Complete Streets for Canada

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

What Are Complete Streets?

Photo Credit: 
Ontario Growth Secretariat, Ministry of Infrastructure

What are Complete Streets?

A Complete Street is designed for all ages, abilities, and modes of travel. On Complete Streets, safe and comfortable access for pedestrians, bicycles, transit users and people with disabilities is not an afterthought, but an integral planning feature.

A Complete Streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire street network for all road users, not only motorists.

Complete Streets offer wide ranging benefits. They are cost effective, sustainable and safe.

The link between Complete Streets and public health is well documented. Jurisdictions across North America already include Complete Streets policies in their suite of preventative health strategies. Complete Streets also promote livability. Human-scale design treatments such as street furniture, trees and wide pedestrian rights-of-way animate our public realm and encourage people to linger.

Complete Streets can exist in communities of all shapes and sizes; from downtown Montreal to Corner Brook and more suburban communities such as Surrey. There is no singular approach to Complete Streets. However, Complete Street policies ensure that transportation planners and engineers design and manage infrastructure for all ages, abilities, and modes of travel across the entire transportation network.


Complete Streets Canada Policy Categories

Since 2003, the term "Complete Streets" has seen an incredible growth trajectory to where it is today with close to 700 policies adopted (as of July 2014) in the United States (Smart Growth America, 2014). There is growing interest across Canada, with Complete Streets policies in Calgary (2009), Waterloo (2010), Edmonton (2013), Ajax (2013) and Ottawa (2013). In addition to policies, Canadian cities are starting to produce Complete Streets guidelines, most notably in Edmonton (2013), and Calgary (2011), Toronto and Hamilton (both currently under development).

In Canada, most planning regulation is undertaken at the provincial level and municipalities have less power to pass laws than our American counterparts. However there are a still a number of different ways that Complete Streets policies can be adopted in Canada, such as within Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement, Official Plans, or Transportation Master Plans.(For more information about differences between policy adoption in the U.S. and Canada In the province, see this backgrounder: )

For the purposes of tracking Complete Streets in Canada, TCAT has developed the following categories:


  • Adopted by Council
  • Uses the term “Complete Streets”
  • Can be either a standalone policy (e.g. bylaw) or is incorporated ( a chapter) into a larger policy document (e.g. Official Plans, Transportation Master Plans, district-level plans, site plans, corridor plans, etc.)
  • Must clearly direct incorporation of bicyclists and pedestrians, at minimum, into transportation projects.

Design Manuals or Guidelines

  • Uses the term “Complete Streets”
  • Must clearly direct incorporation of bicyclists and pedestrians, at minimum, into transportation projects.


  • A proposed Complete Streets policy not yet officially adopted by Council
  • Council direction to staff to write a report with recommendations for Complete Streets (e.g.” Complete Streets in Niagara’ or the City of Toronto’s “Integrated Approach to the Development of Complete Streets Guidelines”)
  • Uses Complete Streets concepts or principles (e.g. plan for “all ages and abilities”) but not the term “Complete Streets” in official planning documents Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan, etc.)
  • Must clearly direct incorporation of bicyclists and pedestrians, at minimum, into transportation projects.