Four Nice Touches in U.S. DOT’s New “Mayors’ Challenge” for Bike Safety

Denver Transportation Director Crissy Fanganello, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard in 2014.

pfb logo 100x22

Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets.

There’s a difference between bike-safety warnings that focus on blaming victims and warnings that recommend actual systemic improvements. The launch of a Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx is the good kind of warning.

Yes, it’d be nice if it weren’t being pegged on the dubious claim that biking has gotten more dangerous in the last few years. Also if U.S. DOT were offering any money for cities that take its advice.

That said, there’s a lot to love in this initiative launched Friday. Let’s count a few of the ways.

The feds want cities to measure successful bike trips, not just bad ones.

Austin, Texas.

In many cities, the only times bikes show up in the official statistics is when something goes wrong.

When a person collides with a car or a curb while biking, they enter the public record. When they roll happily back to work after meeting a friend for tacos, they’re invisible to the spreadsheets that drive traffic engineering decisions.

This is the sort of logic that sometimes leads people to the conclusion that on-street bicycle facilities decrease road safety. What they’re actually doing is increasing bike usage, which in turn is the most important way to increase bike safety. When our primary metric of biking success is the number of people biking rather than the number of people dying, we’re making our cities better across the board, not merely safer.

Foxx’s lead recommendation that cities “count the number of people walking and biking” shouldn’t be revolutionary. But if every city did, it would be.

When biking is done right, it becomes part of aging-friendly cities.

Indianapolis, Indiana.

Little-known fact: Biking is increasing seven times faster among people ages 60-79 than it is among people 18-39.

You can’t create a city that’s fun to get old in without making mobility easy for people who get around using wheelchairs, canes, and other aids. But getting older is about much more than just acquiring disabilities. And as millions of older Americans are aware, biking is a great way to make your body think it’s still middle-aged. When U.S. DOT writes that “an important step to making streets safe for all is to assess the safety and comprehensiveness of biking and walking networks in your community,” all-ages bikeways are part of the subtext.

U.S. DOT continues to push the bike-friendly NACTO guides.

Image: NACTO.

It’s been more than a year since the feds issued a groundbreaking memo validating the bikeway design guide created by the National Association of City Transportation Officials, and the ripples from that decision keep spreading. One of them is the very first item of Foxx’s advice for how to “use designs appropriate to the context of the street and its uses”:

How do we know we have taken the steps to use appropriate designs?

  • Engineers and planners regularly consult a range of manuals for guidance

The NACTO guide is listed alongside internal FHWA documents, the fourth edition of AASHTO’s Bike Guide and the Institute for Traffic Engineers’ guide to “Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares.”

The FHWA is creating a workbook about how to build on-road bicycle networks through routine resurfacing programs.

Memphis, Tennessee.

Bike infrastructure, even when it’s protected, is mostly just about lane restriping. Street repaving is a perfect opportunity to do that, and the feds are promising a new workbook to help more cities follow the example of places like Memphis and Austin to plan their bike network installation around their paving schedules.

The workbook’s exciting title will be “Workbook for Building On-Road Bicycle Networks through Routine Resurfacing Programs,” and according to USDOT’s page about this recommendation, it’s “coming soon.” To be honest, we are actually sort of excited about this.

You can follow The Green Lane Project on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for its weekly news digest about protected bike lanes.

  • BBnet3000

    The sharrows that killed Hoyt Jacobs are straight out of the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Its alternate title is “throw a bunch of shit at the street and see what sticks”.

  • Max Power

    I sure hope that turning car in the NACTO image stops before he runs over those cyclists.

  • With a properly-designed intersection, drivers will have no problem seeing a cyclist on a cycletrack. That one is good, though a bulb-out might not be a bad addition to enforce being able to clearly see the cyclists and crossing the cycletrack at as close to a right angle as possible.

  • “This is the sort of logic that sometimes leads people to the conclusion
    that on-street bicycle facilities decrease road safety. What they’re
    actually doing is increasing bike usage, which in turn is the most
    important way to increase bike safety.”

