Why should Spokane settle for incomplete streets?

Some people are asking why we need complete streets. Let’s turn this question on its head: Why would we ever put in place designs, approval processes and funding streams dedicated to making our streets INcomplete?

What possible rationale could anyone suggest with a straight face for designing streets that make it difficult to get to a bus stop, unsafe for a cyclist to share a lane with a driver, treacherous for truck drivers trying to make a delivery to a grocery store, impossible for someone in a wheelchair to travel a few blocks?

That’s what we did, though.

Complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. That’s all.

Streets for all of us. When you have complete streets pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities can move safely along and across the street.

Who’s standing up to argue in favor of UNsafe streets?

Who thinks it’s a good idea to have street designs that encourage use of a car for the shortest of trips? 50% of all trips in metropolitan areas are three miles or less and 28% of all metropolitan trips are one mile or less – distances easy to walk, bike, or hop a bus. Yet 65% of the shortest trips are now made by automobile, in part because of incomplete streets that make it dangerous or unpleasant for other modes of travel.

Who wants us to keep spending our money on gas imported from other countries? We could be spending it instead on food grown right here, books from a local book store, coffee roasted by people you can meet and talk with to learn more about the people they know who grow the beans, clothing from a one-of-a-kind store or a local thrift shop that supports a local nonprofit, and yes—bike stuff at great local bike shops. That’s money that stays here more than it leaves town.

Who wants to make sure we don’t get the health benefits of walking or biking for transportation so we can keep packing on the pounds and ending up with diabetes, heart disease and premature death?

Who wants to keep property values down by leaving streets and sidewalks unfinished and unpleasant for all users, instead of adding the connections that increase curb appeal as well as usability for everyone?

Who wants everyone to drive a single-occupancy vehicle because we’ve made it too scary to ride a bike, too muddy or impossible to get to a bus stop because there are no sidewalks, too unthinkable to walk a mile?

Hey, that’s it—let’s put more cars on the street to create more traffic jams and competition for parking spots and air emissions—especially air emissions because we really want to go back to the old days of being a non-attainment area under EPA regulations.

A really radical notion: streets for everyone.

Monday April 5, 2010 the Spokane City Council votes on a resolution by Councilperson Jon Snyder supporting the development of a Complete Streets Ordinance as a component of the City’s street standards (more info and a form you can customize to send the council members an email)


  1. Received via Twitter from @completestreets:
    We have a series from the Tampa Tribune in our Introduction to Complete Streets PowerPoint http://bit.ly/cS5adS

  2. Received via LinkedIn LinkedSpokane group discussion:
    t's about time! Great to see the S-R article today on Jon Snyder's proposal to get complete streets into the city street codes. Barb, I've been loosely following this for a while, hoping to see Spokane emulate this successful program, proven in so many other cities.

    Now let's get Spokane County to do the same! We have a huge new elementary school near our home on Five Mile, yet NO sidewalks or bike lanes connect to it; state law requires the Mead school district to spend a fortune to provide bus service to nearly all students, even to kids that live just a couple of hundred yards away from school! That's inexcusable.

  3. Spokane City Council vote April 5, 2010--

    In favor of the Complete Streets resolution:
    Jon Snyder (sponsor)
    Steve Corker
    Richard Rush
    Joe Shogan
    Amber Waldref

    Opposing the Complete Streets resolution:
    Bob Apple
    Nancy McLaughlin

  4. Nice letter to the Spokesman-Review by Paul Kropp, captured on the wonderful blog by the Spokane Regional Transportation Council in a post April 20, 2010: http://srtctransportation.blogspot.com/2010/04/letter-in-defense-of-complete-streets.html


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