Backers of Complete Streets gathered last week at Positively Cleveland to deliver the final push on a city promise that “orange barrel season” will routinely signal the construction of bike lanes, transit stops, crosswalks, trees and more multi-modal options.
Cleveland planners asked community groups like Historic Gateway District and Bike Cleveland to help them write a Complete Streets design manual; they will also host at least one public meeting to gather ideas.
The city’s goal is to set in stone what it expects from contractors when they design, engineer and build roads.
“The design manual is a clear vision of what a complete street will be,” said Donn Angus, a city planner working on the project. “That said, it promotes an incremental approach to building the city.”
Put another way, with its 2011 Complete Streets law and 2012 Street Typology report, the city started the recipe; the design manual will fill in exact measurements. So, for example, it will specify the type of permeable paver or the paint color of a bike lane as well as their dimensions and application.
Having the complete streets design manual should save money, says Angus, by providing clear guidance.
“It will save on that first 30 percent of design that the city pays for,” he says. “The designer will know (her) obstacles and how to value engineer an initial design.”
Although 500 Complete Streets policies have been written since 2003, only a few do what Cleveland wants to in combining alternatives to the car and “green” stormwater in one package.
Complete Streets have entered the mainstream, says American Planning Association in its May 2014 issue of Planning, and that has led to an evolution in thinking about streets.
“Perhaps the greatest takeway from the first decade of complete streets is that people value choice,” APA writes.
They praise Boston’s Urban Street Design Guide, with its hip graphics, smart sensors, online feedback, and for standing up to bias that roads primarily serve cars.
Similarly, with its Typology report, Cleveland looked beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to roads. The city hired Alta Planning to huddle with planners and engineers about what pedestrians and slower moving vehicles like bikes and wheelchairs need in order to safely share the road. Traffic engineers currently are trained to view people, once they leave their car, as “moving obstacles.”
“We’re really excited to take the street typologies and flesh it out,” says Cleveland bike planner, Marty Cader.
Boston’s starting point was redefining the street as 56% of the land it owns. New York shifted its thinking on Times Square. The dead strip of asphalt was converted into the most coveted sidewalk cafe seat in the city. In Cleveland, roadway space is 15% of the total land mass.
“This is really the connective tissue that holds everything together,” Cader comments.
The goal of the design manual is to promote roads that are functional, aesthetically pleasing, healthy, informative, artistic and accessible.
Comments offered back included suggestions to re-visit the Complete Streets ordinance and add language that reflects the completion of a design manual and typology report.
Maintenance and review of complete streets was also raised by the group.
“Inspection and follow through will mean everything,” agreed Deputy Planning Director, Freddie Collier. “Right now, that is a gap. But, this is a new day at Planning. We want to be shepherds.”