Complete Streets are streets that are safe for everyone: people who walk, bicycle, take transit, or drive, and people of all ages and abilities.
A Complete Streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire street network for all road users, not only motorists.
Complete Streets offer wide-ranging benefits. They are cost-effective, sustainable and safe.
The link between Complete Streets and public health is well documented. Jurisdictions across North America already include Complete Streets policies in their suite of preventative health strategies. Complete Streets also promote livability. Human-scale design treatments such as street furniture, trees and wide pedestrian rights-of-way animate our public realm and encourage people to linger.
Complete Streets can exist in communities of all shapes and sizes; from downtown Montreal to Corner Brook and more suburban communities such as Surrey. There is no singular approach to Complete Streets.
Complete Streets in Canada
Since 2003, the term “Complete Streets” has seen an incredible growth trajectory to where it is today with over 1,400 policies adopted (as of January 2019) in the United States (Smart Growth America, 2019). As of January 2019, there are over 100 Complete Streets policies in Canada, in all 10 provinces and one territory (Yukon).
There is growing interest across Canada, with Complete Streets policies passed in several municipalities including Calgary (2009), Waterloo (2010), Edmonton (2013), Ajax (2013), Ottawa (2013), Toronto (2014), Vancouver (2017), and Greater Sudbury (2018). In addition to policies, Canadian cities are starting to produce Complete Streets guidelines, most notably in Edmonton (2013), and Calgary (2011), Toronto (2016) and Hamilton (currently under development). With the update to the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan in May 2017, Ontario became the first province to adopt a Complete Streets policy for both new and refurbished streets.
In Québec, Complete Streets are referred to as “Rues Conviviales” (“Friendly Streets”). Québec City adopted a Complete Streets policy in March 2017, while numerous other municipalities in the province have adopted Complete Streets approaches in street redesigns.
In Canada, most planning regulation is undertaken at the provincial level and, municipalities have less power to pass laws than our American counterparts. However, there are still a number of different ways that Complete Streets policies can be adopted in Canada, such as within Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement, Official Plans, or Transportation Master Plans.
For more information about differences between policy adoption in the U.S. and Canada, see this backgrounder on Complete Streets policy adoption in Canada and the United States.