Complete Streets Directive

[July 1, 2024]

Despite SCDOT’s Complete Streets Departmental Directive being adopted more than 3 years ago, we still hear confusion from folks in the policy’s interpretation. It’s important to have a robust understanding of the directive and the recommended ways to get to suitable bike/ped/transit design on state-owned streets. The policy itself is only 6 pages long, and anyone can review it here.

What is it?
A state-level establishment of guidelines for the inclusion of walking, bicycling, and transit accommodations in projects undertaken on the state-owned highway system.

How is it implemented?
Metropolitan planning organizations and/or councils of governments should work with SCDOT to develop bike/walk plans. In our region, the BCDCOG did this in 2016 (documents here), and will be updating the document at some point in the near future. SCDOT and local governmental authorities then rely on this plan to decide whether and how to include bike/walk infrastructure in projects. Context is key, and at least 17 design guidance documents and sources are listed to help develop plans that make sense for a street or bridge. Additionally, SCDOT developed a statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Action Plan, with suggested improvements (document here).

What does this mean?
As we reminded Charleston County Council during their recent votes updating their Comprehensive Plan, this language better gets us to the right design in the right place. There are so many design options that can be considered, situation by situation. “Complete streets” are a process and approach to street design; there is no singular design prescription for complete streets. Each one is unique and responds to its community context. Quite simply, SCDOT does not dictate that 12′ multi-use paths should go everywhere. There is no reason to avoid including the right infrastructure in a project, whether it’s a path, a sidewalk, a bike lane, or even a widened and striped shoulder.