What are Livable Streets / Complete Streets?
Complete Streets are streets in a city that accommodate all users in a safe way for all modes of transportation and for all ages and abilities. This means through planning, design and operation, all city streets should consider the safety of all users, whether for driving, walking, biking, transit riding, children, older adults, and/or people with disabilities. Not that all streets need to accommodate all modes of travel the same, but the transportation system consists of a well-connected network for similar access and level of service to all modes of travel across the City. Cars may need to drive at slower speeds and busier roads could have transit options. The term “Livable Streets” is synonymous to the term “Complete Streets” because complete streets make streets more livable for everyone.
Not everyone drives a car as their primary mode of transportation and not everyone can afford or rely on cars because of income limitations or ability. Some people may also choose, as a matter of personal preference, to walk, ride a bike or take transit. If someone wants to ride a bike, there should be safe bicycle infrastructure in a connected, accessible, and efficient network along roads and paths so that cyclists are safe and comfortable. There should be plenty of fixed-transit routes or alternative transit options that meets ridership demand throughout city and provide access to surrounding communities. The two primary goals of livable streets are to give people many different transportation options and to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and injuries.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation website, “Complete Streets reduce motor vehicle-related crashes and pedestrian risk, as well as bicyclists' risk when well-designed bicycle-specific infrastructure is included (Reynolds, 2009). They can promote walking and bicycling by proving safe places to achieve physical activity through transportation.
There are complete streets in Lee’s Summit; some may not be as obvious as others and there’s still a lot of improvements to be sought. Many neighborhood streets, where the vehicular volumes and speeds are low, that have sidewalks, access to demand response transit and aesthetic surroundings are more or less complete. There are also many streets nearing complete, with bike routes, sidewalks, paths, lighting, etc. Streets that could still benefit from further improvements with nearby fixed bus route services, enhanced landscaping or a transition of paved shoulders to bike lanes like SW Longview Road and SW Second Street. Both of these streets have sidewalks on both sides of the road, paved shoulders, and offer a safer experience for all users. SW Second Street also has uninterrupted shared use shoulders on both sides of the road for bicyclists to use, but lacks continuous street lighting. SW Longview Road has a multi- use trail, continuous street lighting and crosswalks at busy intersections. For streets in Lee’s Summit to be more complete, more livable, there needs to be more dedicated bike lanes, more landscaping/streetscape and more transit options. Lee’s Summit only has a couple transit services, a demand transit service “reservation for door to door transit” and a limited service commuter route between the park and ride lot at Chipman/US50 and downtown Kansas City. More fixed bus routes are needed for the city to expand on livable streets. Transit needs to be a viable option to get around all parts of the city and to/from surrounding communities in part with the regional transit network. Bike lanes are necessary for livable streets. While most cyclist can and do use the shared use paths, some cyclists prefer to ride on-road. Both types of accommodation are needed for a variety of user preferences. The preferred off-road or on-road bicycle facilities also depend on adjacent traffic conditions. In some situations, off-road and on-road facilities are appropriate on the same route. A shared use shoulder is better than no shoulder, however, cars can still park on a shoulder unless otherwise prohibited. Cars cannot park or drive in a bike lane. This significantly makes biking on-road safer. That is why bike lanes are essential.
The most evident livable street designs in the city are found in the downtown core. It is easy to walk and bike to restaurants, businesses, work, and school in the downtown area. Many of the streets have bike parking, trees, benches, water fountains, artwork, murals, parklets, street vendors, farmers markets, and public spaces by streets that make them vibrate community areas that are inviting and attractive. Livable streets is not only about making streets safer for all modes of transportation. It can be seen as a form of beautification. Streets don’t have to be noisy and just asphalt for cars. Streets should have beautiful public space that allows people to relax, socialize, and enjoy businesses. Downtown Lee’s Summit has events and live music and the neighborhood is able to do that because it is a walkable neighborhood where speed limits are slow. It would be great to have this kind of infrastructure and lifestyle all throughout Lee’s Summit. Beautification and livable streets don't have to be only in the downtown area or in neighborhoods. It can exist throughout the city on most streets. Complete streets is place making.
The City of Lee’s Summit around 11 years ago wanted to adopt a livable street / complete street resolution. Many other cities in the United States, like Seattle and Kansas City, were already making changes to their streets to make it more livable. The City Council officially adopted the Livable Streets Advisory Board and Resolution 10-17 (the city’s livable streets policy) back in 2010. The Livable Streets Advisory Board is a volunteer committee board in Lee’s Summit that advises the City Council on methods and procedures to accomplish the guiding principles of livable streets and complete streets. The board encourages citizens to walk, bike, and take public transportation while also educating the public regarding safety, traffic laws, and livable street policies.
The next time you decide to go somewhere, consider walking, biking, or taking transit if it is available. If you decide to drive, remember that streets should be safe and livable public spaces for everyone. Drive at slower speeds and keep an eye out for pedestrians and bicyclists. The best way for Lee’s Summit to have more bike lanes, transit, sidewalks, and open public spaces like in Downtown Lee’s Summit is for the community to get involved and promote these changes at City Hall. Implementing livable streets requires cultural change and political action. If there are any roads that you feel need infrastructure improvements to make them more livable, you can contact the City of Lee’s Summit or the Livable Streets Advisory Board.
This article was submitted by Zach Burton, who is a member of the Livable Streets Advisory Board. The Livable Streets Advisory Board is a Mayor-appointed, volunteer board whose goals include working to make our community and our streets more "livable", safe and accessible for all of our citizens.