Pedestrians on the Hill

Pedestrians on the Hill

California Passes Complete Streets Law
Major Victory for National Complete Streets Movement

Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law on September 30th Assembly Bill 1358 (pdf), the California Complete Streets Act of 2008 authored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

The new law requires cities and counties to include complete streets policies as part of their general plans so that roadways are designed to safely accommodate all users, including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, children, older people, and disabled people, as well as motorists.

“Streets aren’t just for cars, they’re for people and with the Complete Streets Act local governments will plan for and build roadways that are safe and convenient for everyone- young or old, riding a bike or on foot, in a car or on a bus,” said Assemblyman Leno.  “Getting people out of their cars and riding bicycles or the bus improves public health, air quality, eases congestion and reduces greenhouse emissions.”
Introduced in 2007 and cosponsored by the California Bicycle Coalition and AARP California, the bill passed the Senate on August 27, with the Assembly concurring with the Senate’s amendments on August 29.  The new law will complement an existing policy, which directs Caltrans to “fully consider the needs of non-motorized travelers (including pedestrians, bicyclists and persons with disabilities) in all programming, planning, maintenance, construction, operations and project development activities and products.”  Furthermore, by enacting this law, the State of California continues its groundbreaking commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To date, more than 70 jurisdictions have adopted complete streets measures, and many others are considering them.  In addition to California, five other states have complete streets legislation.

Beginning January 2011, any substantive revision of the circulation element in the general plan of a California local government will include complete streets provisions.

“California has taken a big step forward in helping make sure that streets are designed so that anyone can travel safely, whether by foot, bicycle, bus or car,” said David P. Sloane, AARP Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy.  “More people are leaving their cars at home and walking since the gas crisis.  They need their streets to be user friendly.  AARP commends Governor Schwarzenegger and the California legislature for their foresight in adopting Complete Streets.”

Groups supporting complete streets have formed the National Complete Streets Coalition, with active participation from groups representing older persons, transit users, pedestrians, bicyclists, and disabled people, as well as smart growth proponents and professional organizations such as the American Planning Association and the Institute of Transportation Engineers.  For more information, visit or call 202-207-3355.

Complete Streets Act of 2008 (S. 2686)
(March 2008)

A Senate bill was introduced in March by Senator Tom Harkin (and a House bill will be introduced very soon by Congresswoman Doris Matsui) that seeks to ensure that ALL street users, including walkers, bikers and transit users will be considered in the design and construction of future transportation projects. But your help is needed to build support for both of these bills!

Our streets should be for everyone to safely use, whatever their mode of transportation. These Bills seek to ensure that the 1/3 of the population that does not drive is represented when transportation investment decisions are made.

Complete streets have a variety of benefits. They can:

  • increase pedestrian safety
  • reduce traffic congestion by providing alternative modes of transit
  • induce healthier lifestyles (for adults AND kids) as more people get out of their cars and onto the streets
  • improve air quality as more sustainable transportation methods are used

Contact our Senators to let them know you support this Bill!

Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2008
Rep. Matsui Introduces Complete Streets Bill in US House;
Sen. Coleman signs on in Senate (May 2008)

Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA), took an important step for safer, better designed streets today by introducing the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2008 into the US House. The bill would make sure that roads built and improved with federal funds safely serve everyone using the roadway – including pedestrians, people on bicycles or those catching the bus, as well as those with disabilities.

“Once again, gas prices have hit record highs this week. As American families continue to feel the pain at the pump due to the skyrocketing costs of gasoline, they are driving less and less,” said Rep. Matsui. “By diversifying our roadways, we can provide real alternatives to travel by car.”

Meanwhile, Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN) signed on this week as first Republican co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, S2686, the Complete Streets Act of 2008, introduced a few weeks ago by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Thomas Carper (D-DE). This is the first time that comprehensive complete streets bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.

“We commend Rep. Matsui and Senators Coleman, Harkin, and Carper for recognizing the importance of making the best investment possible with our federal transportation dollars,” said Barbara McCann, Coordinator of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “States and cities across the country have discovered that completing their streets for all users means safer communities that invite healthy walking, bicycling, and taking transit – and that can help people cope with the rising price of gasoline.”

Across the country, many transportation agencies have continued to design many roads primarily for drivers – discouraging bicycling and leaving those on foot tramping through a track worn in the grass. Yet men and women outlive their driving years by six and ten years respectively and prefer to walk rather than be stuck at home. Transit users often face dangerous crossings and uncomfortable waits, while people who use wheelchairs or have vision impairments often cannot venture out at all due to a lack of sidewalks and curb ramps. And surveys show Americans of all ages and income levels want safe places to walk and ride bicycles, and public health officials says such activity is an essential component of fighting the obesity epidemic.

Complete Streets policies require transportation planners to take the needs of all users into account in all upcoming transportation projects – so the road network can be gradually improved for everyone. Oregon, Virginia, Illinois, California, and Massachusetts are among the states that have adopted complete streets policies or laws; dozens of counties, regional transportation agencies, and cities and regions have also adopted the policies in the last few years, including Ms. Matsui’s home jurisdiction of Sacramento, as well as Seattle, Chicago, and Salt Lake City.

The National Complete Streets Coalition includes AARP, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the American Planning Association, Smart Growth America, America Bikes, and many other organizations. For more information, visit

The Safe and Complete Streets Act is supported by:
AARP, America Bikes, America Walks, American Planning Association, American Public Transportation Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, Bikes Belong, Breathe California, California Park and Recreation Society, California WIC Association, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Easter Seals, Friends of the Earth, League of American Bicyclists, Local Government Commission, National Center for Bicycling and Walking, National Recreation and Parks Association, Prevention Institute, Reconnecting America, Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, Safe Kids Greater Sacramento, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, Smart Growth America, Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments, Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, Thunderhead Alliance, Transportation Alliance, Transportation Equity Network, Transport Worker’s Union, Transportation and Land Use Coalition, Trust for America’s Health, WALKSacramento, YMCA of the USA