ITE Journal - July 2020 - 20

| inside the industry

Complete Streets, COVID-19, and
Creating Resilient Communities
By Emiko
Atherton, Vice
President for Thriving Communities
and Director of the
National Complete
Streets Coalition

20

J u ly 2020

Over the past decade, many communities across North
America have seen an increase in the need and demand
for streets that support biking, walking, and rolling.
That's because having active transportation infrastructure isn't just about Saturday bike rides-it's a key
contributor to healthy communities that are resilient
and equitable, and provide safe, reliable, and affordable
access to jobs, healthcare, the grocery store, places of
worship, and schools.
COVID-19 has highlighted this need for communities to create more places to walk, bike, and roll-not
just for physical distancing-but so people can access
their jobs and other essential services. This article highlights the role active transportation plays in building
healthy and resilient communities, how communities
are adapting transportation as part of their COVID-19
response, and what transportation professionals can
learn about transportation now to help build stronger
communities later.
Complete Streets isn't just a want, it's a need.
Since 2006, the United States has seen an increase in
the number of people using active transportation, with
biking to work increasing 50 percent and trips by foot
increasing 13.3 percent.1 Active transportation is also
a key contributor to economically thriving communities. Repeated surveys by the National Association of
Realtors demonstrate the demand for walkable communities.2 In addition, a recent study from Portland State
University found that installing bike lanes has a positive
impact on the adjacent local businesses.3
However, the need for more active transportation
infrastructure isn't just about recreation-it's a matter of
life or death, especially for our most vulnerable road users.
Between 2008 and 2017, drivers struck and killed 49,340
people who were walking on streets all across the United
States. Older adults, people of color, and people walking in
low-income communities are disproportionately represented in these fatal crashes involving people walking.
Without access to transportation, our most vulnerable populations can't access essential destinations and
resources. Said otherwise, reliable transportation can
make or break disenfranchised communities' ability to
get to work, access healthy food, make it to school, or
get to a doctor's appointment. Transportation is also a

ite j o urn al

major barrier to accessing healthcare.4 Prior to COVID19, approximately 3.6 million people living in the United
States missed or delayed essential, non-emergency
medical care because they experienced transportation
barriers, with the chronically ill, women, ethnic groups,
the elderly, and low-income individuals facing the largest transportation burden.4, 5
Unfortunately, many communities do not have
the infrastructure to support walking and biking to
everyday destinations, such as a job or doctor's office.
Evidence shows very limited public investments are
made in low-income communities to improve roads,
sidewalks, lighting, and other transportation infrastructure that would improve people's everyday mobility,
physical activity, and safety.6 Without this infrastructure, some communities are literally cut off from access
to economic opportunity.

Community Response Far
Outweigh Federal Efforts
Over the last decade, communities have responded to
the need for more active transportation infrastructure
by adopting Complete Streets policies, Safe Routes to
Schools plans, bike and pedestrian plans, and funding
and building more sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike
lanes. For example, since 2005, communities in the
United States have adopted more than 1,500 Complete
Streets policies at the local, regional, and federal levels.
However, in the United States, efforts at the federal level
have fallen short, with Congress supporting no major
transportation policy or funding initiatives that would
increase active transportation infrastructure.

Trends with Communities,
Complete Streets, and COVID-19
COVID-19 is demonstrating that people want or need
to use public space for more than just driving, but to
exercise and access jobs and other essential services. In
response, cities across the country have made temporary or permanent adjustments to their infrastructure,
like opening streets for physical distancing. The National
Complete Streets Coalition and Smart Growth America
are tracking trends in how cities across the country are
adjusting their infrastructure to respond to COVID-19.7



ITE Journal - July 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal - July 2020

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ITE Journal - July 2020 - Cover2
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