Complete Streets refers to roadway design aimed at ensuring safe and convenient access for all users, whether on foot, on a bicycle, in vehicles, or using other transit modes. Here on Long Island, roadway design has primarily focused on one mode of transportation – the automobile. But that is changing. Now, roadways are looked at as more than merely motor parkways. They are viewed as economic drivers, health promoters, and environmental enhancers. All it takes is a little planning and the desire to make positive changes that benefit all segments of the community.
The New York State Complete Streets Act
New York State officially got into the Complete Streets game in August 2011, when the Governor signed into law the Complete Streets Act (CSA). This statute requires state, county, and local agencies to consider safety, access, convenience and mobility in transportation projects that are state and federally funded. The CSA includes Complete Streets design features that allow the roadways to be shared. These features make sense and run the gamut from installing appropriate road signage, constructing crosswalks with pedestrian control signals, constructing bicycle lanes and bus pull outs and implementing traffic calming measures.
In response to the CSA, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) developed a series of policies and guidance for Complete Streets. These include:
- a bicycle/pedestrian policy aimed at increasing these modes of transportation in a safe manner and to promote transit-oriented development
- a traffic calming policy aimed at reducing the negative impacts of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior and improve conditions for walkers and bicyclists
- a highway design manual that contains technical design guidance based upon federally-approved design practices
- a regional NYSDOT bicycle/pedestrian coordinator to help communities promote programs to increase walking and cycling
Suffolk County’s Complete Streets Policy
In 2012, Suffolk County established a Complete Streets policy. This policy recognizes that walking and bicycling are important modes of transportation and recreation and promote health, fitness, and economic development. The policy requires the Suffolk County Department of Public Works to evaluate the feasibility of Complete Streets design features at the planning stages of projects.
Town of Babylon’s Sustainable Complete Streets Policy
In July 2010, Babylon adopted its Sustainable Complete Streets Policy. This policy takes into consideration motor vehicle drivers, public transportation vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities in the design, construction and retrofitting of the Town’s roadways. The Town commissioned the development of a Master Plan for Sustainable Complete Streets, which will include best practices, such as median islands, narrower travel lanes, secure bike facilities, tree covers, streetscaping and lighting. It also calls for intermodal transit facilities that allow easy transfer between the modalities.
Village of Great Neck Plaza
In February 2012, Great Neck Plaza adopted its Complete Streets Policy Guide. Its stated purpose is to take “a well-balanced approach to transportation planning” and optimize “transportation accessibility and choices.” The Village’s policy seeks to address the needs of motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, children, disabled persons, elderly citizens, movers of commercial gods and users of public transportation in the planning, construction and retrofitting of streets, bridges and other aspects of the transportation network. It sets forth specific design elements to be considered for its main roads, including:
- specified lane widths
- specified parking lanes
- ADA-compliant sidewalks
- landscaped medians
- improved signage
- textured crosswalks
- bus shelters
- porous pavement
- pedestrian-scale lighting
- bicycle racks
- parking meters
Complete Streets policies are popping up across Long Island and promote safe and efficient roadway design. These policies will play a larger role in the governmental approval process in the future.