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Benefits of Complete Streets

Complete Streets benefit entire communities by addressing the needs of all road users regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation [1]. Among other benefits, Complete Streets address issues related to mobility and accessibility, community and economic development, safety, physical and environmental health, transportation cost, and equity.

Walkable Princeton, NJ

Complete Streets enhance mobility and accessibility by enhancing the quality and availability of the “connections between residences, schools, parks, public transportation, offices, and retail destinations [2]. This network encourages the development of livable, walkable communities that can “help revitalize a downtown, increase private investment, bolster property values, promote tourism, and support the development of good business climate[3]. A walkable community also improves overall quality of life by creating an environment where people are encourage to interact and develop a sense of community [4]. In fact, research indicates that “…people who live in walkable communities are more likely to be socially engaged and trusting than residents of less walkable neighborhoods…[and also report] being in better health and happier more often” [5].

Complete Streets improve safety by providing pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers with adequate facilities and by reducing travel speeds so that all users and modes can safely use the street together. A review of safety research by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found that a variety of facilities commonly found in Complete Streets design (e.g., marked crosswalks, raised medians, pedestrian refuge islands, traffic control devices, careful bus stop placement, safe routes to school, traffic-calming measures, continuous sidewalks and walkways, etc.) can serve as efficient countermeasures to pedestrian crashes [6].  Bicyclists also benefit from Complete Streets due to slower traffic speeds and the provision of bicycle-friendly facilities, (e.g., bicycle lanes, tracks, sharrows, etc.). Numerous studies have found that roads with “on-road marked bike lanes…reduce injury rate, collision frequency or crash rates by about 50 percent compared to unmodified roadways” [7] Higher rates of non-motorized modes can also reduce overall congestion on the transportation network, which makes travel more efficient and safe for everyone [8].

Bridge Street in Lambertville, NJ

Compete Streets provide increased opportunities for active transport for all users- including children, elderly, and the disabled – and this can have a profound effect on physical health. Research have found that “43% of people with safe places to walk within 10-minutes of home met the recommended activity levels…[and that] among individuals without safe places to walk, just 27% were active enough” [9] Accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have endorsed Complete Streets policies as a strategy to prevent obesity [10]. Complete Streets also promote increased use of sustainable modes of transportation (e.g., walking, cycling, and transit), which are associated with environmental benefits related to greenhouse gas emissions, impervious coverage, stormwater runoff, and water quality [11].

Finally, Complete Streets lower transportation costs by providing individuals and families with options other than driving [12]. The National Coalition for Complete Streets notes that “when residents have the opportunity to walk, bike, or take transit, they have more control over their expenses by replacing car trips with these inexpensive options” [13]. Complete Streets therefore address equity concerns by ensuring that mobility and access are also addressed by designing facilities that are safe, accessible, and welcoming for all users, particularly for the elderly, the disabled, and children [14].

[1] National Complete Streets Coalition. “Complete Streets: Fundamentals.”
[2] National Complete Streets Coalition. “Benefits of Complete Streets.”
[3] Delaware Department of Transportation. 2011. “Complete Streets in Delaware: A Guide for Local Governments.” pg. 25
[4] New Jersey Department of Transportation. 2012. “Making Complete Streets a Reality: A Guide to Complete Streets Policy Development.” pg. 3
[5] ibid. 1.
[6] ibid. 3, pg. 21
[7] ibid.
[8] Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. 2012. “Complete Streets Toolkit: A Guide for Central Ohio Communities.” pg. 2-3
[9] ibid. 1.
[10] ibid.
[11] ibid. 4.
[12] ibid. 8.
[13] ibid. 1.
[14] Special thanks to Scott Fishberg for compiling the above information