If you've been paying attention to local news over the last month, you've probably heard the term 'Complete Streets' thrown around. It's also very likely that you've never heard of this before, and are wondering what it's all about. The city recently released its guidelines for these 'complete streets' in order to provide an introduction to the more holistically designed streets of the near future. It takes existing policies, guidelines, and successes that our street design already has, and then builds on those concepts. Here's an introduction to what the concept of complete streets entails.
Simply put, complete streets are streets that are designed to be safe for all users, including people who choose to walk, bike, take transit, or drive, as well as for people of all ages and all levels of ability. These streets also take sidewalk cafes, street furniture, trees, utilities, and stormwater management into consideration.
Over 700 regions in Canada and the U.S. are embracing and looking to adopt a complete streets approach to their city's streets. Cities like New York and Boston already have these guidelines in place, so Toronto can look to these places - their successes, failures, and room for improvement - as examples for developing complete streets that would work best for us. While the plan recognizes that not every type of user can be accommodated on every street in the city, the aim is for the city to have as many 'well-functioning' street networks as possible. The concept combines social, economic, and environmental priorities into their planning and design.
The goals for these complete streets can be divided into three headings: People, Placemaking, and Prosperity. The goal is that these streets speak to and benefit these different aspects of the city fabric.
The main purpose of these streets is to improve safety and accessibility for as many people as possible. Complete streets will also give people more choices, as well as access to different networks, so whether you're getting around by foot, bicycle, public transit, or motor vehicle, the city's streets will get you where you need to go. In this way they will also promote a more healthy and active lifestyle, by making it safer, and thus more desirable to walk or bike.
Complete streets are meant to integrate into the natural setting of their place in the city more effortlessly, so they take the local environment into context. They're also meant to contribute to a more vibrant public space, that takes their environmental impact and sustainability into consideration.
Complete streets work in favour of the economy in many ways. They help connect people to the goods and services offered in their neighbourhood. They should also remove any barrier that would separate different kinds of people, so individuals of all incomes, races, ages, genders, and abilities can safely make use of and benefit from Toronto's streets.
Phase 1 and Phase 2 have been met for the Complete Streets project. Next, is Phase 3, which is implementing the guidelines and training all relevant stakeholders. We look forward to seeing these complete streets coming to realization and making our city even better than it already is!
Header Image via @torontopromos on Instagram