Our current “Complete Streets'' creates streets designed to pay lip service to people who walk, bike, and take public transit. Streets were and still are designed for cars, with the minimal infrastructure for other street users.
We chose the word livable streets because we wanted to throw out the status quo and instead create a vision of thriving neighborhoods, thriving businesses - streets where happy people can feel safe getting where they need to go without a car.
When Columbia passed its Complete Streets policy in 2004, it was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt this kind of revolutionary policy. But now it is wildly outdated, for Missouri and the country. Towns in Missouri, even those much smaller than Columbia, are surpassing us with more livable street design standards.
Columbia’s current transportation system was designed to serve the powerful—largely white, wealthy, temporarily able-bodied, middle-aged adults—at the expense of other groups, such as Black people, low-income families, children, older adults, and people with disabilities. The traffic fatality rate for Black people in Boone County is more than 2x that of white people. We all know examples of streets in Columbia that have been, time and again, put farther down the list of improvements for larger projects that cost more and don’t improve the accessibility or safety of our streets.
There’s no other way to put it – our current street designs are just plain dangerous for people walking, biking, taking transit and driving. Every year in Columbia, approximately 65 people lose their lives or are seriously injured while traveling on City streets. People walking or biking are involved in less than 3% of crashes. But people walking or biking account for nearly 25% of traffic deaths.
Most of us have lived in towns and cities where we are promised that more driving lanes will cut motor vehicle traffic time. This has been proven wrong time and again. How do we actually eliminate traffic? Adding infrastructure for people walking, biking, and taking public transportation. More people using these modes of transportation equals less cars – and traffic – on the streets!
Financing street projects for people driving cars can get expensive to say the least. Adding even one lane to a street can cost millions of dollars, while projects to encourage walking, biking, and transit are often much less. And often we don’t count costs related to motor vehicle crashes: the lives of people involved, first responders, police, medical bills, etc.
This is a photo courtesy of Jackson Hotaling. Jackson took a bus to an appointment on the north side of town. When he hopped off the bus stop at Rangeline & Vandiver, he found himself on a high speed road with no barrier from traffic, and no bus shelter - not even a bench. To get to the closest crosswalk, he had to walk next to dangerous traffic without a sidewalk to use.
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CoMo Livable Streets is a campaign of Local Motion. Copyright © 2023. All rights reserved.Photo Credit: Jonathan Asher and Avery Abbott