by Kari Banta, Transportation Associate, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
Common ways of completing streets are adding crosswalks, improving sidewalks, providing bus shelters, and narrowing traffic lanes to make room for bike lanes on the road. Simple, often inexpensive interventions can make an incredible difference.
Our Transportation Associate, Kari Banta, moderated a panel on Complete Streets at the SXSW Eco conference on October 3. Joshua Houdek of the North Star Chapter and David Jurca from the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative to talk about Complete Streets– how they work, making them happen, and testing them out with a “pop up” temporary demonstration project.
The Sierra Club North Star Chapter helped get complete streets legislation adopted in Minnesota–a tremendous accomplishment–so now activists can direct attention toward getting them implemented. Minneapolis is truly transforming the way people think about getting around, as you can see in this presentation.
Making a complete street depends on who is using it. A rural highway might not need sidewalks or bus shelters, for example. The community needs to be involved in the planning process to decide what they need from their streets, working with the city planners and engineers to phase the improvements into the regular maintenance schedule. If the changes are low cost, there’s a possibility they could be done much sooner. As with many things the Sierra Club does, it takes volunteers working together to get people together and keep pushing the project forward.
Part of getting people comfortable with Complete Streets is giving them a chance to try it out for themselves. David Jurca explained Pop Up Rockwell, the project he did with graduate students to convert four blocks of Rockwall Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio to a pedestrian and biking oasis. Using paint, temporary planters, outdoor furniture, and some very clever inflatable art pieces he turned a disused and barren street into a real place.
Here’s the film they produced to explain the project–please set aside nine minutes to see how an amazing transformation is possible!
You can listen to the full SXSW Eco presentation, titled Life in the Streets: Reclaiming Public Space, here.