Background Information about Complete Streets

Why Do We Need a New Approach to Streets?

Have you ever tried to get somewhere without a car, and found there was no safe way to do it? Do you find yourself wondering why so much of our world is designed for the benefit of automobiles, rather than people?

In the past, streets were more than just a place to drive a car – they were shared public spaces. For years, we’ve spent most of our energy creating more space for cars, and in the process, we’ve forced everyone else off the road. As we’ve focused on getting cars from point A to point B, our streets have become less inviting places to spend time.

Today, attitudes are changing. People want to lead longer, healthier lives. Car ownership and use are declining nationwide. Older adults and younger folks are choosing to live in walkable communities. Communities are responding to these changes by reconsidering the way that streets are designed. The idea is that streets – and the spaces around them – should be more multi-functional. In other words, they should be “complete.”

What Are Complete Streets?

Complete Streets:

  • Are safe and convenient for all modes of transportation (pedestrian, bicycle, private automobile, and public transportation) and users of all ages and abilities;
  • Contribute to a stronger sense of place;
  • Improve public health by encouraging physical activity; and
  • Enhance air and water quality by reducing automobile use and implementing “green infrastructure” solutions.
Complete Streets is not a design prescription, but a menu of options. There are many types of streets in Lancaster County, and many ways to meet the needs of different modes and users. The elements needed to make a street “complete” depend on the context. Not every Complete Street has bicycle lanes and sidewalks – it depends on where the road is located, and what type of road it is.

More Information

The Lancaster County Planning Commission (LCPC) has created a short presentation that explains the Complete Streets concept, together with a set of notes that provide additional detail.

Many articles included in LCPC’s FYI newsletter have also focused on Complete Streets: