As a national leader in walking and biking, it's surprising Minneapolis does not have a Complete Streets policy. That changed May 27 as the City Council unanimously adopted a really important policy that "prioritizes people as they walk, bicycle, and take transit over people when they drive." Here's some details.
Why does it matter?
Unlike some places, Minneapolis does not need a Complete Streets policy to say it will think about street safety for everyone regardless of how they get around. Rather, this Complete Streets policy clarifies the details of the City's vision for streets and how it will get done. We are elated that this is not a "cookie-cutter" Complete Streets policy, but rather a policy built to serve Minneapolis. This is undoubtedly one of the strongest Complete Streets policies in the country. It will lead to better streets and process at a time when Minneapolis recently dedicated an additional $22 million a year to street maintenance.
Setting a Modal Priority
The key policy set forth in the Complete Streets policy is:
"The City of Minneapolis is committed to building a complete and integrated public right-of-way to ensure that everyone can travel safely and comfortably along and across a street regardless of whether they are walking, biking, taking transit, or driving."
"The City establishes a modal priority framework that prioritizes people as they walk, bicycle, and take transit over people when they drive."
This modal priority reflects the City's already stated goals around growing transit, biking, and walking along with a recognition that the city has a robust system for driving, but less complete and safe systems for walking, biking, and transit. This doesn't mean that streets will be turned into Open Streets or that every street will have a bike lane or bus route, but it will impact how the City approaches planning and prioritizing future transportation investments.
How will the rubber/leather meet the road?
Of course, it's one thing to say we prioritize walking, biking, and transit, and another to make it happen. This policy looks to outline how that will happen from every step of transportation from budgeting (what projects are we prioritizing and why?) to design (the policy reinforces the Pedestrian and Bicycle Plans) to maintenance (will sidewalks get better winter maintenance?). It will be followed with specific work around reworking how we evaluate streets (right now, the only quantified measure we consistently use is focused on car congestion only), rethinking traffic lights (should we have so many beg buttons?), and other areas.
We are excited to see this step and appreciate the policy makers, staff, and stakeholders who have worked on it over the last year. It'll be great to see Minneapolis finally on the list of cities with a Complete Streets policy! And a meaningful policy that will improve things!
Special thanks to Council Members Kevin Reich, Lisa Bender, Cam Gordon, and Abdi Warsame, along with staff Peter Wagenius (from Mayor Hodges's office) and Robin Garwood (from CM Gordon's office) who served on the Policy Advisory Committee for the policy. And thanks to Public Works staff, especially Nathan Koster and Matthew Dyrdahl who put the details together.
Here's some of the support from community groups, including the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committees, AARP Minnesota, American Heart Association, and Sierra Club North Star Chapter.