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We Have A Complete Streets Ordinance in Indianapolis!

April 1, 2013

Indianapolis Complete Street Ordinance was rated the Best Complete Streets Policy in the United States by Smart Growth America. We were granted this prestigious and hard fought award for our extremely comprehensive policy here in Indianapolis and we couldn't have done it without the hard work of all the nonprofit partners (e.g. Healthy by Design, AARP, IndyCog and many others) and the City of Indianapolis' Department of Public Works.

The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012

August 14, 2012

     As you may know by now, the Complete Streets ordinance passed the City/County Council unanimously at around 10pm on tonight! INDYCOG, AARP, Health by Design and a host of other organizations have been working to accomplish this task for some time and we are grateful for everyone's efforts. Additionally, we (the coalition) couldn't have made this happen without the support of Councilors Lewis, Barth, Miller, Oliver, Evans, Mansfield, McQuillen, Adamson and Gooden. These councilors worked tirelessly to educate both their constituents and fellow members of the council who originally may have not been so agreeable to ordinance. We would also like to thank Lori Miser, the Director of the Department for Public Works for her guidance and support of the legislation. Lastly, while he hasn't signed the ordinance as of this writing, we would like to thank Mayor Ballard in advance for doing so. He has supported our work on Complete Streets from day one and there is no reason to think that he wouldn't support it now.

     If you would indulge me for a minute, I would like to quickly explain how the Complete Streets ordinance came into being. Roughly, 3 years ago, Health by Design sponsored a workshop on Complete Streets here in Indianapolis. Randy Neufeld, a board member of the National Complete Streets Coalition and former executive director of the Chicago Bicycle Federation (now known as Active Transportation Alliance), was invited from Chicago to expound on the benefits of Complete Streets and how it could help our community and state. Many of the key advocates for the Indianapolis policy were in the room as well as a new city councilor, by the name of Maggie Lewis. From that initial meeting, Kim Irwin the executive director of Health by Design, formed a Complete Streets Workgroup which has been meeting monthly in order to establish Complete Streets policy around the state as well as locally. This workgroup met with representatives from the Mayor's office, Office of Sustainability, and Department of Public Works as well as community groups and other advocacy organizations to develop ordinance language that was robust and would deliver the results we felt were imperative to improve the transportation network in Indianapolis.

     So in conclusion, INDYCOG would like to extend a thank you to all the parties mentioned above and to all our members and individuals that signed the Complete Streets Petition. As a membership based organization, INDYCOG is only as good as its members, so if you aren't a member please consider joining <link our membership page>. As Margaret Atwood said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Ordinance Language

General Information on Complete Streets

We Need a Complete Streets Ordinance in Indianapolis!


     A coalition of local and statewide organizations has been working through the public policy process to get a Complete Streets ordinance adopted and implemented in Indianapolis. Now we need your help and advocacy action! At this point, you maybe asking yourself, "What is Complete Streets and why is it important to me as a bicyclist, walker or average citizen?" We invite you to review the information below and make an informed decision on why you should support a Complete Streets ordinance; then you can take action by signing this petition and contacting your Councilor to ask for his/her support. 

Sign the Petition (Closed)

In case you aren't already aware of it, this Complete Streets video produced for the Indiana Healthy Weight Initiative is very informative and provides a great overview of Complete Streets.

Q: What are Complete Streets?
A: "Complete Streets" are roadways designed and operated to enable safe access for all users; pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.

Q: How is that different from what we currently have in Indianapolis?
A: Currently most roads are designed and built with only automobiles in mind, with the number one priority being the speed and movement of motorized vehicles. Unfortunately, this makes tour streets more dangerous for non-motorized road users - pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders - and the community-at-large. Additionally, sidewalks, bike-lanes, and transit connections are often the first "amenities" to be cut during project construction. A complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently plan, design, operate, and maintain the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

Q: What are the benefits of Complete Streets?
A: There are many benefits to Complete Streets, including:
• Complete streets make economic sense.
• Complete streets improve safety.
• Complete streets encourage walking and biking.
• Complete streets ease transportation woes.
• Complete streets benefit children.
• Complete streets are good for air quality.
• Complete streets make fiscal sense.

