Identify and Prioritize Locations Needing Improvement

An important step in planning activities is to identify and prioritize locations needing planning and policy attention. A systematic procedure is needed to identify what (and where) countermeasures should be implemented. There will always be more areas that need support than funds available. Thus, a prioritization system needs to be developed to rank the various competing projects.

Options for focusing efforts can include:

  • Targeting areas in which it is urgent to act because the benefits would be considerable.
  • Identifying areas with highest actual or potential bicycle activity but poor conditions seems logical and politically acceptable.
  • Combining bicycle-related projects with other investments (such as maintenance or resurfacing projects). This strategy can save time and money for future projects.
  • Starting with less controversial projects. For example, illumination may come first, as an agreement with the utility company makes it easy to do so right away. A more controversial countermeasure, such as a traffic circle, may have to wait until the political or design issues have been settled.

Priority can be given in terms of geographic scope (and the related commitment of funds):

  • A location with a spatially-specific problem can be targeted.
  • A corridor problem may be evident at several sequential intersections or along the roadside of a corridor; investments may be required throughout the corridor, not just at a single location; fixing one location may not be enough.
  • A targeted-area problem may repeat itself in a neighborhood or other area where conditions are similar throughout. Similar to the corridor problem, the nature of the roadway is such that fixing a spot area may leave other potential areas untreated; the solutions are very likely to be the same all around the neighborhood. A neighborhood or targeted area problem may be common throughout a local area due to unique circumstances such as a large university, commercial or business district, or other neighborhood characteristic.
  • An entire jurisdiction problem is common to an entire city, county, or state and is usually caused by an undesirable practice such as failing to routinely install bicycle paths or marked roadway facilities for bicyclists or failing to provide streetlights. Once it has been determined that a problem is one of these types, the next step is to determine whether the appropriate solution is an operational/construction, general design, or an education/enforcement approach. These approaches should usually be coupled with a policy change to ensure that the improvement is institutionalized.

Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS)

Finally, a more systematic way of ranking priorities is to develop a numerical scoring system. Two examples include the use of Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS) or Bicycle Compatibility Index (BCI) methods, which can determine areas, where bicycle levels of service are insufficient. BLOS/BCI models can focus on intersection crossings or road segments. A BLOS model describes in quantitative terms what the bicyclist experiences qualitatively.

BLOS/BCI variables for road segments include:

  • Presence or absence of bicycle facilities
  • Width and quality of the facilities
  • Separation of the facility from moving motor vehicle traffic
  • Volume and speed of adjacent motor vehicle traffic
  • Percent of traffic volume that includes heavy trucks or other large vehicles
  • Width of adjacent street/number of travel lanes
  • Accessibility of adjacent land uses

Roadways with a better (lower) BLOS score are more attractive (and usually safer) for bicyclists.

More information about the BCI and BLOS can be found in the following FHWA publications:

The PBIC Video Library offers several videos on bicycle level of service developed by the Florida Department of Transportation: