San Francisco’s policies encourage the design and development of ‘Better Streets,’ sometimes referred to as ‘Complete Streets,’ that work for all users. The San Francisco Better Streets Plan, adopted in December 2010, states:

Better Streets are designed and built to strike a balance between all users regardless of physical abilities or mode of travel. A Better Street attends to the needs of people first, considering pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, street trees, stormwater management, utilities, and livability as well as vehicular circulation and parking.

Nationwide, streets that consider all users and modes of transportation are often referred to as ‘Complete Streets.’  According to the National Complete Streets Coalition:

Complete Streets are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street.

Better Streets also consider the street’s role in the City’s ecological systems, and its role in supporting other city infrastructure networks, such as our water and sewer systems. San Francisco’s Better Streets Policy (Administrative Code Section 98.1) states:

Streets should be appropriately designed and maintained to address the unique characteristics and challenges of the watersheds in which they lie through design treatments that reduce downstream flooding with untreated stormwater and combined sewer overflows into the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean.

Designing Better Streets means considering the street’s role in the overall transportation network, and including facilities appropriate to that role. Is the street on a bike or transit route?Are there specific pedestrian needs or conditions that must be addressed?

Designing Better Streets also means maximizing features for the comfort, usability, and aesthetics of people walking. Does the street include greening features, lighting, and sidewalk furnishings? Does the plan take advantage of opportunity to create public spaces in the right-of-way? Are sidewalk features safe and accessible for all users?

Better Streets should also consider the street’s ecological role. Does the street take advantage of opportunities to slow down stormwater runoff or allow it to filter to the soil below? Are there street trees to improve conditions for people while providing other ecological benefits?

A successful design for a street should positively address all of these questions and serve the multiple roles that streets play.

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