Pittsburgh’s public right of ways just became a lot more equitable.
Today, City Council unanimously passed a Complete Streets ordinance that calls for the development of a “safe and accessible multi-modal transportation system that will promote enhanced mobility for all users regardless of mode of travel, including people of all ages and abilities.”
In essence, the ordinance amends the zoning code to create a system where all development projects for city streets and sidewalks must take into consideration all modes of transportation, not just automobiles.
“Our streets are one of the city’s greatest assets,” says Councilwoman Deb Gross, the bill’s sponsor. “This is about improving the quality of life for residents of all ages in our neighborhoods by fully harnessing our public right of ways—we’re not limiting ourselves to simply moving automobiles. We are trying to increase walkability, improve safety, and move people rather than just cars.”
Bike Pittsburgh Advocacy Director Eric Boerer says that under previous rules it was left up to communities to advocate for a crosswalk or similar desired improvement in development projects. He says this new legislation “flips the script” by shifting the burden to decision-makers, who must now incorporate the Complete Streets philosophy into their work and articulate why such an improvement should not be made.
The policy is guided by five overarching improvement areas: experience, environment, economy, accessibility, and multi-modal efficiency. Over time, this could result in an increase in green stormwater infrastructure, bike lanes, and crosswalks, with the stated aims of improving public health and access to transportation for all.
“It creates a vision for what we would want our public spaces to look like,” says Boerer.
The legislation was two years in the making. At their annual members’ meeting in November 2014 Bike Pittsburgh penned a resolution calling for a Complete Streets ordinance and policy.
Last April, Mayor Peduto issued an Executive Order calling on the City Planning Director to work with city agencies to prepare and develop such a policy. After public hearings this July, the Planning Commission voted to approve the Complete Streets policy and urged City Council to do the same.
The bill also calls for the creation of a new citizen advisory group that will provide feedback on the development and direction of the Complete Streets policy.
To date, over 950 Complete Streets policies have been passed in the United States, according to Smart Growth America.
“Implementing this complete streets policy will be a great first step to reimagining a large portion of the public realm,” says Councilwoman Gross.