NJBWC: Debunking the most common Complete Streets myths

We have heard all of them, and heard them repeatedly, regardless of which town we are in or which project we are working on. Here are three of the most common myths about the Complete Streets approach to building communities, and our perspective on why these are myths.

As statewide advocates, we lead or participate in many discussions about Complete Streets, traffic calming, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and creating livable communities. From municipality to municipality, we’ve heard the same rhetoric from the uninformed who rarely have any data to back up these claims. Here are the three most common myths we hear about Complete Streets, and our debunking of these myths:

Myth #1: “That won’t work here. Our town is UNIQUE!”

Reality check: Just about everyone will tell you their town is unique. If they didn’t, they probably wouldn’t live there. But while we applaud individuals for feeling such strong civic pride, what is unique about towns has little to do with the streets and sidewalks and how people interact with them. A community’s uniqueness is related to its architectural and cultural assets, interesting destinations, creative and one-of-a-kind businesses, and the mix of cultures of the townspeople themselves. People drive, walk, shop, ride a bicycle, and spend money pretty much the same way wherever they go in the world, regardless of a town’s uniqueness.  What is also common among most New Jersey towns is the high rate of pedestrian crashes; getting hit by a vehicle is not unique to any town, and neither are the preventative countermeasures that towns can take to eliminate them. For more information and the facts, see the Federal Highway Administration’s Proven Safety Countermeasures.

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