complete streets concepts are based on an old paradigm, and need to be updated to work with the advent of autonomous vehicle technology, which will change street infrastructure
Complete Streets will need to EVOLVE
Complete Streets as it now stands is based on an old paradigm. It is based on purely human interactions in a transportation system where all modes of traffic are mixed, but where specific engineering treatments to roadways design and traffic control are introduced to make the roadway or corridor more friendly and safer for pedestrians and those riding a bike. In the past before Complete Streets was implemented in hundreds of locations around the USA and the world, vehicles were given priority in the road system and safety was compromised when there were careless or inattentive drivers behind the wheel. Accidents were more severe because they happened at higher speeds. Widen open roads were hard to cross by pedestrians, and also encouraged even faster speeds by drivers of vehicles. Since roadways have been redesigned to slow cars, there have been some improvements to safety as the number of fatalities has not grown with traffic growth... yet it still hovers around 40,000 fatalities per year in the USA. This is unacceptable and needs to change... but we are not able to achieve the VISION ZERO goals of eliminating fatality on the roadways. In fact, when Los Angeles implemented Complete Streets recently, the traffic fatalities in the City soared to 260 deaths in 2016, and significantly higher in 2017. Complete Streets is not a fool proof concept, and it needs to be revisited with updates that take into consideration the real reasons that fatalities would still climb in say Los Angeles even when Complete Streets is implemented.
The underlying cause of fatalities is not necessarily the road design. It is the HUMAN element.
As long as there are a subset of human drivers who are unprepared to drive safely, get distracted easily, speed or drive recklessly, take drugs or alcohol before they drive, then we will have fatalities on the road. I can speak from experience, I have not had an accident, let alone a fatal accident in all my life. I probably like you, are not the problem. But we let just about anybody drive in this country and the simple testing process does not make everybody an equal driver. Some drivers still look at the passenger while talking, rather than look at the road, always. Complete Streets will never solve these kind of problems. So what will?
The Opportunity for a real Solution is at the door.
Its here already, and will soon be accepted. Autonomous Vehicles. Ubiquitous in all cities. If we had that now, safety problem would be solved! The answer is NOT and never was to "get everybody out of their cars." In the USA, population is spread out as a nation, and density in population centers is relatively low. In China, where most everybody lives in very populous urban cities with skyscrapers throughout as a default... these could more easily make drastic changes to lowering automobile use because they already have so many non-car alternatives in place in the form of walking on large sidewalks, taxi and mass transit systems, and subways, that altogether move 90% of the population (who do not own or drive a car).
In the USA, transit systems only serve major cities, and then just do it satisfactorily (not great), but in the vast majority of small cities or unincorporated population centers transit is sorely lacking. The population in the USA by far relies on the use of a personal automobile, since nearly everybody owns one. It is the long time culture and all of our planning and construction has been based on it. It is the fixed system that is not going to change much, because that would be too cost prohibitive and cause most people to move into skyscrapers, and they might not want to do that. They might prefer to live on a street, with a yard, and have a larger family, etc., play in the local park, etc.
Planners who contemplate the possibility that people could be lured out of their cars to embrace a new active lifestyle are not considering the masses that do not have this option, literally. It is not reasonable to expect the masses (who do not already live in dense / populous urban cities like San Francisco, to move there, embrace a lifestyle without a personal car, use transit and ride bikes or walk and enjoy that lifestyle, because the transit and walking or even biking options are not available or practical. Expensive cities where these things do now exist are truly beyond the purchasing power of most people. SF is very expensive for a reason, it is built out with many such options for walking, biking, and transit. Skyscrapers and density abound. Outside of these large cities you have lifestyles and infrastructure that demand traveling much longer distances for even typical activities such as shopping, work, and school, and the automobile is the only practical mode of travel to accomplish these in reasonable times. For example, I sometimes have meetings several hours by car from my home or office. It is not practical to consider riding a bike at 10 mph... it would take all day! 3 hours travel would increase to 18 hours, and I am not sure I would survive that. Plus there are times to carry loads of specialized equipment or computers, that would not fit on a bike. Living in China, however, it might be possible to get by with a rolling hand cart or suitcase, and ride a nearby transit systems that have just 5 minute headways, and get to a needed destination in the city. For the most part the traveling time is similar to what can be done in a car that has to travel through congestion and parking is a nightmare to find it. The only difference for the driver of a car there is they have air conditioning, and privacy in a private vehicle. Phone calls on a bike or transit are also not practical. Time is money.