In 2012, after years of advocacy from Sierra Club RI, AARP, Audubon Society of RI, and the Coalition for Transportation Choices, the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the Complete Streets law. Complete Streets is a road design policy that ensures streets meet the needs of all road users and not just cars and trucks, making sure there is space for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders where it makes sense. We celebrated the victory but knew at the same time that it was just the beginning. The hard part of completing Rhode Island's streets was always going to be getting the law off paper and into practice.
The first step to achieving Complete Streets implementation was convincing the RI Department of Transportation to adopt a working technical definition of the policy to which cities, towns, and contractors could all tailor their road designs. After an extended vetting process, RIDOT approved the Institute of Technical Engineer's (ITE) Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach as standard operating procedure. This design manual can be referenced for the design of any road in Rhode Island:
If there is a road that is being worked on in your city or town, there will be an opportunity for public input on the project, and one of the first things you can do is make sure that the transportation planners involved with the project start out by consulting this book. It's available right here for download, if they don't already have a copy. Throughout the process officials can be reminded that the ITE manual should be guiding there design process.
Another simple but important tactic in implementing Complete Streets is documenting what improvements need to be made to the streets in your community to make them more accessible to all road users. Community members can do this by working with RIDOT or other appropriate agency to conduct official road audits of specific streets. Less formal road audits conducted by a gourp can be useful, too. The goal of both is to provide as much information about how a given street can be improved as possible so that decision makers can make the best planning choice.
To better understand what a road audit is and how it works, watch the video below of our Civic Outings Road Audit.