The Tennessee Department of Transportation adopted a “multimodal access” policy in 2015, but recognized that the policy alone would have limited impact without a more comprehensive approach to improving safety for everyone. Since then, TDOT has taken steps to update its practices across the department to improve safety and access for people walking, biking, and taking transit, bringing a Complete Streets approach into all of the internal machinery that makes the agency run. Many of the changes TDOT has made could be replicated or adapted by other states.
As suburban and urban areas infill, more bicyclists and pedestrians may use arterial corridors, and conflict with motor vehicles and resulting crashes can increase. When residents demand protection from traffic dangers to create more walkable, livable neighborhoods, state DOTs are increasingly called on to shift their focus from exclusively measuring the level of service provided to drivers, to designing for the safety and accessibility of pedestrians and cyclists.
A pair of new reports examines how the design of large vehicles—such as fire trucks, garbage and recycling vehicles, and freight trucks—impacts traffic fatalities in cities. These types of vehicles have a disproportionate impact on urban roadway safety for all users. However, vehicle design changes and new technology could significantly reduce that impact.
In the last decade a number of project development and design guides, such as ITE’s “Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares,” NACTO’s “Urban Street Design Guide,” and city design guide manuals, have emerged. A new article by Eric Dumbaugh of Florida Atlantic University and Michael King of BuroHappold Engineering, reviews these updated practices. The article finds four general principles of livable streets engineering.
Perhaps nowhere is the conflict between mobility and livability more apparent than along arterials. One problem in improving livability is that, while practitioners have multiple well-established standards for mobility, they have none for livability. Since “what gets measured, gets managed,” livability tends to go unmanaged. In many cases we have simply built for mobility, with unfortunate results for areas along and near arterials. Researchers from the University of Denver are trying to better understand what factors contribute to livability.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report addressing the recent increase in deaths and injuries among pedestrians and bicycle users. The report outlined the causes, responses from transportation agencies, and remaining challenges to address the disparity in crash trends between car drivers and those using non-motorized transportation. The report also acknowledges historical road design practices as a major contributor to current safety trends.
On August 20 the Federal Highway Administration posted a new page on its website. The title, Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions, belies the importance of the clarifications FHWA is trying to make. The page addresses more than bicycle and pedestrian matters. It points out that federal funding or rules do not prohibit good road design for all modes, even if it varies from the standards used for decades.
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.
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.