“Building Roads for Everyone” — Nancy Smith Lea, Complete Streets Canada

We’ve all experienced it, and studies have shown that the motor vehicle traffic congesting our city costs Toronto enormously in terms of lost productivity, air quality, and personal health and safety.

Nancy Smith Lea (@CompleteStsCA) of the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation (TCAT) believes that a policy of Complete Streets designed for the safety and comfort of all road users would benefit Toronto enormously. TCAT plans to put this on the agenda during Toronto’s municipal election.

Complete streets are safe, comfortable, and convenient for travel by foot, bicycle, transit, and automobile, and by people with disabilities, children, families, and the elderly.

Complete streets might include infrastructure features such as bike lanes, highly visible crosswalks, safe and convenient connections to transit stops, traffic calming measures, and synchronized traffic signals along major routes and arterial roads.

The benefits of complete streets include (but are not limited to):

  • reduced infrastructure costs
  • improved economic development
  • improved personal safety for road users of all ages and abilities
  • increasing physical activity
  • faster, easier transportation for all
  • healthier communities
  • reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • reduced air pollution
  • less green space lost to pavement (thereby cooling our cities, among other things)

Many complete streets campaigns are led by active transportation advocates who see there is much in common with other road users who are not being properly considered in road design, such as people with disabilities, parents with toddlers, children, the elderly, etc.  We all share the goal of wanting vibrant, livable cities not dominated by car traffic.

TCAT, the Bike Union, and the almost 100 volunteers on this campaign (and growing!) are passionate about creating a liveable city for all of us. It is essential that our politicians support creating — and implementing — strong policies that promote walkable and bikeable cities.

A Complete Streets policy puts the environment, public health, and local economies on the political agenda.

The Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation was founded in 2006 to present a unified voice for the many groups representing pedestrians and cyclists. TCAT works to create a better city for cycling and walking by 1) conducting research, developing policy, and creating opportunities for knowledge sharing; 2) working with City staff and councillors and other governments and agencies; and 3) identifying and communicating opportunities to influence government decision making.

The Complete Streets Coalition based in Washington, D.C. has made excellent progress in its movement to have Complete Streets policies adopted throughout the U.S, with over 100 jurisdictions adopting Complete Streets policies as of December 2009. However, no Complete Streets policies have yet been adopted in Canada. In August 2009, the Toronto Coalition for Active Transportation and the Toronto Cyclists Union began working together to bring this exciting initiative to Toronto. In just a few short months, our joint venture expanded to include a steadily increasing number of groups and individuals who signed on to express their support. We are currently organizing a coalition to make Complete Streets an election issue in Toronto in 2010.

Attend the Complete Streets Forum on April 23rd at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto.