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A Complete Streets policy aims to build roads that accommodate all types of users. (PHOTO: Jason McDowell)

Complete Streets policy passes Common Council unanimously

The City of Milwaukee Common Council has unanimously voted to advance a Complete Streets policy that is designed to make streets safer for people walking, taking transit, biking or driving.

This policy was developed by The Department of Public Works (DPW) with input from residents and community leaders to improve health, safety, and mobility for the people of Milwaukee including the Complete Streets Coalition, comprised of 16th Street Community Health Centers, Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, Northwest Side CDC, Black Girls Do Bike, American Heart Association, and the Wisconsin Bike Fed.

These groups gathered over 700 signatures in support of this policy and hosted dozens of events and turned out dozens of residents at the meeting.

"You can talk to almost anyone in any community in Milwaukee and a primary concern is traffic and reckless driving. People want to walk and bike more but don't feel safe. The Complete Streets policy has strong support from DPW, alders, and the community and gives the clarity needed to use safety as the main principle in designing streets," according to Tatiana Maida, a partner of the campaign. Ten alders signed on as sponsors.

The Complete Streets policy, a resolution on the policy and an ordinance to create the oversight body, will increase safety and mobility and help curb reckless driving.

The policy aims to:

  1. Ensure streets are designed for people and safety first
  2. Create a process for more robust community input on street design
  3. Ensure that the benefits of safe and complete streets are shared among all residents of the city
  4. Create a committee to oversee the implementation of the policy

The Complete Street policy directs the Department of Public Works to routinely design and operate the right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, socioeconomic status, or mode of transportation.

This is critical with Milwaukee over-represented in pedestrian deaths, with 10 percent of the state population but 44 percent of the pedestrian fatalities, almost identical to the 45 percent in 2017.

Milwaukee has a commendable network for walking, biking, driving and public transit: a nearly complete sidewalk network, over a 100 miles of traditional bike lanes in Milwaukee, 1 mile of protected bike lanes, and over 60 miles of paved mixed use trails and peaceful parkways. However, we have a reckless driving and pedestrian safety problem with too many people being hit when crossing the street legally.

The Complete Streets policy can have a positive impact on safety and access to these facilities for everyone, which can improve health, educational attainment, economic self-sufficiency, and the attractiveness of the city for residents, visitors and businesses.

The adoption of the policy is just the start: The Complete Streets Coalition is committed to building a culture of safety through community education, public awareness, and encouragement that prioritizes people and curbs reckless driving.

The CS Coalition thanks the city and Public Works Committee for their leadership on this issue and looks forward to supporting implementation.

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