A citizen’s guide to promoting complete streets

In Michigan, approximately 100 local governments have adopted policies to support the development of complete streets. Learn if your community is doing so and help in the effort to improve access and mobility of all users of the community’s public ways.

In August 2010, Michigan communities were given new planning and coordination responsibilities related to multimodal transportation planning. The ‘Complete Streets’ legislation defines complete streets as “roadways planned, designed, and constructed to provide appropriate access to all legal users…whether by car, truck, transit, assistive device, foot or bicycle”.

The amendments to the State Trunk Line Highway System Act and the Michigan Planning Enabling Act allow communities to adopt Complete Streets policies that are locally appropriate, based on the functional class of the roadway, cost of reconstruction, and mobility needs of all legal users, thereby providing a mechanism for the development of Complete Streets as appropriate to better accommodate the varied ways residents get around Michigan’s communities.

Many communities have taken proactive steps to change local policy and practice related to transportation projects. The Michigan Complete Streets Coalition maintains a Policy Center webpage devoted to sharing resources and samples of complete streets policies, resolutions, ordinances, and plans. You can also search an interactive map to see if your community has taken measures to incorporate complete streets concepts into local policies, funding and projects.

If your community is not listed, talk to your local elected officials about Complete Streets using resources such as those available on the Michigan Municipal League’s Complete Streets webpage. The sample complete streets ordinance that is listed for the City of Frendale includes supporting documentation, such as a request for council action and a letter or review by the city’s corporate council that reflect the due diligence that local governments should conduct when considering new policies or ordinances. Do not get frustrated by this internal review process; it can take time for governments to do the homework necessary to make informed decisions that involve municipal resources.

It may take some education, as well as advocacy by a group of interested community members to raise awareness about complete streets in your community. Bicyclists, walkers, wheelchair users, transit riders, children, and the elderly can all benefit from complete streets provisions and having a diversity of interests represented on a complete streets coalition will be important in mobilizing partners and building awareness in the community. The League of Michigan Bicyclists maintains an Advocacy Toolkit that includes information on starting a bicycle and pedestrian committee, specifically, example groups in various Michigan communities, strategies for communication, and sample bylaws. Keep in mind, complete streets look different from one community to the next and a rural township may not have the same context, tools, or resources to implement complete streets, as compared to an urban city or village.

Michigan State University Extension is available to deliver community education programs on complete streets in Michigan. One such program covers Key components under Public Acts 134 and 135 of 2010 that every elected and appointed official should know: an overview of Complete Streets concepts and practice, best practices and Michigan examples, the 10 key principles to develop a local ordinance, tools and resources you can use to implement Complete Streets in your community, and Funding.

To schedule a program in your community, contact a MSU Extension land use educator at the Land Use Education Services page.

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