Complete Streets After Dark

By Ken Stapleton, President,

Ken Stapleton & Associates, and The Safedesign™ Institute

Are your complete streets truly “complete” after dark? Do they really welcome all users to safely stroll and bike on them in the evenings and early mornings for transportation or recreation? If you represent one of the few U.S. cities that can answer with an emphatic yes – and back it up with pedestrian and bicycle counts – congratulations!

For the other 95% of you, here are some facts to consider:

  • Seniors, urban dwellers, and women are substantially more fearful about walking alone after dark, according to Gallup.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 75% of pedestrian fatalities in 2015 occurred between dusk and dawn.
  • Even the 2016 top 3 rated Complete Street policies do not contain clear lighting standards or guidelines.

Whether your main goal is transportation mode shift, increasing urban vibrancy, improving public health, or enhancing demand for urban housing and retail, creating Complete Streets After Dark should be part of your solutions strategy. By paying close attention to land use patterns, lighting (public and private), outdoor space activation, wayfinding, public art, landscaping, and many more public realm features, you can help “all users” feel safe enough to walk, bike, and take transit during the evenings and early mornings when most of us are more likely to be walking or biking for recreation or first/last mile mobility. Such is the case in the Historic Northwest district of West Palm Beach, where the Community Redevelopment Agency, managed on behalf of the City by RMA, is implementing a Community Safety Action Plan we helped them create – including recommendations for Complete Streets After Dark.

When these solutions are integrated into projects during the initial design stages, any potential additional cost is usually minimized. Reviewing conceptual plans is an effective way to help achieve the complete street goals, which we recently did for: Commerce Street in Downtown San Antonio; conceptual plans for Miami’s Underline; and Broadway/US 1 in Riviera Beach, Florida. Our work on Cleveland’s Health Line (see photo) guided both the design and the location of stations to help riders feel safe after dark. To get more people walking, biking, and taking transit in your city, be sure to include Complete Streets After Dark strategies in your planning, design, operations, and maintenance efforts.