In the upcoming months, St. Louis County will be working to make County streets more accessible to all users. Earlier this year, St. Louis County Council voted to adopt a Complete Streets policy. Complete Streets is an approach to transportation policy, design, and maintenance that aims to make streets safely accessible for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation. While most design of streets for the past several decades has focused on automotive traffic and use, Complete Streets brings other street users – pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users – to the forefront of street planning and infrastructure design. A Complete Street, according to this policy approach, is one that is not only safe to drive on, but one that also makes it easy to cross, walk to shops, and bicycle to work.
The debate about Complete Streets policy received much attention this past fall and winter as highway department officials and cyclists argued over whether designated bike lanes are cost-effective, safe, or necessary. While bikes and pedestrian use are an essential part of Complete Streets policy, a complete street will also include accessible public transportation accommodation such as special bus lanes, comfortable and ADA-compliant public transportation stops, accessible pedestrian signals, and frequent and safely accessible crossing opportunities.
The St. Louis County Complete Streets Ordinance includes three main parts: 1) it sets forth guiding principles, practices and vision regarding pedestrian, cycling, and public transportation use of streets (in addition to regular motorized vehicle use) to be considered in St. Louis County Transportation projects; 2) it commits to assessing the applicability, practicality, maintainability, safety and economic feasibility of Complete Streets on projects at the planning level; and 3) it lays out a framework for the formation of two implementation teams.
According to the adopted bill, “complete street” means a transportation corridor for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists. Some of the improvements noted as contributing to a complete street network include ADA-compliant pedestrian access and transit stops and stations, lighting of streets and sidewalks, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as context sensitive landscaping.
The St. Louis County Complete Streets Policy is part of the County’s long-term goal to expand its multimodal network based upon the belief that transportation options are important to community vitality. By adopting this policy, St. Louis County explicitly joins a regional and national effort to achieve better and more equitable access to our streets for all pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists.