California passes Complete Streets

Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 1358, the California Complete Streets Act of 2008, into law Tuesday night. The Complete Streets Law has been the number one legislative priority of the California Bicycle Coalition.

The Complete Streets Act codifies policy that all streets be designed to accommodate all users including bicyclists. According to San Francisco Assemblyman Mark Leno, who introduced AB 1358, “Streets aren’t just for cars, they’ re for people and AB 1358 will ensure our roadways are safe and convenient for everyone – young or old, riding a bike or on foot, in a car or on a bus.”

AB 1358 requires a city or county’ s general plan to identify how they will accommodate the circulation of all users of the roadway, including motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, children, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and users of public transportation. The new general plan provisions would be required when local governments next revise what is known as the circulation element which addresses flow of traffic through a local transportation system utilizing better planning to ease congestion. Such accommodations may include sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, wide shoulders, medians, bus pullouts, and audible pedestrian signals, among others.

“Complete Streets ensure that tax dollars are invested to serve all Californians, and protect and enhance our quality of life now and in the future,” said K.C. Butler, Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition.

Complete Streets has many societal and public health benefits. When people have more transportation options, there are fewer traffic jams and the overall capacity of the transportation network increases. Additionally, physical inactivity is linked to our growing obesity epidemic. One study found that 43% of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes of home met recommended physical activity levels.

AB 1358 is also a key strategy communities can use to help improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Complete Streets will help cities and counties meet standards set by landmark legislation capping carbon emissions in California, AB 32. If each resident of a community of 100,000 replaced one car trip with one bike trip once a month, it would cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emission by 3,764 tons per year.

Additionally, integrating sidewalks, bike lanes, transit amenities, and safe crossings into the initial design of a project is more cost-effective than making costly retrofits later.

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