My Letter to MI’s Complete Street Advisory Council
Below is my letter to the 18-representatives (MDOT) serving on Michigan’s Complete Streets Advisory Council (MI-CS). They will be reporting to the State’s Transportation Commission on model policy language for the state policy to be adopted in August. At their meeting last week, they expressed interest in hearing from the public using the following email:
To the Representatives of the Complete Streets Advisory Council,
Thank you for your time and energy serving on this important committee. Your recommendations are a critical piece to fulfilling the goals of the Complete Street public acts passed in 2010 and your results are anticipated in communities across the state of Michigan, 63 of which have already passed policies of their own. I trust that your contribution is a step towards a less disjointed process regarding transportation policy and implementation, as well as a step towards a larger goal of better connected communities.
There was discussion at your January meeting of what exactly does Complete Streets mean. The following description was written by transportation specialist Dan Burden in a recent article for the American Association of Retired Persons. The following passage sums up the basic premise of a complete street:
A complete street is one that accommodates all people who use a roadway, not just those in cars. It offers a safe way for people to travel, regardless of their age, ability or mode of transportation—whether walking, biking, using transit or driving a car. Where we have complete streets, people have choices in transportation, including an option that is right outside each door, is affordable and is healthy.
It is significant that he is writing for AARP and that their organization has been one of the biggest supporters of complete streets initiatives. As he points out, 20% of seniors don’t drive and often remain at home due to lack of transportation options in part because the design of our streets and other public spaces make it difficult, if not perilous to choose another mode. Similar issues exist throughout the age demographic, where people of all ages and abilities feel that their only choice is to drive a car, even when other options would make sense. Your work is step towards a more diversified transportation system.
Not Just a Trend
In Traverse City, there has been a complete streets movement, if not by name than by desire, for at least 40-years. The concerns are primarily of context and safety. People are concerned about high speeds on streets running through neighborhoods, whether they be state trunklines or not, because they drastically impact property values, livability and freedom of movement. In Traverse City, as in other communities, these incomplete streets create barriers of movement and access. They are also threats to life and limb, with the occasional tragic reminder all too frequent.
A few days before Christmas and on a state trunkline in Traverse City, an 89-year-old man was struck by a driver unable to stop their vehicle in time. The intersection where this occurred has been a constant source of community consternation over the last few years. Yet, the context of the area it is located remains designed to reinforce high speeds of motor vehicles. It is a 40-mph zone running through a neighborhood and next to parkland; it is a rural 4-lane highway in the middle of a city. The man who died was simply attempting to walk across the street. Likely, he was going home as he lived less than a block away. As a state, we need to value the personal liberty to walk in our neighborhoods without an over-bearing fear to be struck and killed.
Each of you represents a different stakeholder group. There is someone representing the environment, another representing those with disabilities, another the bicyclists, traffic engineers, law enforcement, planning, and so on. From the perspective of an engaged citizen, those distinctions are less relevant than that you are members of communities. At the community level we don’t engage strictly as stakeholders of this or that, we engage as neighbors who each have many different needs and perspectives that are often shared. We trust that by coming together a shared vision will help improve our communities.
A strong message and policy at the state level, that treats the public rights of way as places where people live and connect, is a critical step towards building a Michigan that provides for all of our needs.
Again, thank you for your dedication and commitment.
Traverse City, MI
Contributions greatly appreciated.