What are Complete Streets?

Complete Street on North State Street in ConcordDefined by Smart Growth America, Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations.

Creating Complete Streets means transportation agencies must change their approach to community roads. By adopting a Complete Streets policy, communities direct their transportation planners and engineers to routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation. This means that every transportation project will make the street network better and safer for drivers, transit users, pedestrians, and bicyclists – making your town a better place to live.

What does a “Complete Street” look like?

There is no singular design prescription for Complete Streets; each one is unique and responds to its community context. A complete street may include: sidewalks, bike lanes (or wide paved shoulders), special bus lanes, comfortable and accessible public transportation stops, frequent and safe crossing opportunities, median islands, accessible pedestrian signals, curb extensions, narrower travel lanes, roundabouts, and more.

A Complete Street in a rural area will look quite different from a Complete Street in a highly urban area, but both are designed to balance safety and convenience for everyone using the road. Check out our ‘Many Types of Complete Streets’ slideshow to see examples from across the country. Source: Smart Growth America

Complete Streets Policies in New Hampshire

We are aware of five communities in New Hampshire that have adopted complete streets policies, while others are in the process of developing policies. Each community has chosen a different path toward implementing the policies from City Policy to City Council Resolution. One of HEAL’s primary goals is to assist communities in developing, adopting and implementing complete streets policies that work for their communities. These communities include:

  1. Portsmouth
  2. Concord
  3. Keene
  4. Dover
  5. Swanzey
  6. Hinsdale
  7. Troy

Complete Streets Planning and Design Guidelines

  1. Hinsdale
  2. Troy

Policy Analysis: Helping to Achieve Healthier Communities
Evaluating public policy so that it fulfills community vision. This document is intended to provide a tool for municipalities to assess their regulations 

Smart Growth America - ranking of the country’s complete streets policies, including Portsmouth, which is ranked seventh in the country

Plan NH compiled a guide titled Resources for Information about "Complete Streets" to get you started down the right path. 


Complete Streets Community Flyer - English

Complete Streets Community Flyer - Spanish

Complete Streets Rack Card

Complete Streets Talking Points

Complete Streets Policy Audit Template

Improving Safety and Accessibility in your Community:

Accessibility (also called access or convenience) refers to the ability to reach desired goods, services, activities and destinations (together called opportunities). For example, a stepladder provides access to a high shelf, a store provides access to goods, and a library or telecommunications device provide access to information. Walking, cycling, ridesharing and public transit provide access to jobs, services and other activities. Access is the ultimate goal of most transportation, excepting the small portion of travel in which movement is an end in itself, (e.g., cruising, historic train rides, horseback riding, jogging). Even recreational travel usually has a destination, such as a resort or a campsite (mobility as an end in itself is discussed later in this chapter).

Four general factors affect physical accessibility:

  1. Mobility, that is, physical movement. Mobility can be provided by walking, cycling, public transit, ridesharing, taxi, automobiles, trucks and other modes.
  2. Mobility Substitutes, such as telecommunications and delivery services. These can provide access to some types of goods and activities, particularly those involving information.
  3. Transportation System Connectivity, which refers to the directness of links and the density of connections in path or road network.
  4. Land Use, that is, the geographic distribution of activities and destinations. The dispersion of common destination increases the amount of mobility needed to access goods, services and activities, reducing accessibility. When real estate experts say “location, location, location” they mean “accessibility, accessibility, accessibility.” Just as an automobile is a machine for mobility, a city is a machine for accessibility (Levinson, Krizek and Gillen 2005).

Accessibility in New Hampshire Communities

Several communities in NH have also had big wins with small changes to NHDOT resurfacing and restriping projects. To find out which projects will be in your community this year, go here. If you find one that is in your community and you’d like to make improvements contact NHDOT’s Larry Keniston or Erik Paddleford.

How do you know if NHDOT is planning a project in your community that you might want to improve? Take a look at their Project Viewer tool to learn more about the larger projects. Once you know about the projects, you will want to know:

How do you know what improvements to ask for? NHDOT’s Larry Keniston and Erik Paddleford have helped several communities figure that out. Currently, there is no specific guidance for communities to follow, but that is changing soon. The NH Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Advisory Committee is working on a “cookbook” that will help residents understand what makes safe and unsafe road designs and how to make improvements during the project design and construction process. Stay tuned for more information.

In the meantime there are two easy to follow guides that will be helpful for any sized community, including:

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine also offers a Community Spokes Toolkit for advocates that NH advocates can also learn from. HEAL and the Bike-Walk Alliance of NH are developing a similar model for NH communities.

New Hampshire’s Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan

New Hamphire's Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan lays out a plan for improvements to NH’s transportation system every two years. There are many opportunities for communities to get involved in improving the projects and programs being proposed, including proposing projects during the regional Transportation Improvement Plan process, to attending public outreach hearings, to requesting amendments to existing projects.

The NHDOT’s Safe Routes to School

The NH DOT's Safe Routes to School program has provided millions of dollars to communities to improve safety and accessibility by bike and foot for children. Changes to the federal transportation legislation are leading to the elimination of a standalone Safe Routes to School program in NH. The program will be combined with other programs like Transportation Enhancements and streamlined under a new program called Transportation Alternatives. More information will follow this year. Nevertheless, Safe Routes to School principles provide many great tools for NH communities.

Local Projects

What about local projects? The same ideas apply regarding small projects. The first step is to identify who the Highway Department/Public Works/Engineering staff are in your community and ask them what projects are currently slated for work and which are coming in the future, then identify which ones you want to improve, then use the guides to identify potential improvements.

Complete Streets

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