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Are we shifting toward sustainable streets?

Discussing Smart Growth with SmokeyThrough the generous sponsorship of Kaiser Permanente, Dan Grunig (our executive director) and I recently attended the 13th annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference in Denver.

(That’s me with Rachel Hultin discussing smart growth with Smokey the Bear at the conference, by the way.)

Many of the policies we advocate for and programs we provide here at Bicycle Colorado are closely aligned with smart growth principles (defined here by Wikipedia)

compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices.

Sustainable streets continue emergence

Numerous sessions highlighted how more communities are designing and constructing, in some cases reconstructing, their streets to equally accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit users, as well as motor vehicles.

Case studies from Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Washington, to name just a few,  highlight that engineers, planners, agency staff, and advocates are critically thinking through transportation investments and how by better accommodating all modes, their projects can simultaneously deliver multi-sector benefits, including:

  • mobility
  • economic development
  • public health
  • environmental quality
  • equity

This continued emergence of sustainable streets is captured in the 2013 annual report of the National Complete Streets Coalition, which states “Communities across the country are making roads safer and more accessible for everyone who uses them—and these changes are happening on a larger scale than ever before.”

In 2013, more than 80 jurisdictions adopted Complete Streets policies, and nationwide, 610 jurisdictions have adopted Complete Streets policies thus far.

Are we experiencing a shift?

So, is a true shift occurring? Have we collectively transitioned to a place where transportation investments are made in a more holistic fashion to truly serve people and communities—not just motor vehicles?

A growing number of case studies demonstrate that we’re well on the way.  As a colleague and I were reflecting on at the end of the conference, it’s exciting to think about how much further along we’ll be in five years, let alone 10.

I was inspired by remarks from Tyler Norris, vice president, Total Health Partnerships at Kaiser Permanente, at a morning conference plenary. In discussing transportation planning and investments, Norris opined that we’ve arrived at a point where we know what to do, we know how to do it, and now we just need to go out and actually do it … or keep doing it in cases where it’s already happening.

What’s in the pipeline?

In my future entries, I’m excited to highlight how organizations and agencies throughout the Front Range are implementing sustainable streets. I hope to inspire, I hope you’ll question, and I hope (together) we can continue to move the marble. Let’s do this!

Ted Heyd

About the Author: Ted Heyd

Ted manages our regional policy efforts focused on building out a more multi-modal transportation network. Ted thoroughly enjoys and spends much of his time collaborating with multiple advocacy partners along the Front Range. In his free time, he loves to mountain bike, hike and camp with family and friends.


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