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Complete Streets Require Complete Visions
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By Sharon Hoyer

Complete streetscapes allow everyone to enjoy using public roads safely. A number of international organizations and coalitions are appearing on the lobbying scene to encourage local governments and communities to focus their new street and transit plans on creating streetscapes that take advantage of all transportation options.

These efforts also serve another purpose: educating a diverse population of pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, transit users and others. This encourages communities of people to use all the resources available for bright green mobility, making car-free living viable – and preferable.

Recognizing this, the Active Transportation Alliance — formerly the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation — rebranded and expanded its mission late last year to include the concerns of transit riders and pedestrians. The name change is a logical one; after all, walkers, bikers and train/bus riders tend to be the same people.

As a bicycle advocacy group, the CBF had a strong hand in transforming a sprawling metropolis with a punishing climate into a bike-friendly city with a sizeable and dedicated cycling community. Thanks to the CBF, bicycles are welcome on Metra, Chicago’s commuter heavy rail line connecting downtown with the suburbs and parts of Indiana and Wisconsin. Surrounding suburbs turn to the organization for consultation when drafting bike plans. A series of annual awareness campaigns encourage wary commuters to try biking to work or school, providing written guides, tips and personal instruction in safe urban cycling.

Bike advocacy was just one part of the CBF’s work. The organization also helped pass Complete Streets legislation in Lake and Cook counties, mandating all state-funded road projects include sidewalks and bike lanes. They also serve as the local expert advising Safe Routes to School, an international movement to help kids living in rougher neighborhoods or areas with poor infrastructure walk and bike to school safely.

“We felt the name change reflects what we’ve been doing for a number of years,” says Margo O’Hara, Director of Communications for the Active Transportation Alliance. “We represent more people; it adds weight to the conversation.” The ATA recently hired a coordinator for Chicago’s north suburbs, continuing to expand the mission of healthy, sustainable transit to areas most in need.

There are lots of other resources out there working to promote awareness, action, programs and policy that will complete our streets here in the U.S. and around the world. Some of the most vocal among them include Streetsblog (and Streetfillms), Transportation for America, WRI's The City Fix, and the brand-new World Streets blog.

Who's working to bring complete streets to your region? Let us know in the comments below!

Read more about bright green mobility in the Worldchanging archive:

Ray LaHood and Changing Our Thinking About Transportation

My Other Car is a Bright Green City

The Stimulus Through the Transit Lens

Copenhagen, Melbourne and the Reconquest of the City

Sharon Hoyer is a freelance writer covering sustainability, culture and arts in Chicago. You can find more of her writings on the environment at Centerstage Chicago. You can find her in the garden or on her bike.

Photo: Cyclist on Cortland in Chicago. Credit: flickr/reallyboring, Creative Commons license.

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The League of Illinois Bicyclists is working to make Illinois a bike-friendly state. We've done advocacy and education work, as well as consulting to Chicago suburbs and other towns across the state that are looking to develop bike plans. Check out our website at

Soon we will be creating Bike-to-Metra Guides for 15 towns that have Metra train stations. We hope this will encourage commuters to bike for a portion of their commute instead of drive to the train.

We often partner with Active Trans, mentioned in this article.

Posted by: Jessica on 26 Feb 09

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