Q: How will Complete Streets make our streets safer and therefore better?
A: No longer will every road project need to be scrutinized by the limited city staff responsible for bike and pedestrian projects or by advocates (i.e. INDYCOG, Health by Design, AARP, etc.); but, instead the process for accommodating all road users will be institutionalized. In this way, the decision-making will ensure that the entire right of way is routinely designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Complete Streets will create a process where every project will have to be evaluated for potential bicycle/pedestrian/ transit users in the initial planning process. A complete street may include, but is not limited to:
• Sidewalks
• Bike lanes
• 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

Not every street needs every element. In fact, one complete street may look quite different than the next, but both will be designed to balance safety and convenience for everyone using the road, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation.


Q: Won't this cost the City of Indianapolis a lot more money?
A: While there may be an increase in some projects (the addition of bike lanes, sidewalks, etc cost on average5% of overall project, there are far more benefits which include:
• Improved safety (injuries and fatalities cost us all $)
• Potential for economic development
• Opportunities for increasing physical activity (decreased healthcare costs)
• Reduced traffic congestion (Time/$ savings)
• Access for children, older adults, and people with disabilities
• Improvements in air quality (decreased healthcare costs)
• A comprehensive, integrated transportation network
• Wise fiscal investments since retrofits to existing roadways and bridges can be extremely costly. Designing and constructing complete streets the first time around saves money in the long run.

Q: Why do we need a Complete Streets Ordinance?
A: A complete streets ordinance ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently plan, design, operate, and maintain the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

The following elements comprise an "ideal" Complete Streets ordinance:
• Includes a vision for how and why the community wants to complete its streets
• Institutionalizes decision-making to ensure that the entire right of way is routinely designed and operated to enable safe access for all users.
• Specifies that 'all users' includes pedestrians, bicyclists and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles.
• Encourages street connectivity and aims to create a comprehensive, integrated, connected network for all transportation modes.
• Is adoptable by all agencies to cover all roads.
• Applies to both new and retrofit projects, including design, planning, maintenance, and operations, for the entire right of way.
• Makes any exceptions specific and sets a clear procedure that requires high-level approval of exceptions.
• Directs the use of the latest and best design criteria and guidelines while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.
• Directs that complete streets solutions will complement the context of the community.
• Establishes performance standards with measurable outcomes.
• Includes specific next steps for implementation of the policy

A complete streets ordinance is NOT:
• A singular design prescription
• A mandate for immediate retrofit

More Q&A from the National Complete Streets Coalition

Learn More and Take Action

Complete Streets for Our Community

Complete streets are a sound financial investment for communities. Complete streets projects provide long-term savings and can be incorporated without requiring additional funding in the transportation budget. Projects can be re-prioritized and funds can be allocated to improve overall walkability and bikability.

More than one-third of Americans do not drive due to age, disability or poverty, and need transportation options.

CEOs for Cities released a report, Walking the Walk, in which 13 of the 15 housing markets they studied indicated that increased neighborhood walkability was positively correlated with highly significant home price increases over homes in neighborhoods with "average walkability".

Creating complete streets also reduces infrastructure costs by requiring far less pavement per user; this saves money at the onset of the project and reduces long-term maintenance costs. Investing in pedestrian and bicycle facilities cost far less compared to increasing road capacity for motor vehicles alone.

Economic vitality is increased in a community where retail and commercial developments are accessible by everyone.

The population is aging and older Americans need the public right-of-way to better serve them by providing safe places to walk, bicycle, and board the bus.

Complete streets improve safety. Everyone is safer when users have appropriate facilities for walking, biking, crossing streets, and catching a bus. Incomplete streets put people at risk - there are twice as many pedestrians involved in crashes where there aren't sidewalks, and reduced speeds benefit everyone.

Complete Streets are good for public health. Two-thirds of our population is overweight or obese and one out of four Hoosiers doesn't get any physical activity in a given month. For the first time ever, our children face a shorter life-expectancy than their parents. Yet in many cases we literally bus children across the street or around the block to get to school, and few of us have legitimate active transportation options for running a quick errand or going out to eat - even if we're only headed less than a mile away. These are missed opportunities for physical activity.

Complete Streets Nationwide & in Indiana:

More than 300 jurisdictions across the country have adopted Complete Streets policies.

Complete Streets Policies in Indiana:
• Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization
• Madison County Council of Governments
• Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission
• City of Columbus
• Evansville Metropolitan Planning Organization
• Additional local and MPO policies are forthcoming around the state.
• Statewide legislation was introduced in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 General Assemblies.

National Complete Streets Coalition
Indiana Complete Streets Campaign Facebook
Health by Design