Illinois Adopts “Complete Streets” Into Law

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The National Complete Streets Coalition reports on an important victory for the livable streets movement in Illinois.  A new law mandates that the principles of complete streets must be incorporated into all new projects and construction, effective immediately.

In near-unanimous votes, the Illinois House and Senate have overridden a gubernatorial veto to adopt a statewide complete streets law.

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 on 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.

"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."

In related news, the Illinois Vehicle Code was amended in August requiring motorists to leave a minimum of three feet when passing a bicycle on the road.

Photo of a complete street in High Springs, Florida: Dan Burden

  • gecko

    great initiative!

  • Great initiative, but I think it’s incorrect to credit Illinois as the first state.

    In 1996, Massachusetts enacted Chapter 90E, Section 2A:

    The commissioner shall make all reasonable provisions for the accommodation of bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the planning, design, and construction, reconstruction or maintenance of any project undertaken by the department. Such provisions that are unreasonable shall include, but not be limited to, those which the commissioner, after appropriate review by the bicycle program coordinator, determines would be contrary to acceptable standards of public safety, degrade environmental quality or conflict with existing rights of way.

    What Illinois did is great, but Massachusetts got there a decade ago.

  • fred

    Re: the photo above… Why do planners & designers so often insist on textured bike lanes? It sucks.

  • Steve

    The three-foot clearance rule for motorists passing bicyclists is excellent.

  • ddartley

    Accustomed to the stubborn backwardness of so many of our local pols, when I read on Streetsblog all this news about smart initiatives in Chicago and Illinois, I am starting to think those are actually fictional places.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The fact that there needs to be a movement, with a coalition leading it, to provide basic facilities for people to walk from one place to another, is completely shameful.

    Also, why just urban areas? Many towns and cities are a comfortable walking distance apart (and many more are a comfortable cycling distance apart), and there are lots of country and suburb dwellers (including but not limited to the elderly, teenagers and the disabled) who don’t have access to cars or public transportation.

    I know that urban areas might just be a first step, but I think it’s important to think and talk in terms of long-term goals. Limiting this to urban areas makes no sense in the long term.

    “We didn’t build sidewalks here for 50 years,” says Norm Steinman, planning manager for Charlotte’s transportation department. “Streets designed by traffic engineers in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s were mostly for autos.”

    It’s worse than that. In these years, miles and miles of sidewalks in North Carolina were removed from the streets – demapped, torn up and transferred to lawns and parking lots. If you walk around some of the older downtowns, you can still see traces (assuming you don’t get run over first).

  • Angus,

    The article above should have stated that it is all urban areas. By census definition, it would include urbanized areas and urban clusters – covering most every city and town: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_area

    I assume that they did not want this to apply to country roads, and perhaps that would help us here in California overcome some of our barriers to AB 1358.

    Hooray for my home state! Although, looks like Massachusetts was the first. That was way before the term complete streets was used I think.

  • A step in the wrong direction and a waste of money. An attempt to save the private auto from its necessary and inevitable extinction.

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