Complete Streets

A "complete" street is designed for use by all users- pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, public transportation users of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets increase transportation choices by making walking, bicycling & taking public transportation viable and safer options for travel. 

A complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.

Municipalities can ensure that all users in their community can travel safety by adopting and implementing a "Complete Streets" Policy.

  • Complete Streets Are
  • They are Not
  • Benefits 
  • Funding
  • Elements of a policy
  • Implementation

What is a complete streets policy?

  • Complete Streets policies help to direct transportation planners and engineers to design and operate rights-of-way for safe access for everyone on the street, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.
  • Each policy can be unique and respond to community context.
  • A complete street in a rural area will look quite different from a complete street in a more densely populated area, but both are designed to balance safety and convenience for everyone using the road.

A complete streets policy is not:

  • NOT a design prescription. It’s not about adding sidewalks and bike lanes to every road, but it is about considering those options as part of municipal planning and decision making and coordinating designs with other municipal and regional authorities.
  • NOT a mandate for immediate installation or retrofitting of existing transportation networks. Rather, it is about creating a structure for implementing these improvements over time and whenever feasible.
  • NOT a magic formula. While implementing a Complete Streets program is an important sustainable community feature, other initiatives and issues must be addressed by municipalities, including land use planning, environmental concerns, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction, and proximity of recreational land and other open space.

Benefits of Complete Streets

  • Creates a cost-effective way to improve safety and accessibility for everyone using the roads
  • Increases the vitality of town centers by allowing everyone, whether on foot, bike, or public transportation, to reach community hubs and businesses
  • Creates safer routes for children to reach school and activities, giving them more opportunities to exercise and gain self-confidence
  • Encourages walking and active lifestyles among residents of all ages and abilities
  • Helps reduce traffic congestion, risks to pedestrians/bicyclists, and carbon emissions.

Funding Complete Streets

Municipalities that adopt a Complete Streets Resolution and Implementation Plan are awarded one point on the 25 point scale to project applications submitted under the NJ Department of Transportation "Local Aid" grant funding process.

Municipalities that are interested in pursuing certification under the statewide Sustainable Jersey program can earn 20 points toward the required 150 points for certification by adopting a Complete Streets policy.

10 Elements of a Successful Complete Streets Policy

Complete Streets is about changing the institutional philosophy of how a municipality thinks about roads and users of the transportation network. A successful Complete Streets Policy includes the following elements:

  1. Includes a vision for how and why the community wants to complete its streets
  2. Specifies that ‘all users’ includes pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles.
  3. Encourages street connectivity and aims to create a comprehensive, integrated, connected network for all modes.
  4. Is understood by all agencies to cover all roads.
  5. Applies to both new and retrofit projects, including design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.
  6. Makes any exceptions specific and sets a clear procedure that requires high-level approval.
  7. Directs the use of the latest and best design criteria and guidelines while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.
  8. Directs that complete streets solutions will complement the context of the community.
  9. Establishes performance standards with measurable outcomes.
  10. Includes specific next steps for implementation of the policy.

Implementing Your Policy

After your community has adopted a Complete Streets policy, it is important to determine how you will implement the policy moving forward.

Here are a few suggested steps for implementing your policy:

  1. Coordinate agencies and departments, including public works/maintenance, planning and engineering, police, etc.
  2. Institute a project review checklist.
  3. Provide training to municipal employees, including engineers, public works, planning and zoning officials.
  4. Establish performance standards with measurable outcomes.
  5. Address the specific needs of bicyclists and pedestrians on local roadways.
  6. Direct the use of the latest and best design and engineering standards, including:
    • Paving shoulders and/or narrowing travel lanes to provide striped shoulders on roads for bicycle, pedestrian, farm equipment, emergency and police use;
    • Avoiding placement of rumble strips on shoulders and in centerlines that could interfere with the safe operation of bicycles.
  7. Anticipate future bicycle, pedestrian and transit demand, even on bridges and in and around train stations.
  8. Capital improvements that expand the opportunities for safe roadway use by all users. 

Check out the Complete Streets Checklist

Complete Streets

For more information on Complete Streets contact
Tara Shepherd
(908) 788-5553 ext.13

HART offers the following FREE technical assistance:

  • Make informational presentations at municipal meetings
  • Provide Policy Resolution templates
  • Assist in drafting a Policy Resolution
  • Identify exemptions that may apply to the context of your municipality
  • Help create an Implementation Plan according to NJDOT guidelines
  • Offer facilitation assistance before, during and after the process of adoption
  • Assist with identification of grant funding and documentation of policy for Sustainable Jersey certification.