In highway engineering parlance, Complete Streets are roadways designed with all road users in mind, including transit riders, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists. Well-designed Complete Streets enable users of all types to move safely along their length.
A portion of a heavily-trafficked 4-lane, 45 mph arterial in my area was recently turned into a Complete Street. Prior to the conversion, riding a bike on this section of roadway was not a pleasant experience. The shoulder was narrow, rough, and strewn with debris, and because motorists often travel at freeway speeds on this road, taking the lane was completely out of the question.
Recently, the roadway was re-paved and widened, and a full-width bike lane and sidewalk were installed. The improvement in the riding experience was astonishing; the road went from being one to avoid, to being a useful and comfortable route to get across that part of town.
While the philosophical arguments for and against bicycle-specific infrastructure continue unabated, out in the real world Incomplete Streets don’t hold a candle to Complete Streets.