Huge win for Illinois. State passes “Complete Streets” into Law

Major Victory for National Complete Streets Movement

The national complete streets movement has some good news to report. In near-unanimous votes, the Illinois House and Senate have overridden a gubernatorial veto to adopt a statewide complete streets law.

complete streets

The new law requires the Illinois Department of Transportation to include safe bicycling and walking facilities in all projects in urbanized areas, and is a victory for the movement to create complete streets that serve the needs of all road users. It is effective immediately for project planning and required in construction beginning August 2008.

“The law is a very cost-effective way to improve safety and access for bicyclists and pedestrians,” says Randy Neufeld, Chief Strategy Officer for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. “In the past, the state was prompted by death or injury to correct unsafe conditions on a given project. This law requires projects be built correctly the first time, which will save taxpayers' money and protect people.”

Illinois' action makes it the first state to adopt complete streets into law since the complete streets movement began in 2003. While Governor Blagojevich had used an amendatory veto to gut AB 314, in special session both houses voted to override, the Senate unanimously (Oct 5) and the House by 109 to 3 (Oct. 10).
Five other states have some form of complete streets law on the books, and eight states have other types of complete streets policies. The California legislature is considering a complete streets measure that requires all jurisdictions to plan roads for all travelers @ including transit users and disabled people. To date, more than 50 jurisdictions, including cities such as Salt Lake and Seattle, have adopted complete streets measures, and many others are considering them.

This law requires projects be built correctly the first time, which will save taxpayers' money and protect people

“The Illinois Legislature recognized what is becoming common sense across the country @ that our roads need to serve everyone using them, whether they are driving, walking, bicycling, or catching the bus.” says Barbara McCann, Coordinator of the National Complete Streets Coalition. “By routinely completing their streets, transportation agencies increase road capacity, avoid costly retrofits, encourage physical activity and help create the walkable communities that so many people want today.”

The Illinois legislative push was inspired in part by the death of 17-year-old Nate Oglesby, who was killed in 2000 while trying to get across the Fox River outside of Cary, Illinois on his bicycle. The sole bridge across the river, US 14, only had room for cars. His family won a wrongful death lawsuit against the state, and community pressure forced the Illinois Department of Transportation to go back at great expense and add a bicycle and pedestrian path leading up to and crossing the US 14 bridge.

Groups supporting complete streets have formed the National Complete Streets Coalition, with active participation from groups representing seniors, 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.

Watch a video explaining the difference between a complete and an incomplete street

Article in AARP Bulletin about complete streets

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