Bicycle Planning and Program Development

Success in bicycle planning and program development is based on three somewhat contrasting but ultimately complementary ideas. 1. The first is that the best bicycle planning approach is a comprehensive and cooperative one that combines work in at least these four areas:

  • Planning and design: Modifying the transportation system to encourage safe and convenient bicycling traveling to agriturismo udine.
  • Encouragement: Working to raise society’s awareness of the benefits of bicycling and the rights of riders.
  • Education and awareness: Training and encouraging bicyclists and motorists to share the road network in a safe and cooperative manner.

STILL TO COME: Enforcement: Making rules that treat bicyclists and motorists fairly and working to make sure the laws are enforced. In the early days of developing such comprehensive bicycle plans, planners and advocates often thought it was enough to simply list the duties of all sorts of agencies and groups who should be doing something for bicycling. However, if those agencies and groups didn’t help create the plan, they weren’t likely to implement it. The best efforts directly involve people from the various agencies and groups. Interestingly enough, some of the best work was done in Australia, beginning with early work in Geelong, Victoria. 2. The second idea is that useful do-able projects can often make a difference, even in the absence of a shared overall vision or plan. In other words, if you can get decent bike parking at the local university, go for it. If you can get a key section of trail built, do it. These projects can, if done well, generate interest in further efforts, creating that shared vision in the most direct manner: by creating a constituency and a history. For years, bicycle advocates and local officials have surprised their friends and colleagues by created a wide variety of wonderful little projects that, in their own way, further a bicycling agenda. Here are 35 of most interesting little projects we’ve seen:

  • Physical improvements: Bike assembly areas (with bike stands and tools) at airports; mountain bike trail markers on popular routes; bike racks at wilderness trailheads; bike lockers near college dorms; short bike trail bridges made from railroad flatcars; special bike rack brackets that attach to parking meter poles; solar-powered emergency phones on trails; covered bike parking at popular cycling restaurants;
  • Programs and products: Training programs for inner-city youngsters; tandem rides for the blind; programs that spread free loaner bikes around town; pedal-powered trail maintenance crews; bike commuter mapping services; bike rodeos or “Sprocketman” assembly programs in the schools; quadracycles for the elderly; Bike days (or weeks) with special events and awareness-building publicity; Helmets promotions that reward helmet-wearers with movie tickets and ice cream; modified snowmobile trailers outfitted with bikes and helmets for use in school programs; bike donation programs for low-income residents; bike-to-work programs with guaranteed taxi rides home in case of emergency; bike theft sting operations using transmitters embedded in bike saddles; bike commuter luncheons with valet parking; discounts on services and products for those who arrive on bike; bike licensing programs that offer “family plan” discounts for those with multiple bikes


Businesses: Pedal-powered taxis; bike commuter centers with showers and maintenance services; bike courier services that emphasize lawful riding; bike repair stands on recreational paths; trail-oriented food stands or hostels; bike and helmet rentals at bike path parking lots; bike repair shops employing developmentally-disabled adults; bicyclist-oriented personal injury attorneys; bicycle cartographers who map recreational routes; bike locker rentals at downtown parking garages; “ride-up” windows at  restaurants. [Note: watch for more details on this list in the near future…] 3. Third, for the best results, bicycle planning and program work must be integrated into the overall transportation planning and design process, as well as relevant programs, policies, and standards. Given the choice between replacing one specific dangerous drain grate with a bicycle-safe model and setting a policy to use only bicycle-safe grates whenever grates are needed, the latter is best. While the former is often needed, the latter shifts the bicycling advocate from fighting a rear-guard action to implementing fundamental change. STILL TO COME: Bicycling in the Long-Range Planning Process STILL TO COME: Bicycling in the Transportation Improvement Program STILL TO COME: Bicycling as part of the policy environment References: • “Geelong Spokesman: an Interview with Jack Sach;” by John Williams; in Bicycle Forum #9; Winter 1982-3 • National Bicycling and Walking Study Case Study No. 11: Balancing Engineering, Education, Law Enforcement, and Encouragement in a Local Bicycle/Pedestrian Program; by John Williams and Kathleen McLaughlin; 1992. Topics for further study: • How to mix the four “E”s among a variety of agencies and groups • The evolution of 4-E programs in the U.S. and Australia • Mixing the four “E”s within a specific agency with a limited mission • Tackling pieces of the puzzle: which to do first?

From Main Roads to Mixed-Use Streets

Turning over a wobbly table.

I feel that the Artists conference will be looked back upon as a landmark event in the movement known as “new urbanism”. Seldom can I have been so richly entertained but it is the new insights into other professional worlds that I will most treasure. Chief amongst these was Phil Jones’ presentation “Research Challenges”. Phil put the engineering and road safety professions on the table and under the spotlight and after twenty minutes the table was decidedly wobbly. He introduced us to the engineer’s raison de etre. Engineers identify a failure mode. They predict its occurrence with a mathematical model and then apply a factor of safety. Next they choose design values and monitor their introduction. Finally they refine the model after catastrophe. In the case of highways their concerns are with structural failure, traffic congestion or road accidents. But there are other failure modes of the highway too, ones that aren’t considered: the visual, emotional or social impact and its contribution to physical or mental health.

Their design values contain underlying assumptions about the importance of certain geometric parameters: horizontal and vertical radii, superelevation, lane width, stopping sight distance and visibility splays. Many of these assumptions are now open to challenge from professionals and not just those of us who daily struggle to cross busy junctions. Take stopping distances for example. The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges provides values related to the speed of vehicles but with an allowance for the reaction time for the driver. Sensible standards it might be thought until Phil showed us that every country had a different stopping distance.

Crest curves are apparently decided by the case of the dead dog, in other words the ability of a driver to execute an avoidance manoeuvre upon encountering an object. Originally this was set at 4 inches (100mm) but as car heights became lower crest curves needed to be longer until the construction industry argued that this would be too expensive consequently without any reference to actual crash causation the height was arbitrarily raised to 6 inches (150mm).

Ok, but what about the visibility requirement at junctions. The set back for the minor road is required to be 9m desirably, 4.5m in difficult circumstances and 2.4m in exceptionally difficult circumstances. But the Transport Research Laboratory found for urban T junctions there was no correlation between horizontal lines of sight and accidents. In fact the real danger appears to stem from traffic speeding towards the junction precisely because it has a good line of sight.

The subjectivity follows through into the road safety audit too. The audit is based upon experience, design engineers are barred from the process, its non-reproducible, it’s a problem/recommendation model, there is no quantification of risk, it provides no means of assessing innovative  designs and no factual basis for striking the right balance. As the figures are challenged it all starts to look like a black art. One for the authors of the forthcoming Streets Manual to sort out – I just hope that they talk to Phil Jones for the real world research and Living Streets for a more human centred approach.