One Size Does Not Fit All in Planning & Design of Bicycle & Pedestrian Infrastructure

Page 1


One Size Does NOT Fit All in Planning and Design of Bicycle & Pedestrian Infrastructure by Natasha Manbeck, P.E., AICP



East-West Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities Plan East Brandywine Township, PA

CHALLENGE The goal of the East-West Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Plan was to provide over nine miles of continuous and connected bicycle and pedestrian facilities to link residents with key destinations through suburban and rural communities.

Over the last two decades, residents in urban, suburban, and rural communities have started clamoring for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. People are yearning for safe places to walk and bike as an alternative to driving and to fulfill their desire for a more healthy and active lifestyle. Additionally, sidewalks and bicycle facilities can enhance the streetscape and appearance of an area.

In response, many municipalities are looking for guidance on what type of facilities might physically and contextually “fit” in their communities. Retrofitting bicycle and pedestrian facilities is challenging, whether you are in a central city with an established street grid, a suburban commercial corridor or residential neighborhood, or a more rural area with valued natural resources.

For some short segments, the preferred alignment followed existing low volume and low speed roadways within established residential neighborhoods. Providing a sidewalk, off-road trail, or even widening the shoulders were not options due to the significant costs, potential impacts, and opposition from residents. Additionally, the existing pavement width of 25’ was too narrow to provide dedicated shoulders for walking and biking. McMahon was challenged with identifying an on-road design treatment that would be appropriate for the context of the residential neighborhoods, require minimal maintenance, provide space for trail users, and fit within the existing 25’ wide paved roadway.

SOLUTION A 5-foot wide striped shoulder on one side of the roadway was selected as the preferred design treatment for several low volume and low speed roadways in residential neighborhoods. Providing a facility on only one side of the roadway was supported by some residents because it is less obtrusive and limits conflicts with residential driveways. Additionally, the striped shoulder provides dedicated space for trail users and is easily recognizable by both drivers and trail users. This type of treatment is included in FHWA’s Small Town and Rural Multimodal Networks as an interim or temporary facility for pedestrians. In this 10’ 10’ 5’ situation, it is the design treatment that “fit” as the Travel Lane Travel Lane Striped permanent solution given the constraints and context. Shoulder

Evolution of Current Guidelines When tasked with identifying safe and appropriate bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure, planners and engineers often first turn to design guidelines. For many years, practitioners relied on AASHTO’s Guide for the Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities and Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, partially because they were the only universal design guidelines available for bicycle and pedestrian facilities. As planning and design for walking and biking has evolved, new design guidelines have been developed. Some state departments of transportation (DOTs) developed guidelines for bicycle facilities and Complete Streets in an effort to provide guidance at a regional level. The Manual on

Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) officially incorporated Shared Lane Markings in 2009. In 2012, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide introduced guidelines for cycle tracks, buffered bike lanes, and bicycle signals. In 2016, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released Small Town and Rural Multimodal Networks. This design guide includes some treatments, such as advisory shoulders, which are still considered experimental due to the lack of performance data in the United States. These newer treatments were developed in response to demands, constraints, and the lack of design guidelines.


Route 30 Corridor Master Plan East Whiteland, PA

CHALLENGE The Route 30 Corridor Master Plan presents a vision to transform a suburban commercial thoroughfare into a dynamic, mixeduse, pedestrian friendly corridor. The transportation improvements identified to achieve this vision include consistent sidewalks, streetscape enhancements, bike lanes, and bus stop upgrades.

When Projects Are Outside the Guidelines Box While these publications have expanded the toolbox available to practicing transportation planners and engineers, they often present somewhat idealized solutions that might not “fit” physically or contextually in a community. In our experience with planning and designing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, we have frequently encountered situations where we are challenged to apply


our engineering judgement and chart new territory. Making a recommendation that is different, or even contradicts, industry standards is uncomfortable and unsettling for planners and engineers. There are situations when veering outside of current design guidelines results in bicycle and pedestrian facilities that better match the needs of your community. One size does not fit all.

As part of preparing a conceptual plan to show how the vision can be achieved, McMahon was challenged with developing a design solution for bike lanes in the area of designated bus stops. In these areas, a bus may need to cross and occupy the bicycle lane in order to pull to the curb to pick-up or drop-off passengers. The NACTO Transit Street Design Guide and other best practices suggest relocating the bicycle lane, or creating a floating bus stop, which is a bus island for transit users where the bicycle lane is shifted to run behind the bus stop island, rather than through or alongside the bus stop. Both of these design solutions are more appropriate in urban contexts with a high number of both transit riders and bicyclists, which is not the case for Route 30 today. Additionally, these treatments can pose public right-of-way or maintenance concerns.

SOLUTION Conclusion The following projects highlight unique and creative design solutions for retrofitting bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. While these two examples are for projects in the planning phase, once these designs are constructed and operational for a period of time, it will create an opportunity to study the performance and monitor the safety and effectiveness of these “out of the box” solutions. The outcomes of bicycle

and pedestrian improvements in different community contexts can be used to develop future design guidelines and expand options for people to walk and bike. Natasha Manbeck is a senior project manager with McMahon Associates, Inc. and has 15 years of experience with planning, evaluating feasibility, and designing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and California.

At bus stop locations, special pavement markings for the bike lanes were included in the concept plan to note a transition area where the bus can pull into the bike lane to pick-up or drop-off passengers at the curb. Providing a dashed line and bike lane symbol marking prior to the bus stop helps to make both the cyclist and bus driver aware of the potential conflicts in these areas. The dashed line is approximately 100’ long, to allow for enough space for a bus to stop as well as pull in to and out from the curb. This is a low-cost design solution that is more appropriate for a corridor with modest numbers of bicyclists and transit riders.