Monday, May 18, 2009

The AARP joins the Complete Streets movement

Guess who wants streets with good pedestrian and bicycling accommodations? The older folks among us.

The AARP sent a press release to announce a report of a recent study: "Planning Complete Streets for the Aging of America." The conclusion? Our nation's streets don't meet the needs of our aging population. No surprise there.

From the press release:

Streets, sidewalks and roadways designed to achieve “Complete Streets” can make getting around safer for everyone, the report suggests. Yet in a poll of adults age 50+ also conducted for the report, two in five said their neighborhood sidewalks were inadequate (although, by 2030, 20% of those age 65+ will not be drivers). Nearly half said they could not cross main roads close to their home safely, preventing many from walking, bicycling or taking the bus. But safer, more accessible streets won’t happen until federal, state and local authorities and planners wake up to the need for roads that address the challenges of the coming age wave, the report charges.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising, but it was a bit of a shock to see that the AARP is a member of the Complete Streets Coalition.

The full press release follows. (If the link doesn't work, click on the title, above.)

Road Planners Display Blind Spot for Oncoming Generation of Older Drivers

Update Design Guidelines and Complete Streets Will Accommodate Everyone, AARP Report Challenges


WASHINGTON, DC--Two-thirds of transportation planners and engineers have yet to begin addressing older people in their street planning; yet by 2025, 64 million people will be over age 65 according to census projections and by 2030 a quarter of all U.S. drivers will be 65+. This is the alarm raised by “Planning Complete Streets for the Aging of America” a major new report on roadway safety and the aging of the American population from AARP’s Public Policy Institute. The full report can be found here: http://www.aarp.org/research/housing-mobility/transportation/2009_02_streets.html.

Streets, sidewalks and roadways designed to achieve “Complete Streets” can make getting around safer for everyone, the report suggests. Yet in a poll of adults age 50+ also conducted for the report, two in five said their neighborhood sidewalks were inadequate (although, by 2030, 20% of those age 65+ will not be drivers). Nearly half said they could not cross main roads close to their home safely, preventing many from walking, bicycling or taking the bus. But safer, more accessible streets won’t happen until federal, state and local authorities and planners wake up to the need for roads that address the challenges of the coming age wave, the report charges.

“Improvements can reduce older driver crashes and pedestrian injuries without adversely affecting traffic; in many instances, local travel flow and accessibility are improved,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President for Social Impact. “But while a growing number of states and localities have Complete Streets policies, too few have been built. Furthermore, an outdated bias in engineering practices competes with current local desire for user-friendly “Complete Streets” design.

The report recommends that federal, state, and local highway and street design guidelines serve older people by 1) reducing vehicle travel speeds at intersections where older drivers and pedestrians need more time to make decisions and execute changes, 2) making the physical layout of roads, crosswalks and sidewalks easier to navigate, and 3) making it easier for older drivers and pedestrians to notice, read, understand and respond to visual cues and information.

Because of time required to plan and make these improvements, communities need to begin now in order to be ready for the age wave, the report states. “It takes time to plan, design, fund and build capital projects,” said LeaMond. “Federal officials, planners and traffic engineers need to focus now on adjusting roads to become safer and more user-friendly for everyone.”

Men outlive their driving years on average by 7 years and women by 10, the AARP report reiterates. “’Complete Streets’ make walking more appealing and crossing streets safer for everyone,” said AARP’s LeaMond. Complete Streets legislation was recently introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives. AARP is a member of the Complete Streets Coalition (http://www.completestreets.org).

The research process for “Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America” included an online survey of 1,134 state and local transportation planners and engineers conducted from August 4 to September 3, 2008. A public opinion telephone survey of 1,006people age 50 and older was conducted from July 9-15, 2008 with a margin of error of +/-3.09% at the 95% confidence level. An interdisciplinary team of planners, engineers and policy advocates reviewed safety research and offered policy and design recommendations as part of the development of the report and the report includes an inventory and evaluation of 80 existing “Complete Streets” policies.

1 comment:

Steve Runge said...

This is great news! Retirees are about to be the biggest demographic (i.e., voting bloc).