Cities across the country are restricting motor vehicle use on some streets and reallocating road space to give residents more space to move by foot and bicycle while still maintaining appropriate distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many cities are finding that residents using active transportation face two problems: drivers speeding on the empty streets and insufficient space to stay six feet apart on sidewalks, paths, and trails.
From the UK comes more evidence that improving cycling infrastructure has the potential to advance health. A new paper in the BMJ concludes that while commuting by bicycle has more risk of injury than commuting by non-active modes, active commuting offers substantial benefits to health. Lowering the currently elevated risk of injury to cyclists by improving cycling conditions may encourage more people to commute by active modes and improve the health of the overall population as well as reducing emissions.
Bicycle Level of Traffic Stress, a system for rating bicycle routes from low- to high-stress based on factors like vehicle speed and separation from traffic, has been gaining traction nationwide as an approach for identifying needed investments, evaluating the overall completeness of bicycle networks, and even making project ranking and selection decisions. However, a recent study indicates parents’ perspectives about “low-” and “high-stress” environments don’t always align with transportation practitioners when it comes to the safety of their children.
The pressing need for safer active transportation infrastructure cannot be overlooked anymore, with 2019 being the deadliest year of the century for pedestrians and cyclists. Although federal spending on active transportation increased from 1990 to 2017, equity advocates claim that these investments are not serving all communities. A recent study that looked at the intersection of bicycle infrastructure and socioeconomic status of residents in 22 U.S. cities strengthens this claim.
Most efforts to increase bike and walk accessibility focus on physical access. But the built environment is not the full story. A new study finds that certain attributes of the social environment also greatly affect the perception of walkability, especially among people of color.
A new analytical approach could help identify streets most in need of improved facilities to better connect cycling networks. In Shanghai, researchers used high-resolution dockless bike-share trip data, and percolation theory, to identify clusters of cycling activity and the bottlenecks between these clusters.
The Accessibility Observatory at the University of Minnesota recently released a one-of-a-kind report that ranks the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas (by population) according to accessibility to jobs via bicycle. The report is a product of a multi-year study, where the researchers analyzed land use and transportation systems to measure accessibility to destinations via different modes. The researchers also incorporated traffic stress and bicycle comfort in measuring accessibility.
In an attempt to meet CO2 reduction targets, both mandatory and self-administered, cities worldwide are attempting to overhaul their transport infrastructure to limit private vehicle use and encourage more active forms of travel (i.e., walking and biking). While the common assumption among planners is that greater rates walking and biking will lead to subsequent decreases in driving, there is in fact very limited evidence to suggest that this is the case. A new study from New Zealand, however, may shed light on the matter.
The recently passed Wisconsin state budget contains an amendment that removes the ability of local communities and the state DOT to use eminent domain for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. This provision, added anonymously at the last minute and passed by the legislature without discussion, will make it much more difficult to construct or even plan for paths and sidewalks that connect destinations and facilitate active transportation.
A recently released report from the City of St. Paul, MN, noted a jump in observed bicycle use after installation of bike lanes. This observation suggests that upgrading or adding infrastructure for bikes has a positive impact on attracting new riders. Other cities have similarly found that mode split and overall bicycle use numbers collected before and after infrastructure investments show important changes to both the safety of the corridor and willingness to use the street for active transportation.