Complete Streets Give Minnesotans More Options for Living Greener Lifestyles

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Complete streets mean that Minnesota streets are planned and designed to be safer and more accessible for drivers, pedestrians, transit riders, and bicyclists—all users, regardless of age or ability. Complete Streets is about flexibility. It recognizes that needs are different in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Right now, Minnesota is considering a Complete Streets policy that means the Minnesota Department of Transportation will work with stakeholders to ensure all needs are considered for state road projects, and to simplify and remove barriers for road design to allow local cities and towns the flexibility to create safer roads for all their users.

Jene Leiner, an Inver Grove Heights mother of three young children, spoke at the February 8 Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition press event about the need for complete streets in her neighborhood.

“We live on the edge of Eagan and Rosemount just a couple miles from Lebanon Hills Park and a new library,” says Leiner. “The sad part is we can’t get to these places safely on foot or by bike. I’d like my kids to be active, but I’d rather start up my car and drive them than risk their safety along a 50-mile-per-hour road with no sidewalks or bike lanes.”

Jene Leiner’s story is similar to others across the state and illustrates the importance of considering the needs of all users when planning and designing Minnesota roads.

In the past decade, more than 500 bicyclists and pedestrians have been killed, and another 20,000 injured, on Minnesota roads. The state has a history of planning roads to move vehicles as quickly and efficiently as possible, sometimes sacrificing safe options for bikers, pedestrians, transit riders and others looking for more environmentally friendly transportation options. In recent years, as residents have become more aware of the impact of vehicles, there has been a push to change state rules. Residents want streets and roads that are more accessible, promoting cleaner air and good health.

Increasing pedestrian and bicyclist safety and comfort is key in reducing the pollution that comes from cars. Complete Streets also helps remove transportation barriers for seniors, children, and people with disabilities, while giving people more choices in how they get around.

“Working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, we can update current design guidelines, requirements, and processes to ensure that they provide the flexibility needed to create safer roads for all Minnesotans,” says Steve Morse, executive director of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, a statewide coalition of more than 80 conservation and environmental organizations. “Complete Streets will support more walking and bicycling—healthy and clean transportation choices.”

Encouraging alternatives to driving also reduces dependence on costly energy sources and provides transportation choices that protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and air quality.

Minnesotans who want to get involved in Complete Streets are encouraged to visit www.saferoadsmn.org for more information.

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