More Progressive Than St. Louis: Des Moines Bets On New “Complete Streets” Policy

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Des Moines, IA has a new bicycle-friendly “Complete Streets” infrastructure policy. From the Complete Streets website: “Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.” The implementation of roundabouts, bump-outs and more has not be universally heralded, but Des Moines is moving forward.

At the same time St. Louis is “experimenting” with reduced traffic lanes on South Grand Avenue with the primary goal of “maintaining traffic flow.” St. Louis needs to decide who has the right to use our streets. “Complete Streets” asserts that it’s everyone.

In Des Moines, the goal of changes to 1.5 miles of Beaver Avenue “is to better accommodate all modes of transportation. That includes automobiles, bicycles, pedestrians, the handicapped and parents pushing strollers.” Why does this goal elude St. Louis?

Of course the most contentious issue is the proposed roundabout. Now, the Des Moines Register doesn’t seem to recognize that Washington D.C. is part of this country, stating, “Roundabouts are common in many European cities and in Washington, D.C., but they have only recently been showing up in this country.” Anyway, roundabouts are certainly less common in the United States, but there are many successful examples of its use in this country.

For now, the city’s Urban Design Review Board appears to be trusting the traffic engineers who say that roundabouts improve traffic flow and safety and are more easily navigated by pedestrians. It will be a wonderful day when a traffic engineer proposes a roundabout for a St. Louis intersection and is listened to by local residents and politicians.

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