Understanding Community and Health Impacts of Complete Streets Policies

Springfield, Massachusetts is a mid-sized city with a large community of color population experiencing socioeconomic and health inequities. Historically there has been little infrastructure in Springfield to support active transportation and recreational walking and biking, so in 2015, Springfield City Council adopted a city-wide “Complete Streets” resolution.

“Complete Streets” policies enable safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists of all ages and abilities, yet little empirical evidence has documented their impact on the community and health and well-being.

This study will investigate, through an equity lens, whether Complete Streets policies lead to changes in:

  • The built environment (e.g. traffic calming; bicycle/pedestrian facilities),
  • The economic environment (e.g. retail activity),
  • The social environment (e.g. perceived safety, social cohesion), and
  • Health/health behaviors (e.g. physical activity).

The study will use existing and original data, including objectively measured physical activity. Research will be conducted in partnership with community partners to leverage collective expertise and existing data collection efforts, to engage residents as research partners, and ensure results and research products are designed and disseminated to benefit the community and foster health equity. Resident perception of the policy and infrastructure changes will also be assessed.

Complete Streets policies have the potential to impact equity by creating activity-friendly environments in communities experiencing large social, economic, and health inequities. This study seeks to determine if the policies can and do achieve that potential.