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Expand and Improve Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure

Expanding and improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure means ensuring that a network of infrastructure is in place to make bicycling or walking viable modes of travel. It also means ensuring that the infrastructure is safe and comfortable to use. This approach can promote health by providing added opportunity for physical activity from transportation. This strategy is related to and supportive of the Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets, and Encouraging Bicycling and Walking programs. Elements of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure may include

  • Bicycle lanes
  • Bicycle parking and storage facilities
  • Curb extensions
  • Intersection treatments for bicycles – bicycle boxes, stop bars, lead signal indicators
  • Landscaping
  • Paved shoulders
  • Pedestrian- and bicyclist-scale lighting
  • Pedestrian overpass or underpass
  • Separation/buffers
  • Shared-lane markings (“sharrows”)
  • Sidewalks
  • Signage, especially high-visibility signage
  • Signalized pedestrian crossings and mid-block crossings
  • Trails or shared-use paths

Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure location and type can affect health outcomes. For example, bicyclists and pedestrians who use pathways next to heavily congested roadways could experience increased exposure to vehicle emissions. A benefit of bicycle infrastructure that is physically separated from vehicles is that it can help increase bicycle use, especially by less confident riders, and support safe travel in some applications (Pucher and Buehler, 2012; Lusk, 2011).

Related Transportation and Heath Tool Indicators

How can this strategy result in health benefits?

  • Address chronic disease (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
  • Improve access to health-supportive resources
  • Improve equity
  • Increase physical activity
  • Improve safety
  • Reduce human exposure to transportation-related emissions
  • Reduce motor vehicle-related injuries and fatalities
  • Reduce transportation's contribution to air pollution

How has this worked in practice?

New York City Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan

To develop the New York City Pedestrian Safety Report and Action Plan, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) evaluated more than 7,000 records of crashes that resulted in serious injuries or fatalities to pedestrians. The purpose was to identify underlying causes of the crashes. NYCDOT would use that information to help develop strategies to reduce traffic fatalities involving pedestrians. Accomplishments resulting from the plan during 2010-2011 included

·installing countdown pedestrian signals at 1,500 intersections,

·retrofitting 60 miles of streets to improve pedestrian safety,

·revising 20 intersections for pedestrian safety on major two-way streets,

·launching a pilot program to test neighborhood 20 miles-per-hour zones, and

·implementing a pilot program to improve visibility at left turns along avenues in Manhattan.

The Action Plan also prompted NYCDOT to launch a pedestrian safety campaign in 2010 using grant funding.

Where can I learn more?

The FHWA Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety, the NHTSA Pedestrians, and the NHTSA Bicycles websites provide extensive resources that address promotion, awareness, enforcement, and infrastructure improvements (and other techniques) to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety. The Bicycle & Pedestrian Program of the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Human Environment provides extensive bicycle and pedestrian resources and guidance.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center site offers case studies, research guides, and other information related to pedestrian and bicycle safety, engineering, education, and enforcement.

The Smart Growth America National Complete Streets Coalition site includes fundamental information about Complete Streets, support for implementing Complete Streets, fact sheets, and news updates.

Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices summarizes successful policy and implementation practices based on examination of 30 communities across the country.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide provides cities with state-of-the-practice solutions that can help create streets that are safe and enjoyable for bicyclists.

The AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, 4th Edition provides information and guidelines on how to accommodate bicycle travel and operations in most riding environments.

The AASHTO Guide for Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities, 1st Edition provides information and guidelines for pedestrian accommodations.

Evidence base

Active Living Research (ALR). Do all children have places to be active? Disparities in access to physical activity environments in racial and ethnic minority and lower-income communities. Princeton: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; 2011.

Bassett D, Pucher J, Buehler R, Thompson D, Crouter S. Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America and Australia. Journal of Physical Activity & Health 2008;5(6):795-814.

Brownson RC, Housemann RA, Brown DR, Jackson-Thompson J, King AC, Malone BR, Sallis JF. Promoting physical activity in rural communities: Walking trail access, use, and effects. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2000;18:235-241.

Buehler R, Pucher R, Merom D, Bauman A. Active travel in Germany and the USA: Contributions of daily walking and cycling to physical activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011;40(9):241-250.

Bushell MA, Poole BW, Zegeer CV, Rodriguez DA. Costs for pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure improvements: A resource for researchers, engineers, planners, and the general public. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Highway Safety Research Center; 2013.

Chen L, Chen C, Srinivasan R, McKnight CE, Ewing R, Roe M. Evaluating the safety effects of bicycle lanes in New York City. American Journal of Public Health 2012;102(6):1120–7.

Federal Highway Administration. BIKESAFE Countermeasure Selection Tool. Washington, DC: FHWA, Office of Safety; 2014.

Federal Highway Administration. PEDSAFE 2013: Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System. Washington, DC: FHWA, Office of Safety; 2013.

Harris MA, Reynolds CC, Winters M, Cripton PA, Shen H, Chipman ML, Cusimano MD, Babul S, Brubacher JR, Friedman SM, Hunte G, Monro M, Vernich L, Teschke K. Comparing the effects of infrastructure on bicycling injury at intersections and non-intersections using a case–crossover design. Injury Prevention 2013;19(5):303–310.

Jacobsen PL. Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling. Injury Prevention 2003;9:205-209.

Lusk AC, Furth PG, Morency P, Miranda-Moreno LF, Willett WC, Dennerlein JT. Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street. Injury Prevention 2011;17(2):131-135.

Lusk AC, Morency P, Miranda-Moreno LF, Willett W C, Dennerlein JT. Bicycle guidelines and crash rates on cycle tracks in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 2013;103(7):1240–1248.

Parker KM, Gustat J, Rice JC. Installation of bicycle lanes and increased ridership in an urban, mixed-income setting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Journal of Physical Activity & Health 2011;8 (Suppl 1):S98-S102.

Pucher J, Buehler R, Bassett DR, Dannenberg AL. Walking and cycling to health: A comparative analysis of city, state, and international data. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100(10):1986–1992.

Pucher J, Buehler R. City Cycling. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; 2012.

Pucher J, Dill J, Handy S. Infrastructure, programs, and policies to increase bicycling: an international review. Preventive Medicine 2010;50(Suppl 1):S106-25.

Reynolds CC, Harris MA, Teschke K, Cripton PA, Winters M. The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature. Environmental Health 2009;8:47.

Teschke K, Harris MA, Reynolds CC, Winters M, Babul S, Chipman M, Cusimano MD, Brubacher JR, Hunte G, Friedman SM, Monro M, Shen H, Vernich L, Cripton PA. Route infrastructure and the risk of injuries to bicyclists: a case-crossover study. American Journal of Public Health 2012;102(12):2336-43.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking. Bicycling and Walking in the United States: 2014 Benchmarking Report; 2014.

Wilson LA, Giles-Corti B, Burton NW, Giskes K, Haynes M, Turrell G. The association between objectively measured neighborhood features and walking in middle-aged adults. American Journal of Health Promotion 2011;25(4):e12-21.

World Health Organization. Pedestrian safety: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2013.

Updated: Monday, September 30, 2019
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