• Can a “stroad” ever be a “complete street”?

    by  • December 12, 2012 • Engineering • 1 Comment

    Complete Streets is a phrase to conjure with.

    The idea that streets are places that should serve many users (and not just car and truck traffic level-of-service) is popular.  And, indeed,  Delaware has an official policy that is called “Complete Streets”, whose name invokes this idea. Despite the name, however, Delaware’s actual policy is more accurately described as a “routine accommodation” policy for pedestrians and bicyclists on roads.  But “routine accommodation” on roads is important…isn’t it?

    Yes.  It is important, and it is definitely better than nothing.  But it’s also symptomatic of our larger inability in the U.S. to understand the fundamental difference between a road and a street.  And that confusion, in turn, is a part of why we end up creating “stroads”, which are wide, high-speed, high volume traffic roads with lots and lots of driveways to access a lot of low-density, “horizontal” development.  (Here in Delaware, think Concord Pike, Kirkwood Highway, Route 40 and US13.)

    Can “stroads” like Kirkwood Highway or US13 ever be retrofitted to effectively serve pedestrians and bicyclists?  That’s an underlying premise of our “Complete Streets” policy.  But how realistic is this assumption?  Check out this video, which suggests that it is not particularly realistic at all:


    Reason #3: Because streets are not roads

    We Have Too Many Stroads

    The Important Difference Between a Road and A Street

    Do Conversations Like This Still Happen in 2011?

    Wider. Straighter. Smoother. Faster.

    First, Do No Harm to Pedestrians and Bicyclists

    “Complete Streets” = Routine Accommodation


    James Wilson is the executive director of Bike Delaware. He is a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (by whom he was named the 2014 Professional of the Year, Nonprofit Sector), the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Delaware Bicycle Council. He serves on the board of directors of Delaware Greenways and the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance and as the co-chair of the policy committee of the Advisory Council on Walkability and Pedestrian Awareness. He holds engineering degrees from Yale University and the University of Texas at Austin and is the only registered lobbyist for cycling and walking in Delaware. He helped create, and continues to lead Bike Delaware's participation in, the Walkable Bikeable Delaware campaign. During his tenure as Bike Delaware's executive director, Delaware advanced in the national Bicycle Friendly State rankings for five years in a row, farther and faster than any other state, ever.

    One Response to Can a “stroad” ever be a “complete street”?

    1. Timothy Parks
      December 12, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Along this same vein of thought….. take a look at the new traffic control a the intersection of rt. 404 and US113 in Georgetown. Like the video shown, this environment is not bike/ped friendly to start with but I don’t much thought went into non-auto traffic. Also, of note; Rt 404 is listed on the DelDot bike map but there is no mention of bike anywhere that I can see in this newly constructed intersection markings. Markings of some sort could really be useful to bicyclist trying to negotiate the intersection. During the summer this is a popular route for our Maryland neighbors to bike to the beach. As far as I can see all the construction and marking is complete so is this as good as it gets???
      This intersection might even become more popular once the G-town– beach trail is finished. Are we thinking ahead????

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