A Guide to Submitting a Letter to the Editor on Complete Streets

Key Goals:
Ask local and state politicians to adopt Complete Streets policies and raise general awareness about Complete Streets.

One way to help implement Complete Streets at the state and local level is to write a letter to the editor to one of your local news publications. Letters are a great way to demonstrate the demand for walk-, bike-, and transit-friendly infrastructure. These letters are also a great opportunity to ask your local politicians to adopt Complete Streets policies.

Please consider using some of the following points in your letter:

1. Tell your personal walking, biking, or transit story. Tell readers why you choose to walk or bike to destinations, and what personal benefits you’ve discovered. Examples include saving money, losing weight, improving your cardiovascular health, reducing your carbon footprint, spending more time outdoors, spending time with your children, etc.

2. Highlight the community benefits of building a walk- and bike-friendly transportation system. Complete streets have a wide array of community benefits. For example, other US cities have shown that a spending a small percentage of the city transportation budget on making it safer and more convenient to walk and bike can significantly boost bike ridership. Meanwhile, the Michigan Department of Community Health estimates that if 1 in 20 sedentary Michigan adults became physically active, Michigan employers would save $575 million per year in healthcare costs and insurance premiums.

3. Quickly comment on current obstacles to walking and biking. For example: “Higher gas prices are forcing people to find ways to drive less, but those who try to replace some of their car trips by walking or biking find that these travel options are often inconvenient, unsafe or just plain unpleasant. There are too many areas of our city that are hostile environments where people don’t feel safe walking or biking, even for short trips.”

4. Plant the seed for Complete Streets. Be sure to use the term “Complete Streets” and explain what that means. For example: “What Michigan (or local town name) needs are Complete Streets. Complete Streets are designed to be accessible to all users, whether they are young or old, have a disability, whether they are walking, biking or taking transit. We need streets that have lower traffic speeds and are safer for everyone, including motorists and neighborhood residents.”

5. Ask City Council and/or state politicians to adopt Complete Streets. Mention the Michigan Complete Streets Coalition and plug the website (www.michigancompletestreets.org).

You can find even more talking points at:

Ready to write a letter?  You can find contact information for various media outlets through Michigan here.