Communities are asking that motor vehicle speeds be reduced on their neighborhood streets and that streets be made more accessible and inviting for bicycling (and walking). Some of the most important issues to the public are safety, access, and aesthetics. This chapter discusses some of the issues related to setting priorities and implementing needed bicycling improvements.
Getting started can be daunting — the needs are overwhelming, resources are scarce, and staff time is limited. Every community is faced with the questions of “Where do I start?” and “How do I get going?” While it is not the intent of this guide to provide an exhaustive discussion of implementation strategies, it offers some direction.
Since all bicycling needs cannot be addressed immediately, project priorities need to be established. To create priorities requires several program objectives:
- Safety - One objective should be to reduce the number and severity of crashes involving bicyclists. Accomplishing this would require: (1) a good understanding of the types of crashes that are occurring in your community, and (2) application of appropriate countermeasures to address these crashes. The information provided in this guide is intended to help select the countermeasures that would be most effective in addressing selected types of crash problems.
- Access - A second objective should be to create an accessible community where all bicyclists can reach their desired destinations. Typically, this begins with identifying corridors frequented by bicyclists and how these corridors can be accessed with connecting streets, as well as determining if the main corridor streets need improvements.
- Aesthetics - It is not enough to simply have a safe, accessible community — it should also be an aesthetically pleasing place to live and work. Landscaping, lighting, parking, and other facilities help create a “livable community” and should be considered when making bicycling improvements.
One Step at a Time
To create a safe community for bicycling, take one step at a time. Along main corridors, check to see that there is adequate space for riding for the speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic at both midblock and intersection locations. In other words, check block by block and intersection by intersection. Individually, these locations do not create a safe, livable community. Collectively, they create the infrastructure needed for a great place to work, play and conduct business. In other words, the whole bicycling system is greater than the sum of its parts.
Be very sensitive to community concerns. Public participation will build community pride and ownership that is essential to long-term success. Some of the problems identified in this guide will not be an issue in your community and some of the tools may be perceived as too expensive (at least initially). There probably will be measures that your community puts on hold for a few years until a community consensus is reached. Conversely, there probably will be measures that your community would like to pursue that are not even mentioned in this planning section.
It is very important to produce immediate deliverables that people can see. For example, the addition of bike lanes and/or the removal of parking along a street are highly visible, while a transportation plan is a paper document that may never be seen or appreciated by the public. To keep its momentum, a program needs some “quick wins.” They create the sense that something is happening and that government is responsive.
- The Bikeability Checklist can quickly identify some of the more obvious deficiencies in your neighborhood or community.
- The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities is a comprehensive document for information about facilities. The AASHTO Web site is:
- The Bicycle Compatibility Index (BCI) is a tool that can be used by bicycle coordinators, transportation planners, traffic engineers, and others to evaluate the capability of specific roadways to accommodate both motorists and bicyclists.
- Information on both Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS) and the Bicycle Compatibility Index (BCI) is contained at a Web site maintained by the League of Illinois Bicyclists.
- Information on Intersection Level of Service: The Bicycle Through Movement is contained on a Florida Department of Transportation Web site:
- NCHRP Project 7-14 provides guidelines for the analysis of investments in bicycle facilities. The research was performed by the University of Minnesota, Planners Collaborative Inc, the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, and the UNC Active Living by Design Program. A cost-demands-benefits analysis tool can be found at this Web site:
- Aesthetics: California’s Local Government Commission has some great resources on street design and livability.
There are many ways to accomplish projects. Be creative; take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Here are some suggestions:
Regulation of New Development and Redevelopment
Issues here tend to pertain more to pedestrian activities. For example, developers can be required to install public infrastructure such as sidewalks, curb ramps, and traffic signals. In addition, zoning requirements can be written to allow for or require narrower streets, shorter blocks, and mixed-use development. However, these infrastructure items benefit bicycling as well. Encouraging developers and community leaders to focus on basic pedestrian and bicycling needs will benefit the community and increase the attractiveness of the developments themselves.
Consider expanding or initiating annual programs to make small, visible improvements. Examples include improving space for bicyclists on streets where it is poor, or adding space to a link between two areas to improve connectivity. This creates momentum and community support. Several considerations should be made when developing these programs:
- Identify corridors where bicycling takes place and give priority to these locations.
- Consider giving preference to requests from local bicyclists about spot improvements or addressing a crash problem.
- Evaluate your construction or renovation options. Consider having city crews do work requested by residents to provide fast customer service while bidding out some of the staff-generated projects.
“Piggybacking” bicycling (and pedestrian) improvements onto capital projects is one of the best ways to make major improvements in a community. For example, when a street is resurfaced, consider whether lanes should be narrowed when the street is re-striped to provide for bike lanes, wide curb lanes, or simply more space for cyclists. Landscaping, lighting, and other amenities can be included in road projects, utility projects and private construction in public rights-of-way (for example, cable television, high-speed fiber optics, etc.). To accomplish this, there are several things that can be done:
- Contact all State and regional agencies, and local public and private utilities that do work in public rights-of-way. Secure their five-year project plans as well as their long-range plans. Then, work with them to make sure that the streets are restored in the way that works for your city.
- Look internally at all capital projects. Make sure that every opportunity to make improvements is taken advantage of at the time of construction.
- Consider combining small projects with larger capital projects as a way of saving money. Generally, bid prices drop as quantities increase.
Increasingly, public improvements are realized through public/private partnerships. These partnerships can take many forms. Examples include Community Development Corporations, neighborhood organizations, grants from foundations, direct industry support and involvement of individual citizens. In fact, many public projects, whether they are traffic-calming improvements, street trees or the restoration of historic buildings, are the result of individual people getting involved and deciding to make a difference. This involvement doesn’t just happen; it needs to be encouraged and supported by local governmental authorities.
Cities such as Cambridge, MA, Eugene and Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA have adopted plans and procedures to ensure that bicycle improvements become a routine activity in new development projects, reconstruction work, and retrofits. Charlotte, NC, also has some exciting urban street design guidelines out for public review. These include a chapter on the design of streets for multiple users, as well as an appendix with a tool to calculate bicycle and pedestrian level of service at signalized intersections. Please note that Web site addresses change frequently.
- City of Cambridge, MA
- City of Portland, OR
- City of Eugene, OR
- City of Seattle, WA
- City of Charlotte, NC
Bicycling (and pedestrian) projects and programs can be funded by federal, State, local, private, or any combination of sources. A summary of federal bicycling (and pedestrian) funding opportunities can be viewed at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bikeped/bp-broch.htm#funding.
Communities that are most successful at securing funds often have the following ingredients of success:
- Consensus on Priorities - Community consensus on what should be accomplished increases the likelihood of successfully funding a project. A divided or uninvolved community will find it more difficult to raise funds than a community that gives broad support to bicycle (and pedestrian) improvement programs.
- Dedication - Funding a project is hard work, and generally, there are no shortcuts. It takes a great amount of effort by many people using multiple funding sources to complete a project successfully. Be aggressive and apply for many different community grants. While professional grant-writing specialists can help, they are no substitute for community involvement and one-on-one contact (the “people part” of fund raising).
- Spark Plugs (Change Agents) - Successful projects typically have one or more “can do” people in the right place at the right time who provide the energy and vision to see a project through. Many successful “can do” politicians get their start as successful neighborhood activists.
- Leveraging - Funds, once secured, should always be used to leverage additional funds. For example, a grant from a local foundation could be used as the required match for a Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) Enhancement grant.