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: