UR: The Complete Streets Campaign

As a writer for the campus newspaper at the University of Minnesota-Morris, The University Register, I cover the state and local political scene along with whatever is sent my way by the News Editor. This is an example of the latter that was prompted by several students trying to collect signatures encouraging the governor to support the initiatives of the National Complete Streets Coalition. It was published on March 11, 2010.

With resolutions being brought forward at both Democratic and Republican county conventions across the state, the Complete Streets campaign has taken off; with students gathering signatures to support legislation circulating around the state capitol, it leaves one wondering: What exactly is it about?

Beginning in 2003, the National Complete Streets Coalition (NCSC) recognizes that while transportation and streets are an important aspect of everyday life in one’s community, post World War II city planning favors the automobile over other modes of travel. Instead, the organization seeks to advance the current infrastructure so as to make it more accessible to the public regardless of their preferred mode of transportation. Whether one prefers to ride a bike, drive a motorcycle, take a bus or simply walk, “many streets [as they exist today] are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams,” says the Coalition website’s homepage.

Citing not only the environmental – approximately 28% of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation – and social benefits – there is a pedestrian injury in the U.S. every eight minutes – of encouraging bicycle and pedestrian use of the roads, the organization also stressed the health benefits. According to one study “each additional hour spent driving is associated with a 6% increase in the likelihood of obesity, while each additional kilometer walked is associated with a 5% reduction of this likelihood.”

With the environmental movement, the rise of gas prices and the initiative of people to try alternative ways to travel, the campaign has gained traction in the last few years as Illinois and California have passed Complete Streets legislation that, according to a 2008 press release, require “cities and counties to include complete streets policies as part of their general plans so that roadways are designed to safely accommodate all users.” While these are the only states to have done so, legislation has been introduced elsewhere including Minnesota and more than 110 jurisdictions nationwide have committed themselves to the campaign.

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