    It really should be added that bike facilities “increase and focus bike usage to the areas where the bike facility has been built.” Philly saw this phenomenon. There were more crashes where the bike infra was installed simply because those where the areas the bicyclist felt safest to ride and would concentrate onto those roads over parallel routes that had no bike infra.

    And WHY WHY WHY do you insist on showing the most questionable protected bike infra? I’m sorry but 90% of two-way protected on-street infra is dubious and constantly holding it up as model will do nothing but continue to alienate the “vehicularists” to your cause. I’m not against good protected infra but most of what I see the Green Lane Project hold up model examples would have me looking for alternative routes, just like the Broadway Cycletrack in Seattle had me and most other local cyclists doing.

  • Kevin Love

    I 100% agree. Let’s show good bike infra, not dangerous crap. Good infra that looks like this:

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/cycling-to-school/

    Or like this… note that even the “old, inferior” cycle infra is far, far better than the crap we normally get:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/02/cycling-infrastructure-is-cheaper-to.html

    Or the infra for an urban shopping street like this:

    https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/jodenbreestraat-in-amsterdam-given-back-to-people/

    Another person looks at the same street:

    http://bikeportland.org/2013/06/14/observing-jodenbreestraat-a-lively-shopping-street-in-amsterdam-88446

  • Kevin Love

    Yes, NACTO gives “dangerous by design” infrastructure. In my opinion, the most incompetent part of the NACTO design manual is where they put cycle lanes in the door zone of adjacent parked cars. So that the most dangerous place on the entire road to ride a bike is in the bicycle lane!

    The Dutch CROW bicycle traffic design engineering standards explicitly discourage (“expliciet ontraden”) putting a bike lane next to parked cars. Where this absolutely must happen, there is a minimum buffer of 0.75 metres between the car parking and bike lane to protect people from the door zone. See:

    http://www.fietsberaad.nl/library/repository/bestanden/document000161.pdf

  • More bicycling and walking equals more walking and cycling deaths–no way around it. Nations with developed walk/bike infrastructure (namely cycle track and roundabouts) record fatality rates PER MILE OF TRAVEL about a third of the U.S. (Pucher, Rutgers). The lack of roundabouts and cycle track here does not lend itself to headlong promotion of cycling, it calls for headlong jumping into cycle track and roundabouts. NACTO guidelines are just paper–it is what is on the ground that counts–and Mayor Diblasio’s “0 Roundabout” policy suggests he still does not “get it.” Tony Redington Blog: TonyRVT.blogspot.com

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Anthony Foxx Challenges Mayors to Protect Pedestrians and Cyclists

|
With pedestrian and cyclist deaths accounting for a rising share of U.S. traffic fatalities and Congress not exactly raring to take action, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is issuing a direct challenge to America’s mayors to improve street safety. Yesterday Foxx unveiled the “Mayor’s Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets” at the U.S. Conference of Mayors […]

Meet Your Next Transportation Secretary

|
Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx just accepted President Obama’s nomination to be the next transportation secretary. Before we get into the details of Anthony Foxx’s résumé and policy positions, let’s just take a moment to appreciate this: The White House has nominated a mayor to be secretary of transportation. There is often a wide gulf between […]

U.S. DOT Releases New Guidance to Make Streets Safe for Cycling

|
Last month in Pittsburgh, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx unveiled a new federal initiative aimed at reducing pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Despite declining overall traffic fatalities, people walking and biking are being killed more often on American streets, a disturbing trend that U.S. DOT wants to reverse. Now we’re beginning to see what the feds have in […]

Protected Lanes Are a Great Start — Next Goal Is Low-Stress Bike Networks

|
Michael Andersen blogs for The Green Lane Project, a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. For decades, protected bike lanes were a “missing tool” in American street design. Now that this is changing, bikeway design leaders are identifying a new frontier: low-stress grids. “Separated bike lanes are […]