FHWA’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Strategic Agenda

ASLA 2010 Professional Analysis & Planning Honor Award. Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) Master Plan / image: Interface Studio LLC

In September 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published the Strategic Agenda for Pedestrians and Bicycle Transportation. The report updates DOT’s 1994 National Bicycling and Walking Study and informs FHWA’s focus for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure for the next three to five years. The Strategic Agenda reinforces FHWA’s commitment to innovate on pedestrian and bicycle transportation issues by encouraging multimodal transportation options that are practical, safe, and efficient.

The Strategic Agenda was developed by US DOT practitioners and experts, with assistance from a Technical Working Group (TWG), pedestrian and bicycle practitioners, and the public. Intensive public involvement and research were used to develop the Agenda’s “core areas of focus, key consideration issues, opportunities and potential actions.” The Strategic Agenda identifies two main pedestrian and bicycle goals being pursued by FHWA:

  • To achieve an 80% reduction in pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in 15 years and zero pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries in the next 20 to 30 years.
  • To increase the percentage of short trips represented by bicycling and walking to 30% by the year 2025. Short trips are defined as trips of 5 miles or less for bicyclists and 1 mile or less for pedestrians.

Subsequent sections of the Strategic Agenda outline the specific action steps needed to achieve these goals. These actions are categorized into four organizational frameworks that are also presented as goals: Networks, Safety, Equity, and Trips.

Networks are interconnected and accessible pedestrian and bicycle facilities, including sidewalks, on-street bike lanes, and trails. The Strategic Agenda identifies a network goal of achieving safe, accessible, comfortable, and connected multimodal networks in communities throughout the U.S.

The goal for Safety is lofty: achieve an 80% reduction in pedestrian and bicycle facilities and serious injuries within 15 years and zero pedestrian and bicycle facilities and serious injuries in the next 20 to 30 years. Safety considerations include space for nonmotorized travelers, direct and logical routes, clear signs and markings, adequate signal times, good visibility, roadway conditions, traffic characteristics, and urban design elements.

Equity in transportation is presented as accessible, affordable, and reliable transportation that meets the needs of all community members, particularly populations that are traditionally underserved. The goal advocates an infusion of equitable practices throughout the transportation planning, design, funding, implementation, and evaluation process.

Trips are movements from one location to another (origin and destination) that are recorded by mode and duration. Pedestrian and bicycle trips are categorized as “short trips” defined as 5 miles or less for bicyclists and 1 mile or less for pedestrians. The Strategic Agenda has identified a Trip goal that includes increasing the number of pedestrian and bicycle short trips to 30% of all short trips by 2025.

ASLA 2014 Student Communications Honor Award. Adaptive Streets: Strategies for Transforming the Urban Right-of-Way / image: Mike Schwindeller, Student ASLA; Jordan Lewis, Student ASLA, University of Washington

Actions described under each goal are “specific, time-bound actions related to policy, capacity building, data and research activities.” The actions are prioritized, organized according to an anticipated timeline for realization (e.g. immediate, near term, and mid-term actions), and then categorized by activity. The four action activities described are:

  1. Capacity Building – providing guidance and educational resources that increase the ability of transportation professionals and advocates to plan, design, fund, build, maintain, and operate bicycle and pedestrian networks.
  2. Policy – clearly defining principles, requirements, and desired outcomes for Federal agencies, States, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), localities, transit agencies, and other entities on the use of Federal resources toward advancing bicycle and pedestrian transportation.
  3. Data – working with partner agencies to define, collect, assemble, store, maintain, interpret, and use information about bicycle and pedestrian safety and system usage.
  4. Research – working with partner agencies to identify and investigate issues that affect bicycle and pedestrian safety and system usage.

The Strategic Agenda includes over ninety goal actions: 14 Policy, 9 Data, 34 Research, and 39 Capacity Building. The Networking goal has the most action steps (36) followed by Safety (30); Equity and Trips goals have 15 action steps each. Some actions, such as training, partnering (with other agencies, ITE, AASHTO, etc.), and research opportunities, are common to each goal. Other actions are exclusive to one goal.

Some of the more notable actions proposed in the Strategic Agenda include the following:

  • Providing interim approvals under the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) for new traffic control devices for research and experimentation purposes (N9).
  • Creating of a Center for Pedestrian and Bicycle Excellence that focuses on implementation and innovation at the State DOT level (N39).
  • Adopting standards for the design of Federal surface transportation projects for safe and adequate accommodation for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists (N25).
  • Establishing a new Transportation Pooled Fund Study to support State, MPO, and local pedestrian and bicycle experimentation with an evaluation of projects that promote design flexibility (N20).
  • Promoting design flexibility relating to pedestrian and bicycle networks and the development of a resource used by State and local agencies to determine the “most appropriate type bicycle facilities to use based on user and roadway characteristics” (N7).
  • “Right-sizing” the environmental review process for pedestrian and bicycle projects and evaluating the level-of-service (LOS) methodologies (N2).
  • Obligating the remaining Safe Routes to School (SRTS) administrative funds within the next five years to support activities to meet the safety goal in the Strategic Agenda (S4).
  • Developing policies and strategies to reduce vehicle speeds on multimodal corridors (S23).
  • Promoting the four E’s (Education, Enforcement, Engineering, Emergency response) approach to address safety issues, including Vision Zero policies (S24).
  • Encouraging MPOs and States to address equity in the planning process (E3).
  • Developing guidance and case studies for incorporating equity metrics into Federal, State, regional, and local pedestrian and bicycle performance measure programs (E9).
  • Educating agencies on funding for pedestrian and bicycle projects that advance equity, connectivity, and Ladders of Opportunity principles (E5).
  • Establishing the Transportation Monitoring Analysis System (TMAS) as a national repository of pedestrian and bicycle volume data to track trends, conduct research, and develop comprehensive performance measures for non-motorized transportation modes (T6).
  • Working with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to implement the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promoting Walking and Walkable Communities (T7) is a near term action.
ASLA 2012 Professional Analysis & Planning Honor Award. SW Montgomery Green Street: Connecting the West Hills to the Willamette River / image: Nevue Ngan Associates

Other sections of the Strategic Agenda discuss the historical context of FHWA’s pedestrian and bicycle guidance and funding over the years. This section also contains a great overview of legislation and policies pertaining to pedestrian and bicycle transportation, starting with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991 and ending with the newly minted Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015. There is also a short list of significant actions taken by the USDOT and FHWA in support of pedestrian and bicycle transportation between 2010 and 2016. Research and training opportunities (including links to programs that provide funding for pedestrian and bicycle research) are also discussed.

The take-home message of the Strategic Agenda is FHWA’s commitment to achieving real results for bicycle and pedestrian transportation. Through the combined efforts of research and data, the agency hopes to encourage State and local governments to develop new, creative solutions to building pedestrian and bicycle networks that are safe and provide equitable access to jobs and essential services.

by Christine Colley, ASLA, Transportation PPN Officer

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