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ACC Commission Approves Complete Streets Policy to Improve Safety

Bike lanes like these on Lumpkin Street are an example of complete streets, although a safer option would be a protected or separated bike lanes. Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

A new policy strengthens Athens-Clarke County’s commitment to safer streets for pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users and others, in addition to drivers.

“A complete streets policy shifts the focus of street design from being for cars to being for all users. So that’s all of us,” Lauren Blais, chair of the Athens in Motion transportation committee, told commissioners at their June 7 voting meeting. “The focus changes from modes of transportation to people going places… that’s you, me and all of us, going to work, going to school, taking our children places, visiting friends and family.”

The policy is not a strict set of technical standards. Rather, it seeks to make promoting health and safety a part of every project, particularly in low-income and minority neighborhoods that have historically seen little investment, and where infrastructure tends to be auto-centric despite many residents not owning cars. Solutions will be tailored to conditions on each street and each community’s needs.

Examples of recent local complete streets projects include the bike lanes on Hancock Avenue downtown and new crosswalks at the intersection of Baxter and Lumpkin streets.

The county’s previous complete streets policy, passed in 2012, was rated just 21 out of 100 by the National Complete Streets Coalition because it lacked context about land use and jurisdiction, didn’t mention diverse or vulnerable users, had no steps for implementation or performance measures, and was not binding.