Columbia’s Complete Streets Policy is Wildly Outdated

Where were you in 2004? It feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? That year, PedNet led Columbia to adopt one of the first Complete Streets policies in the country. These policies are intended to ensure that streets are built for everyone, including people walking, biking, using wheelchairs, and riding transit. They determine the design of the entire streetscape, including driving lane widths; sidewalk, crosswalk, and lighting placement; protected bike lanes; and traffic calming features such as trees, landscaping, and street furniture.

Street design policies make or break street safety. And safety determines whether people walk or bike.

In 2004, the policy was cutting edge. Now 16 years later, cities around the world have adopted more modern, research-based street designs that are proven to ensure safety. But Columbia hasn’t updated its policy.

When we advocated for Vision Zero in 2016, we made sure the Vision Zero Action Plan included an action item for city staff to update the Complete Streets policy. The deadline was March 2019, but it wasn’t done.

The implications of this lack of action are troubling. 4 years after adopting the Vision Zero goal of zero traffic deaths or serious injuries, the number of people killed in crashes on our city streets isn’t decreasing. And importantly, these crashes exacerbate inequities because they systematically place Black and Latino people, low-income families, children, older adults, and people with disabilities at highest risk of harm.

Now, we have another opportunity to move the needle. We made sure that Columbia’s new Climate Plan once again calls for the Complete Streets policy to be updated. And this time, we’re in place on the Climate Commission Transportation Subcommittee to ensure that it actually happens.

We have the opportunity to revolutionize Columbia’s policy, but it’s not going to be easy. We’ll be pushing against 16 years of complacency. We’re going to need people like you behind us in what will most likely have to be a multi-year advocacy campaign.

We need your help to once again push Columbia to be a policy leader. Together, we can advocate for streets where everyone feels safe and seen.

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