‘Complete streets’ are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. A more equitable allocation of roadspace will make it easier to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. At the same time, complete streets allow buses to run on time and make it safer for pedestrians to access train stations, while continuing to accommodate motorists.
- Action is primarily focused on passenger transport, but a successful Complete Streets policy must accommodate needs for freight deliveries at appropriate times and locations to maintain a vibrant urban economy.
- Action spans all land based motorized and non-motorized modes, with important emphasis on pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, which often receive less total roadspace than motorized modes.
- 28% of all trips in US metropolitan areas are one mile or less, yet 65% of these trips are now made by automobile, in part because of incomplete streets that make it dangerous or unpleasant to walk, bicycle, or take transit. Complete Streets would help convert many of these short automobile trips to multi-modal travel, and other studies have calculated that 5-10% of urban automobile trips can reasonably be shifted to non-motorized transport.
- Policies to increase the acceptability, appeal, and safety of active urban travel, and discourage travel in private motor vehicles, would provide larger health benefits than would policies that focus solely on lower-emission motor vehicles, as confirmed by separate models that linked transport scenarios in London and Delhi with physical activity, air pollution, and risk of road traffic injury.
Status of deployment:
- Complete Streets have been widely implemented in much of Northern Europe, and with some success in other parts of the world. However, in much of the developing world, automobile-focused transport infrastructure is outpacing efforts to balance roadspace for all transport modes; thus, there is great potential to reduce negative impacts through a rapid implementation of complete streets.
- In Portland, Oregon, new transit investments and continued improvements to bicycling and walking infrastructure have thus far resulted in per capita CO2 emissions reductions of 12.5%. Ultimately, Portland’s Complete Streets and associated land use policies yield carbon savings worth between USD $28 and USD $70 million annually.
- The Compact of Mayors, the largest coalition focused on helping mayors combat climate change, recently announced that partner cities and towns can deliver half of the global urban potential GHG emissions reductions available by 2020.However, this would require rapid transformation of the transport sector in cities. This is possible by reallocating urban space and investments to walking, cycling, and public transit.
- Evidence suggests that more than USD $100 trillion in cumulative public and private spending could be saved, and 1,700 Mt of annual CO2 —a 40% reduction of urban passenger transport emissions—could be eliminated by 2050 if the world expands urban public transport, walking, and cycling. By increasing public transport, walking, and cycling trips, about 50% of urban vehicle travel could be avoided in 2050, as compared with a baseline scenario. This could result in about 1 to 10% reduction in countries transport sector emissions by 2030.This could also lead to significant health benefits due to reduced cardiovascular and respiratory disease from air pollution and road accident reductions.
- Furthermore, there are significant benefits expected from increased physical activity. Research in London and Delhi has established that reduction in CO2 emissions through an increase in active travel and reduced use of motor vehicles had larger health benefits (7,332 disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) in London, and 12,516 in Delhi in 1 year) than from the increased use of lower-emission motor vehicles (160 DALYs in London, and 1696 in Delhi). The combination of active travel and lower-emission motor vehicles would give the largest benefits (7,439 DALYs in London, 12,995 in Delhi), notably from a reduction in the number of years of life lost from heart disease.