Communities are asking that streets do more to accommodate all transportation modes. To better accommodate bicyclists and improve safety for nonmotorized users, communities want to see motor vehicle speeds managed and reduced on their neighborhood streets; streets made more accessible to persons with disabilities; streetscapes that are more attractive and inviting to all users; and more equitable distribution of infrastructural investments. This chapter discusses some of the issues related to setting priorities and implementing needed bicycling improvements.
Getting started can be daunting—the needs are overwhelming, resources are scarce, and staff time is limited. Every community is faced with the questions of “Where do I start?” and “How do I get going?” While it is not the intent of this guide to provide an exhaustive discussion of implementation strategies, some direction is helpful.
Since all bicycling needs cannot be addressed immediately, project priorities need to be established. Creating priorities requires attention to several program objectives:
- Safety. One objective should be to reduce the number and severity of crashes involving bicyclists. Accomplishing this would require: (1) a good understanding of the types of crashes that are occurring in your community, (2) a good understanding of where crashes are occurring (i.e., intersections, driveways, etc.), and (3) application of appropriate countermeasures to address these crashes. The information provided in this guide is intended to help select the countermeasures that would be most effective in addressing selected types of crash problems.
- Access. A second objective should be to create an accessible community where all bicyclists can reach their desired destinations. Typically, this begins with identifying corridors frequented by bicyclists and how these corridors can be accessed with connecting streets, as well as determining if the main corridor streets need improvements. It is also important to consider corridors that do not have a high volume of bicyclists, often because existing roadway conditions are a deterrent to travel. These routes may offer potential for increased access.
- Aesthetics. It is not enough to simply have a safe, accessible community—it should also be an aesthetically pleasing place to live and work. Landscaping, lighting, parking, and other facilities help create a “livable community” and should be considered when making bicycling improvements.
- Equity. Issues of equity as it relates to investing in bicycle infrastructure are becoming increasingly important. Lower income areas that have been traditionally underserved in terms of public and private investment, and where car ownership is typically low, are likely to have a higher number of current or potential bicyclists. Taking equity into consideration is another means for prioritizing bicycle improvements.
To create a safe community for bicycling, take one step at a time. Along main corridors, check to see that there is adequate space for riding, given the speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic at both midblock and intersection locations. Improvements are installed block by block and intersection by intersection. Individually, these locations do not create a safe, livable community. Collectively, they create the infrastructure needed for a great place to work, play, and conduct business. In other words, the whole bicycling system is greater than the sum of its parts.
Be sensitive to community concerns. Public participation will build community pride and buy-in that is essential to long-term success. Some of the problems identified in this guide will not be an issue in your community and some of the tools may be perceived as infeasible (at least initially). There probably will be measures that your community puts on hold for a few years until a community consensus is reached. Conversely, there probably will be measures that your community would like to pursue that are not even mentioned in this planning guide. There may also be measures that can be installed on a temporary or interim basis to determine community acceptance.
It is important to produce immediate results that people can see. For example, the addition of bike lanes and/or the removal of parking along a street are highly visible, while a transportation plan is a paper document that may never be seen or appreciated by the public. To keep its momentum, a program needs some “quick wins.” They create the sense that something is happening and that government is responsive.
Bicycling (and pedestrian) projects and programs can be funded by Federal, State, local, private, or any combination of sources. Communities that are most successful at securing funds often have the following ingredients of success:
- Consensus on Priorities. Community consensus on what should be accomplished increases the likelihood of successfully funding a project. A divided or uninvolved community will find it more difficult to raise funds than a community that gives broad support to bicycle (and pedestrian) improvement programs.
- Dedication. Funding a project is hard work, and generally, there are no shortcuts. It takes a great amount of effort by many people using multiple funding sources to complete a project successfully. Be aggressive and apply for many different community grants. While professional grant-writing specialists can help, they are no substitute for community involvement and one-on-one contact (the “people part” of fundraising).
- Spark Plugs. Successful projects typically have one or more “can do” people in the right place at the right time who provide the energy and vision to see a project through. Many successful “can do” politicians get their start as successful neighborhood activists.
- Leveraging. Funds, once secured, should always be used to leverage additional funds. For example, a grant from a local foundation could be used as matching funds for a Transportation Alternatives (TA) project. The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) is one provision of the most recent surface transportation spending program called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21). More information can be found from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy or the Federal Highway Administration.
There are many ways to accomplish projects. Be creative; take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Here are some suggestions:
“Piggybacking” bicycling (and pedestrian) improvements onto capital projects are one of the best ways to make major improvements in a community. For example, when a street is resurfaced, consider whether lanes should be narrowed or reduced when the street is re-striped to provide for bike lanes, wide curb lanes, or simply more space for cyclists. Landscaping, lighting, and other amenities can be included in road projects, utility projects, and private construction in public rights-of-way (e.g., cable television, high-speed fiber optics, etc.). To accomplish this, there are several things that can be done:
- Contact all state and regional agencies, and local public and private utilities that do work in public rights-of-way. Secure their five-year project plans as well as their long-range plans. Then, work with them to make sure that the streets are restored in the way that works for your city.
- Look internally at all capital projects. Make sure that every opportunity to make improvements is taken advantage of at the time of construction.
- Consider combining small projects with larger capital projects as a way of saving money. Generally, bid prices drop as quantities increase.
Developer Requirements and Incentives
Issues here tend to pertain more to pedestrian activities. For example, developers can be required to install public infrastructure such as sidewalks, extensions of a multi-use path, curb ramps, and traffic signals, or pay an in-lieu fee. In addition, zoning requirements can be written to allow for, or require narrower streets, shorter blocks, and mixed-use development. These infrastructure items benefit bicycling as well. Encouraging developers and community leaders to focus on basic pedestrian and bicycling needs will benefit the community and increase the attractiveness of the developments themselves.
Consider expanding/ initiating annual programs to make small, visible improvements on a regular basis. Examples include improving space for bicyclists on streets where it is poor, or adding space to a link between two areas to improve connectivity. This creates momentum and community support. Several considerations should be made when developing these programs:
- Identify corridors where bicycling takes place and give priority to these locations.
- Consider giving preference to requests from local bicyclists about spot improvements or addressing a crash problem.
- Evaluate your construction or renovation options. Consider having city crews do work requested by residents to provide fast customer service while bidding out some of the staff-generated projects.
Increasingly, public improvements are realized through public/private partnerships. These partnerships can take many forms. Examples include community development corporations, neighborhood organizations, grants from foundations, direct industry support, and involvement of individual citizens. Many public projects, whether they are traffic-calming improvements, street trees, or the restoration of historic buildings, are the result of individual people getting involved and deciding to make a difference. This involvement doesn’t just happen; it needs to be encouraged and supported by local governmental authorities.