Complete Streets for Canada

policy and design hub for building safe and inviting streets for all

Element 4: Exceptions

Element Definition: 

Defining exceptions about when a Complete Streets policy will not be followed helps ensure strong implementation.  Creating an approval process for these exceptions can help ensure that loopholes in policy are avoided and that all modes are considered on every road. While there is no ideal approval process, using an existing committee (such as an active transportation advisory committee) or a high-level department head to review and grant the exception is recommended by the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Below are some examples of appropriate exceptions that are considered to leave little room for loopholes. The examples have been slightly adjusted to suit the Canadian context.

  1. Accommodation is not required on corridors where specific users are prohibited, such as pedestrian malls or the 400 Series Highways in Ontario.
  2. Cost of accommodation is very expensive compared to the need or potential use.
  3. An absence of current or future need based on research and other documentation.
  4. Transit accommodations are not required where there is no existing or planned transit service based on existing planning documentation (e.g., official plan, transportation master plan).
  5. Routine maintenance of the transportation network that does not create any opportunities to change the roadway geometry or operations, such as mowing, sweeping and spot repair.
  6. Where a project along the same corridor is already programmed to provide facilities exempted from the project at hand.
Official Plan Quotes: 

Official Plan of the City of Peterborough – Section 5.7 Pedestrian Network Policies

“Sidewalks shall be required in all new residential subdivisions as follows:...Where Council determines that physical or practical circumstances would prohibit or not warrant a sidewalk connection, such facilities may not be required to be constructed” (City of Peterborough, 2009).

Official Plan of the City of Thunder Bay – Section 10.52 Sidewalk Linkages

“Sidewalks shall be provided along one side of local roads within the urban area except for short streets, loops or cul-de-sacs where, in the opinion of the City Engineer, the expected traffic volumes will be less than 200 trips per day (the traffic volume generated by approximately 20 residential units), approval may be given to eliminate all sidewalk requirements” (City of Thunder Bay, 2005).