Tips for talking about Complete Streets Policy
Share personal stories and facts to help fill information gaps, add urgency, and build support/resonate with the audience.
Your audience may be new to the term “Complete Streets.” Be prepared to describe the policy, such as “Complete Streets are policies that would change the way your neighborhoods design and build streets and roads. Instead of focusing solely on motor vehicles, your neighborhood would be designed and built for the safety of all users. This includes those who walk, bike, use a wheelchair, use public transportation, and drive.”
Highlight health and safety benefits, especially for children.
Make sure the conversation around neighborhood design (new and existing) ensures access to parks; safe routes to schools; safe roads; designated, and where possible, protected bike lanes; and sidewalks that can accommodate all users.
Be prepared to respond to challenging questions on how complete streets policies are funded.
Remember: Complete Streets policies are typically paid for through existing funding that states and local governments receive, and are not usually about securing new revenue. In some cases, though, there may be the ability to pass both a strong Complete Streets policy and secure new revenue.
Complete Streets Key Messages
We all want and deserve to live in safe, healthy neighborhoods.
Complete Streets policies make neighborhoods more livable by ensuring all people can get safely to where they need to go—work, school, the library, grocery stores, or parks. They also help people feel more connected to their neighbors, which improves quality of life.
It is a safety issue. Many people rely on bicycles as their primary means of transportation. It’s important for neighborhoods to build designated bike lanes, including those with dividers, for people who bike.
We know there are fewer crashes involving walkers when neighborhoods have sidewalks. People—including moms with strollers, people with disabilities, children, and older adults—need sidewalks and crosswalks to feel safe.
Walking and biking are great ways to be active. They help to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and strokes—and people who live in neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike lanes are more active, have cleaner air, and experience fewer car crashes.
When children can walk to school, parks, and playgrounds, they are more likely to be healthy and do better in school.
Some low-income communities and communities of color have lacked well-maintained routes to parks and schools, roads, bike lanes, and sidewalks for decades. In many cases, they simply do not have transportation options at all. The same neighborhoods often experience higher rates of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. We must make up for years of lost opportunities and make these neighborhoods a priority moving forward.
Language to Emphasize/Language to Avoid
Messages that resonate best comprise clear, simple, everyday, jargon-free language and communicate shared values and emotion. Below you’ll find a list of words/phrases to use when speaking about Complete Streets policies to effectively engage your audience in place of language that is not as easily understood or impactful.
|Use This Language||Instead of This Language|
|Roads, bike lanes, and sidewalks||Built environment and active transportation, infrastructure|
|Improving the quality of life for people in the neighborhood||Improving the built environment|
|People walking, walkers, walking||Pedestrians|
|People riding bicycles, bike riders, biking||Bicyclists|
|Neighborhood, school, church, family, local business||General “community” which means something different to each person|