What is a “Complete street”?
“Complete streets” are streets that are designed to provide safe and comfortable access for people of all ages, gender, abilities, and modes of travel – including pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists. (Complete Streets for Canada).
To accommodate all users, complete streets often include features such as on-road bike lanes, wider sidewalks, protected crossings, landscaped areas, and traffic calming measures.
There is no one-size-fits-all complete street design; what is considered to be a “Complete Street” will vary between communities and wards in the City of Ottawa.
Where are we now?
The City of Ottawa adopted a Complete Streets Policy in 2013, and a Complete Streets Implementation Framework in 2015. These measures signal a potential game-changer in the urban form of Ottawa, and could positively affect our city’s transportation network for generations to come. Now, city planners and engineers will look at streets as more than through-ways for cars. Instead, they will systematically adopt a complete streets lens, looking at the complex interactions between various modes of travel and seeking ways to prioritize the user experience for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.
Strong policy is a good start, but it’s not sufficient to guarantee that the city will be designed in an optimal way. At the end of the day, council – and the citizens of our city who support them – have tremendous power over the shape of Ottawa’s roads.
Councillors can influence the development of a given street for better or for worse. In some areas of the city, councillors are moving to delay or cancel sidewalks and other aspects of complete streets infrastructure. On the other hand, when councillors hear from hundreds of residents demanding strong active transportation infrastructure, they have shown that they can push a street to be more ‘complete’ than in its initial design.
In other words, your voice is critical to the success of complete streets in Ottawa. And there are hundreds of opportunities to push for a more sustainable city. Roads are up for renewal and reconstruction all the time, and the City holds numerous consultations where well-organized residents can make a serious difference in their own communities.