
In addition to the reasons listed above, Complete Streets is about reducing our environmental footprint, supporting local economies, improving quality of life, and designing communities and public streets around the people that live there.
In Washington state, 11 communities have adopted a Complete Streets policy or ordinance, from the 10,000-resident town of Sedro-Woolley to Kirkland to Seattle. Pierce County is setting the bar high as the first and only county in Washington to have a county-wide policy. As we continue our work under the CPPW grant, we hope to see six additional Complete Streets communities in the coming year.