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Civic Impact

Who is all and what is complete? The 2015 Complete Streets Forum

Veronica O. Davis gives the lunch keynote speech at the Complete Streets Forum

“All politics are local, but in DC, politics are hyperlocal,” says Veronica O. Davis. She delivered the lunchtime keynote speech—entitled “Who is ALL and what is complete?” as part of the eighth Complete Streets Forum last week.

Davis, a planner and engineer working in Washington DC, delivered a passionate and rousing speech about innovative ways to engage citizens in infrastructure development consultations. Her work focuses on including segments of the population who aren’t often considered, such as the underhoused.

Davis was just one part of the day-long conference and forum at Hart House on October 1. Devoted to raising the profile of the complete streets movement, the event’s programming was aimed at planners, engineers, architects, and activists who want to reprioritize street use to include pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-motorized street users. Sessions looked at the issue from a technical perspective—evaluation was a major theme this year, with several presenters devoted to assessing the impact and efficacy of different complete streets initiatives—as well as a foundational perspective.

In their session “Evaluating Innovative Pedestrian Intersection Design,” presenter Merisa Gilman of NEw York City’s Pedestrian Projects presented on her department’s updated protocols for uncontrolled intersection design, which includes street markings, visible signage, and a request system for implementation.

Closer to home, Sheyda Saneinejad spoke about Toronto’s three pedestrian priority phase intersections—commonly known as “scrambles”—and how the city assessed their impact on pedestrians, transit users, and motorists. Their findings led to the removal of the Bay/Bloor scramble, but reinforced the usefulness of scrambles at Yonge and Dundas and Yonge and Bloor. “It’s important not to treat pedestrian scrambles as symbolic,” Saneinejad stressed. “They’re a tool in Toronto’s toolbox.”

After lunch, “Navigating the Diverse Landscapes of Toronto’s Streets,” as presented by Sheila Boudreau and Patrick Cheung, looked at Green Streets. As a method of integrating more naturalized areas into the landscape, as well helping to mitigate heat islands and stormwater runoff, Green Streets sometimes means a tailored approach to landscape architecture. Boudreau and Cheung demonstrated a bespoke curb for garden edging that allowed water to flow from the central garden, past the sidewalk, and into the storm drain below. “There was nothing off the shelf that we could use,” Boudreau says, but the detail now allows for better drainage.

The day also included a tour of the city’s separated bike lanes, several sessions exploring the intersection of health and complete streets frameworks, and looking at complete streets in a suburban context. “What are the needs of the community?” asked Davis as part of her keynote speech; by the end of the day, participants were answer to her question a little more fully.
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