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Policy Statement 537 - Complete Streets


Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 16, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on June 4, 2017
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 29, 2017


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports Complete Streets policies that integrate the safety, needs, and convenience of all users - drivers, bicyclists, transit users, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities -in the planning, design, construction, operations, and maintenance of transportation networks. ASCE believes that America's transportation system should be planned, designed, built, operated, and maintained for safe travel by everyone.


Millions of Americans are walking, bicycling, and riding public transportation along roads that were designed only for the motor vehicle and not properly designed to accommodate all users. Twenty-five percent of walking trips are on roads with no sidewalk or shoulder; bike lanes are available for only 5% of bike trips. This makes our streets less safe for the non-motorists and encourages more people to drive to meet their needs. More than half of Americans recently surveyed would like to walk more and drive less.

Our transportation system should provide for the one-third of Americans who do not drive, including the elderly, the poor, and the young. Without walking, biking, or transit choices they have limited opportunities for mobility.

While it is important that our roadways safely and adequately accommodate motor vehicle demands, including the movement of freight and emergency vehicles, roadway systems designed only for motor vehicles can hinder the development of walkable and livable communities. These streets deter people who might choose to drive less and avoid the cost of operating a motor vehicle if safe and comfortable alternatives were available.  


Changing policy so that our transportation system routinely considers the needs of people on foot, public transportation, and bicycles means that walking, riding bikes, and riding transit will be safer and more accessible. People of all ages and abilities will have more options when traveling to work, to school, to the grocery store, and to visit family.

When properly implemented Complete Streets improves safety for all users. A Federal Highway Administration safety review found that streets designed with features such as sidewalks, raised medians, better bus stop placement, and traffic-calming measures, can improve pedestrian safety.

Complete Streets encourage healthy and active lifestyles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named adoption of Complete Streets policies as a recommended strategy to prevent obesity. One study found that 43% of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes of home met recommended activity levels; among individuals without a safe place to walk, just 27% met active levels.

Complete Streets can lower transportation costs for families. Americans spent an average of 18 cents of every dollar on transportation, with the poorest fifth of families spending more than double that figure. In fact, many families spend far more on transportation than on food. When residents have the opportunity to walk, bike, or take transit, they have more control over their expenses by replacing car trips with these inexpensive options.

The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found 50% of all trips in the United States are three miles or less and 28% of all trips are one mile or less - distances easy to walk, bike, or ride a bus or train. Yet, 72% of the shortest trips are now made by automobile. In part, this is because streets may, in some cases, create unsafe and inconvenient barriers for other modes of travel.

Complete Streets foster strong communities. Complete Streets play an important role in livable communities, where all people - regardless of age, ability or mode of transportation - feel safe and welcome on the roadways. A safe walking and bicycling environment is an essential part of improving public transportation and creating friendly, walkable communities.

ASCE Policy Statement 537
First Approved in 2011