-Wide bicycle lanes and sidewalks with adequate separation from vehicular traffic
-Bike parking and storage infrastructure (including bike sharing stations)
-Safe, signalized intersections and crossings for pedestrians and bicyclists
-Pedestrian overpasses and underpasses to prevent the need to cross roads
-Barriers or medians (including green infrastructure options) to separate active and motorized transportation
-High-visibility signage for pedestrians and bicyclists
-Shared-use paths that are ADA accessible
How it Helps
Expanding bicycle and pedestrian transportation infrastructure can reduce vehicle emissions by shifting short vehicle trips to cycling or walking. However, sidewalks and bike paths should still be adequately separated from congested roadways to ensure that cyclists and pedestrians do not experience increased exposure to traffic-related air pollution and excessive noise levels. Increased segregation from motorized and non-motorized transit will also provide safety benefits to vulnerable road users by decreasing the incidence of traffic violence. This is a relatively inexpensive climate-friendly approach to discourage car use and promote more active lifestyles, which can further prevent the onset of diseases, improve health outcomes, and prevent costly health care visits. Additionally, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can expose individuals to more parks and other green space which has numerous health benefits, such as improved mental health functioning and reduced stress levels.3 Planners and architects should also consider introducing low impact development (LID) design strategies when modifying bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. This approach can minimize impervious surfaces, such as concrete, and preserve naturally vegetated areas in order to minimize runoff and reduce pollution. 4
Even though increased bicycling and walking is one of the most cost-effective strategies to decrease vehicle emissions and improve the transportation system, cities still tend to underinvest in this strategy. However, increasing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure has been shown to result in significant economic benefits from reducing air pollution and improving health outcomes through increased physical activity. One way to get the funds needed to expand walking and cycling infrastructure is to integrate active mobility strategies into existing transportation plans and designs.5 Furthermore, public and private sector partnerships can be a source of financing, especially if it makes their organization or entity more competitive. For example, hospitals and universities with greater active transportation options can attract more employees or visitors.
Urban planners and transportation experts need to consider population demographics and other factors to ensure that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can connect populations to high activity areas.6 Some infrastructure choices should also be population specific, such as ensuring neighborhoods with a high proportion of children have safe sidewalks and bike paths to get to nearby schools. Additionally, neighborhoods with a high percentage of older adults should incorporate handicap accessible sidewalks that are at least the minimum width and contain ramps. To create a highly connected active transportation network, the infrastructure should also be connected to public transit options, job opportunities, grocery stores, health care offices, and other community services.
Expanding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure can improve social cohesion and address equity and social justice concerns.7 Unfortunately, many disadvantaged or underrepresented populations—such as low-income or minority communities—tend to be left out of transportation planning and have less access to safe sidewalks, bike paths, and public transit services. Since these populations are less likely to travel by personal vehicle, they need to have access to these resources.
1) New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan
NYC’s Pedestrian Safety Report and Action Plan examined over 7,000 pedestrian accidents and identified a set of actions to be undertaken by the Department of Transportation. These include installing pedestrian countdown signals at intersections, implementing safety pilot programs, and other actions.
2) Superblocks in Barcelona
The city of Barcelona developed a ‘Superblock’ urban design concept, and within each superblock contains green streets that are closed to most vehicular traffic. Therefore, walking and biking are the primary forms of transport, and the areas have experienced improved air quality, less noise pollution, and greater rates of physical activity. Although there was some pushback from the community over implementing these designs, the city council has focused on fostering equality, and the community has since welcomed the positive changes that superblocks have brought.
3) California’s Active Transportation Program (ATP)
California’s Active Transportation Program (ATP) was implemented to encourage road users to participate in more active forms of transportation. Since its introduction, the ATP has funded over 800 active transportation projects across the state, and over half of them are Safe Routes to Schools projects.