Benefits of 'complete streets' outweigh criticisms

Ottawa Citizen writer Kelly Egan  questions the merits of the City of Ottawa's complete streets approach here. Below is a response from Robb Barnes at Ecology Ottawa, which was published in the Citizen here.

[caption id="attachment_10665" align="alignnone" width="840"]churchill-avenue-one-of-ottawas-first-complete-streets-oct Photo credit: The Ottawa Citizen[/caption]

I was disappointed to read Kelly Egan’s recent column on complete streets. He recalls conversations with road users who voice concerns over potential dangers of new street designs and signage. The article focuses primarily on the driver’s user experience, describes traffic-slowing as effectively “choking off” key streets in the city-wide transportation network and ponders whether city hall has engaged in a “war on the automobile.”

This article completely misses the mark. Complete streets are designed to take all users, ages, abilities and modes of travel into consideration. In other words, streets are more than through-ways for cars getting from point A to point B. Complete streets are about moving people – not just cars – and creating a more efficient transportation system in the process. This is a far cry from a “war on the automobile,” but it is a step away from 1950s-era street design that puts motorists first in every context.

We know that transportation decisions are critical to the health, vitality and viability of our communities and environment. As someone who lives next to Main Street, I am encouraged by the transition of this street from a north-south car corridor to something more – a walkable, cycling-friendly milieu that is attractive for residents and local businesses alike. As someone who is concerned about urban design and climate change, I am excited by the prospect of more transportation options. This allows people to take advantage of healthy transportation alternatives like walking or biking while staying safe.

The city’s complete streets vision is a recipe for liberating our streets from congestion, providing safer spaces for children, the elderly and the mobility-impaired and restoring community dynamism. Change isn’t always easy, but in this case it should be. The many benefits of complete street design vastly outweigh the cons – real, implied or imagined – listed in Mr. Egan’s article.

Robb Barnes, managing director, Ecology Ottawa

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