Dangerously Incomplete Streets

Look at these photos and read about what you see. Then think about the roadways near you. There's a good chance you're encountering similar sights and scenes

Will She Make It?

In a nation of roadways built for motor vehicles, pedestrians routinely put their lives at risk with every step they take. Crossing lanes of traffic on foot is a challenge, even with a crosswalk and signal. Let's hope this woman walks really fast

Photo courtesy National Complete Streets Coalition

Complete v. Incomplete Streets

Can you find the man trying to cross the road? (Hint: He's stuck in the middle.) Complete Streets serve all users, be they drivers, bicyclists or pedestrians. This is an "Incomplete Street." Versions of this road exist throughout the U.S.

Photo by Dan Burden

Scary Movie

The movie theater is next to the fake lighthouse, across the road from where you just had lunch. All you need to do is cross four lanes of traffic. You can use the faded crosswalk but there's no traffic signal. If you time it right you should be okay.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

A Dead End

What happens when a bicyclist or pedestrian traveling along the shoulder of this suburban road finds that the path abruptly ends. The choices are limited and risky: Turn around, trample through someone's yard or move into the traffic lane.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

School Days

These students travel to and from school along this busy road with no sidewalks. Since most U.S. high schools start in the 7 a.m. hour, teens are often walking to school before dawn. Would you want your child or grandchild walking along this road?

Photo courtesy National Complete Streets Coalition

Don't Walk, Ever

There are no sidewalks, so the school buses in this district leave no child behind, even those who live near the school. Paved shoulders along rural roads like this one could provide some protection for pedestrians and bicylists and improve safety.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

Stuck in the Mud

It's great that this intersection features crosswalks and traffic signals, but there's no sidewalk at this corner to lead the way, especially for someone in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller or simply wearing a nice pair of shoes.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

No Crossing

You can drive north or south along this multi-lane roadway, but — if you're on foot — don't even attempt to walk east and west between the two shopping centers. There are no crosswalks and the traffic lights are timed for vehicles not people.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

So Near Yet So Far

This sloping and marked sidewalk works for people in wheelchairs or with vision impairments. Too bad there isn't a crosswalk or traffic signal so residents of the adjacent assisted living facility can safely walk to the shops across the way.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

One Way In, No Way Out

While this location has a ramp so a wheelchair user can exit the sidewalk to cross the road, there's no ramp on the opposite side! This gentleman is rolling into a roadway he can't escape.

Photo courtesy National Complete Streets Coalition

A Ramp for a Picnic?

This oddly-placed ADA compliant curb cut was installed outside the headquarters of the area agency on aging that serves the Charlottesville region of Virginia. Maybe the ramp was placed for wheelchair access to the lawn.

Photo by Brett VA

Foot Traffic

Look at the well-worn dirt path. People have obviously been walking to shops and other places along this commercial roadway. Wouldn't it make sense to have a sidewalk here instead?

Photo courtesy National Complete Streets Coalition

Road Rules

After a car struck and killed a bicyclist, the county that governs this rural community posted signs affirming "Bicycles May Use Full Lane." That's a nice offer, but with drivers and cyclists sharing the same winding country road, dangers persist.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

The Waiting Game

Public transit options are important community features. A safe place to wait for the bus is also important. Bus stop seating and shelter from the elements — and from traffic — are basic needs, as are safe and accessible pathways to get there.

Photo courtesy National Complete Streets Coalition

Find the Bus Stop

It's there, hidden within the weeds, shrubs and trees. Someone waiting for a bus can stand in the road or in the overgrown greenery. Bug spray is recommended.

Photo by Melissa Stanton

The Good, Bad and Ugly

At the top of the staircase stands an award-winning senior center. (An odd place for steps.) At the base of the staircase is a bus shelter and crosswalk. (That's good.) But there's no sidewalk or curb cut for access. (That's bad.)

Photo by Brett VA

Don't Hit the Hydrant!

The fire hydrant's location undermines the usefulness of the sidewalk to wheelchair users and people pushing strollers. The curb ramp with a detectable (i.e. bumpy) warning pad is a smart feature. Too bad it's mostly covered by sand. 

Photo by Julie Nepveu

Is That the Sidewalk?

While this residential roadway (in Hawaii!) provides some protection for pedestrians, the path is incomplete, narrow, dirty and of limited use. 

Photo by AARP

The Asphalt Jungle

This parking lot is located in Anywhere and Everywhere USA. There's nothing welcoming, safe or appealing about this type of way-too-common place. Learn how Complete Streets policies can help protect against all you've just seen.

Photo by Brett VA

  • Pinterest
  • Google+

The slideshow "Dangerously Incomplete Streets" was awarded "Best Slideshow" by the 2014 MIN Editorial and Design Awards. 


Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait
Livable Communities E-Newsletter promotion

Search Livable Communities

Enter a keyword (topic, name, state, etc.)

One in Three Americans is Now 50 or Older


Follow Us

Livability Index Widget

Livability Index

How livable is your community?

Contact Us

AARP Livable Communities

Do you have questions or suggestions? We want to hear from you. Email us at livable@aarp.org

For questions about the AARP Livability Index, please email livabilityindex@aarp.org.

Subscribe to free e-newsletter

Great Places Blog

Follow Our Team

Contact Us

We like hearing from you. Send your feedback or questions to livable@aarp.org