Cities have rapidly implemented new street design and management strategies in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic. These emerging best practices can provide a roadmap for other cities to follow as they respond to current needs, reopen their economies, and adjust to the more permanent changes to daily life.
The 85th percentile rule in speed limit setting—an arbitrary but longstanding convention—has begun to weaken in recent years, with new guidance now allowing for lower speeds. FHWA’s USLIMITS2, for example, allows for speeds down to the 50th percentile in certain cases. Now there’s a growing push to take observed vehicle speed out of the speed limit equation entirely.
The move away from “stroads”—urban streets designed to rural road standards—received new support this month, as Massachusetts and California DOTs endorsed new design guidance that treats urban streets as livable places as well as multimodal transportation facilities.
In support of its goal to triple walking, biking and transit travel by 2030, the Massachusetts DOT has issued a Healthy Transportation Policy Initiative with several implementation steps.
At the March AASHTO meeting, U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood urged the attendees to update their guidance for bicycle facilities such as cycle tracks, also known as protected or separated bike lanes. Last week FHWA issued a task order proposal request to study the safety of cycle tracks and issue recommendations on their design and implementation.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that U.S. DOT will be issuing its own standards for roadway design to meet the needs of all users, but especially bicyclists and pedestrians. Reactions indicated that some felt LaHood was showing impatience with a lack of suitable standards by AASHTO to meet the needs of non-motorized users.
As the popularity of transportation bicycling continues to grow, traffic engineers, planners, and lawmakers are recognizing the need to incorporate bicycle-specific infrastructure into intersection designs. Bicycle-specific signals are being used in 16 U.S. cities, and the signals are being included in traffic control manuals. NACTO has excellent guidance for how and where to install these signals.
At the first national conference of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), city transportation and elected officials expressed dismay that cities may be on their own in moving forward with innovative plans and policies. Attendees were frsutrated that neither cities nor transportation overall got much attention during the recent campaign season.
Many U.S. cities are including bicycle and pedestrian facilities in their transportation planning. However, these same cities often find existing design guides do not provide the set of options they need for non-motorized infrastructure, complicating project implementation and reducing the effectiveness of the end product. This gap began to be filled in 2011, when the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) released the first edition of its Urban Bikeway Design Guide. The group updated the guide this month.
During the National Bike Summit, and the following day at a special session sponsored by FTA and NACTO, local officials and advocates heard about bike sharing best practices, research, funding opportunities, and updates from existing programs.