February 28, 2013

Martha Roskowski

A blog post today from Secretary LaHood, head of the US Department of Transportation, was very interesting. In recent remarks to AASHTO (the coalition of state departments of transportation) he spoke of a new effort:

From our nation’s business leaders to the transportation professionals of AASHTO, America has made its support for foot-friendly transportation clear. The problem is?we don’t have modern roadway standards to go along with the complete streets a competitive community needs.

So today, I?m proud to say that DOT is looking to create a standard guide for how we will build modern streets that work for everyone who depends on them.

As we begin work on this, we’re going to look at the AASHTO bike guide and other similar resources to help us build streets, bridges and highways that keep all travelers as safe as possible.

Many of the ?modern streets? that Secretary LaHood talks about will include the protected bike lanes, or green lanes, effective in immediately transforming busy city streets into attractive places for biking. Cities across the country are building them as they work to make biking a safe and reasonable way for people to make short trips.

Unfortunately, as Secretary LaHood points out, federal standards are outdated and don’t address these innovative designs. The AASHTO bike guide, updated just last year, offers no guidance in this realm except to discourage the building of pathways alongside roadways.

Luckily, an excellent resource is available: the Urban Bikeway Design Guide, released in 2011 by a group called NACTO, a coalition of the country’s leading cities. It would be wonderful if the Secretary’s new effort put the NACTO guide alongside the AASHTO bike guide in the transportation design toolbox.

Cities need cost-effective solutions and innovative approaches that fit in busy downtowns and neighborhoods. Highway design criteria is fine for highways, but it’s not a good fit for making our city streets do their best work in moving people by foot, bus, bikes, and trains as well as by car.

See all Protected Bike Lanes blog entries

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