Adopt a complete streets policy.
“Complete streets” means that the community’s streets and/or rural roads are set up for bikes and pedestrians too, not just cars and trucks. Most people never heard the term “open streets” or “complete streets” policy. It means the community is adopting policies that make it easier for people to walk or ride bikes and therefore exercise more. Bike racks, bike lanes, crosswalks and sidewalks are all possible parts of a complete streets policy, for instance.
“Complete streets” means different things in different places. Small West Virginia towns may not need bike lanes, for instance, but most could use bike racks at places like the grocery store. Most could use more sidewalks.
Research says complete streets steps work:
- In 2013, the number of people riding bikes on three New Orleans streets more than tripled after bike lanes were painted on them, according to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
- Significantly more people started riding bikes in almost every city that adopted multiple policies to encourage biking, according to a 2010 review of fourteen studies, published in Preventative Medicine. People who already rode bikes started riding them more frequently.
- In 2010, England’s Department of Transport found that more than 50 percent of people who own a bike said they would ride it to work or errands if they felt the streets were safe for biking and if they could lock it up.
- A 2010 American Journal of Public Health study found that, in 14 countries, people who regularly rode bikes were less obese than those who did not. Walking and biking to work and errands are a highly effective ways to weave exercise into the day and bring down blood sugar and blood pressure.
A “complete streets policy” commits a community to including bikes and pedestrians in its road development. People save money, exercise, and socialize more. People on bikes and on foot talk with each other more often than people in cars do, research says.
Many West Virginia communities have adopted various components of a complete streets policy. The 2013 legislature passed a law that requires the Department of Transportation to consider biking, pedestrians, buses and ADA in their planning. “It’s a start,” said Kasey Russell, director of West Virginia Connecting Communities. “For a long time, the policy was: roads are for motorized vehicles, period. Now we’re recognizing bikes and walking as important ways to stay healthy, save money and keep down congestion.”
What kind of policy makes sense in your community?
To help you answer that question:
- AARP’s Liveable Communities project includes a lot of good ideas: http://blog.aarp.org/2013/10/10/safe-routes-for-everywhere/
- The thinktank, ChangeLab Solutions, has excellent complete streets resources and facts at http://changelabsolutions.org/childhood-obesity/complete-streets.
- Here’s a fun way to get people thinking about it: http://openstreetsproject.org
- A blueprint from the League of American Bicyclists, designed to help a community plan all the components of a good biking and walking system http://www.bikeleague.org/content/bfa-blueprint,
- National Complete Streets Coalition at www.smartgrowthamerica.org has many resources to choose from.
- Alliance for Biking and Walking: Bicycling and Walking in the United States. Great data and ideas.
- West Virginia Connecting Communities lobbies for bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly measures on the state level.
- Create open streets on a neighborhood level: Move this way: Making neighborhoods more walkable and bikable, a Changelabs report http://changelabsolutions.org/publications/move-this-way
Here’s some research that shows how measures that promote biking can bring down a community’s obesity level:
- In 14 countries, people who rode bikes more were less obese: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20724675?dopt=Abstract
- Here’s the New Orleans article that showed that bike traffic more than tripled on streets after bike lanes were painted: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12160-012-9440-z/fulltext.html
- Here’s the review of 14 research articles on cities that adopted complete streets policies: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19765610?dopt=Abstract
Create a group to carry out complete streets measures.
- In early 2013, the Wood County Commission created a Council for Alternative Transportation to promote hiking and biking, “thereby relieving traffic congestion, making the city more attractive, and making a lot of people more healthy,” said Parkersburg City Council member Kim Coram. The council’s job is to ensure that biking and walking are included in county and city plans usually made for automobiles only. “We need to make it easier for people to choose those alternatives,” Coram said.
- The Wood legislation creating the council: www.theopam.com/posts/785-wood-county-alternative-transportation-council-became-a-reality-today
- Morgantown Bike Board: http://bikemorgantown.com/bikeboard.php
- Greater Morgantown Bike Plan: http://bikemorgantown.com/Plan/morgantown_bicycle_plan_v15.pdf