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Ten years ago, the group that came together to develop the Washington State Plan for Nutrition and Physical Activity was united in their support of “complete streets” that make it easy for people to walk and bike. Complete streets encourages but does not require community planning on all streets. Planning for complete streets calls for features like wider sidewalks, calmer traffic, safer crosswalks and buffers from car traffic for pedestrians and dedicated lanes for cyclists. Other streetscape elements such as trees and medians increase the appeal and safety for pedestrians and users of public transportation.
Since the plan was first developed, Partners across the state have worked to pilot complete streets projects, and the cities of Redmond, Spokane and Tacoma have adopted local ordinances. In the process, Partners have convinced regional leaders of the value of adopting policies that take all users into account – not just drivers – when planning new or retrofitted streets.
In 2011 state legislators passed House Bill 1071 to create a complete streets grant program. Grant funds could be used by local governments for “street retrofit projects that include the addition of, or significant repair to, facilities that provide street access with all users in mind including pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transportation users.” Only jurisdictions that have adopted complete street ordinances may apply for the grant funds. This bill was designed to be cost neutral, and the fiscal note indicates that no state funds will be used.
Taking a local level planning strategy to a statewide program involved years of work by stakeholders. Charlotte Claybrooke, now Safe Routes to School Coordinator with the WA Department of Transportation, recalled coordination around physical activity initiatives as early as 1998. State agency representatives formed coalitions, brainstormed potential community partners and found ways to support each other’s work
In recent years, The WA Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (WCPPA) hosted three leadership forums. Partnering with the Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition, Bicycle Alliance, Feet First and Transportation Choices, WCPPA hosted legislative days to ask legislators to propose legislation. Then coalition members offered to testify in support of the bills and write letters of support. Some partners developed white papers to keep agency staff informed. Local nutrition and physical activity advocates contacted state legislators from jurisdictions across the state to gather support for the state bill.
There has been substantial progress toward policy change that will make it easier to walk and bike. This new legislation, along with new initiatives throughout the state, provide clear indicators that there are changes in norms, support, alliances and political will for complete the streets initiatives.
Childhood Obesity Prevention Coalition
WA Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity
WA Department of Commerce
WA Department of Health
WA Department of Transportation
WA Parks and Recreation Association
Featured: March 2011
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