The ‘Complete Streets’ concept and movement in urban planning and policy has been hailed by many as a revolution that aims to challenge the auto-normative paradigm by reversing the broader effects of an urban form shaped by the logic of keeping automobiles moving. By enabling safe access for all users, Complete Streets promise to make cities more walkable and livable and at the same time more sustainable. This book problematizes the Complete Streets concept by suggesting that streets should not be thought of as merely physical spaces, but as symbolic and social spaces. When important social and symbolic narratives are missing from the discourse and practice of Complete Streets, what actually results are incomplete streets.
We are in a spatial moment. Around the world, there has never been a time when the role and possibilities of public spaces including our most commonly used space, the street, have been so prominent in the news and social media. New spaces are being created and used as sites for recreation, such as New York City’s High Line, once a disused elevated rail bed and now a highly used urban park running along the lower west side of Manhattan.
Listen to/read my ‘Academic Minute’ here
From a just sustainabilities perspective, my interest in streets is in spatial justice (Spatial Justice on Södra Vägen) and how it can help in the democratization of streets (Democratizing streetscapes: Rethinking streets as public spaces). This democratization is demonstrated in the growing number of cities with successful road space reclamation and re-allocation schemes which favor pedestrians, cyclists and public transit. Such schemes are described by the increasingly prominent and related U.S. discourses of Complete Streets, Transit Oriented Development and Livable Streets. Combined, this narrative frames the message that streets are, ultimately public spaces, and that everyone in local communities should have equal rights to space within them, irrespective of who they are and whether or not they own a car.