The Michigan Senate Transportation Committee recently passed House Bills 6151 and 6152, collectively known as the Complete Street Policies. The vote was unanimous. But what are complete streets, and how did these two bills manage to unite a room full of politicians?

According to the Michigan Complete Streets Coalition, complete streets “accommodate all users, not just motorists.” This means the streets include bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and frequent crosswalks to encourage cyclist and pedestrian use. Complete streets are also encouraged to have public transit lanes, wide shoulders, raised crosswalks in high traffic areas, audible pedestrian signals, and traffic calming measures like center medians with trees and ground cover. The idea is to make travel safer for all road users, drivers, mass transit users, bicyclists, and pedestrians – including those with mobility limitations.

House Bill 6151 requires the Michigan Department of Transportation and any other publicly funded agency charged with the maintenance of Michigan roads to adopt complete street policies within the next two years. This requires enacting a local law, policy, or ordinance to consider pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit users during new project planning and development. It also creates a Complete Streets Advisory Council. House Bill 6152 requires all municipalities to have master plans that include considerations for utilities and transportation. The transportation section of the plans must consider traffic congestion and noise mitigation and pedestrian and cyclist use. A detailed summary of the two bills can be found here.

This could be a big step forward for Michigan in promoting clean transportation. People are much more likely to walk or bike to their destination if it is safe and appealing for them to do so. Creating bike lanes is safer for cyclists, and allows seniors and people with disabilities to feel more comfortable on sidewalks because they don’t have to be constantly alert for cyclists on the sidewalk. Walking and biking reduce vehicle miles traveled, road congestion, and Michigan’s petroleum dependence. Proponents for the bills also argue that this complete streets legislation will fight childhood (and adult) obesity by getting kids outside and active, as well as increasing land value.

As of today, the bills have passed both chambers of the senate, and they are waiting for the Governor to sign them into law. Please consider writing a letter to thank your senator and representative for their quick action to bring clean transportation to Michigan.