The need for complete streets

Complete street transformation in University Place, Washington
Complete street transformation in University Place, Washington Image Source:

One of the biggest challenges of the next 50 years is the return to a balance of transportation options, something that has been heavily skewed towards the car for a very long time. Founded around the idea that our current streets are incomplete due to this skewing, the Complete Streets movement seeks to restore that balance.

What does this mean for Oak Bay? At first glance, you would think we are doing fairly well here. Our bicycling percentage is fairly high (6% according to the 2006 census data – PDF) and Bike to Work Week has been growing for years.

What can a municipal government like Oak Bay do? While we cannot do as much as California, which recently passed complete streets legislation, we can make certain that our little part of the world is better for everybody. Usually this takes money, as streets need to be physically reconfigured to allow better access by pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. Thankfully, the provincial government, via Bike BC and its Cycling Infrastructure Partnerships Program, has been cost sharing with muncipal governments for a few years now.

Of course, one of the key challenges Oak Bay faces is our older population and how to help that population stay active. One of the major barriers to physical activity is the incompleteness of our streets and thus it is not surprising that the American Association of Retired People (AARP) is one of the strongest supporters of complete streets in US. Their surveys have found that many older people would walk, bike or take transit more if the streets were better built. You can read more in their press release.

Getting to complete streets requires residents stand up and ask their governments to help them bike, walk and ride transit more. Thankfully, the people have a great page up on how to get complete streets in your community.