In a comprehensive report just released by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a national team of researchers and policy experts is recommending that communities adopt "Complete Streets" policies in their fight against obesity. The authors cite over 100 recent scientific studies to justify their proposed interventions and suggested measurements.
The critical need to create streets that are safe and accessible for physical activity for residents of all ages and abilities has become one of the driving forces behind the Complete Streets movement, which has recently taken hold in New Haven and Statewide. Transportation reform in general is also seen by national experts, like the Convergence Partnership and the Living Cities Collaborative, as a cornerstone of more sustainable and equitable neighborhoods.
Despite strong policy recommendations from the Federal Government and many other groups across the country, complete streets can not be created overnight, because they involve much more than just crosswalks, adequate sidewalks, bike lanes or sharrows painted on the roads. More complex treatments such as traffic circles, pedestrian refuge medians, bollards and curb extensions (such as the ones in Manhattan shown below), which can enhance safety and actually make traffic flow more smoothly, are also needed to encourage walkability.
But most importantly, lower speed limits within compact urban centers like Downtown New Haven -- backed up by well-designed roads that encourage drivers to actually obey those lower speed limits -- are the key intervention needed to create streets suitable for all users. When vehicles travel at speeds above 20 miles per hour, the comfort level of pedestrians and cyclists drops dramatically, and injury risks increase exponentially. This tension was recently seen in New Haven on Whitney Avenue, where despite the requests of hundreds of local residents, the city was unable to even consider shifting road paint applications by a few inches, even though speeds on the neighborhood road regularly exceed 35 miles per hour....