You Can Help Improve Your Communities Bicycle Network

Bike Lane Signs - GilbertA number of Arizona communities recently passed initiatives to expand transportation infrastructure including improving bicycle facilities. In addition, there is proposed federal legislation that would make additional moneys available for expanding active transportation networks. This poses the question, what can you as an individual do to improving bicycle facilities in your community?

The first recommendation is to review the city’s transportation plan and active transportation plan if there is one. Do these have specific goals in creating bicycle infrastructure? If so, that should be a guide in the development process. Also determine if your community has a bicycle coordinator or a specific person to contact for bicycle related projects and programs. This is someone you can reach out to directly with your questions and concerns. Some cities, such as Flagstaff and Tucson, have citizen bicycle committees. Many cities have a specific web page with this information.

Once your communities’ plans have been reviewed and understood, there are a number of approaches for improvement. While it would be best for communities to work on all the approaches listed below, resource limitations make this unrealistic.

One approach is to improve the existing bicycle network. This includes

  • Updating all bike lanes in the network to follow the guidelines for lane width and separation
  • Make sure that bike lanes don’t have gaps or just end, leaving riders in dangerous situations
  • Make sure intersections where the network crosses major streets are set up for safe crossing
  • Install a method for people on bicycles to activate traffic signal at signaled intersections
  • Make sure there is sufficient signage to identify the bicycle network for riders and drivers
  • Work with other communities so bicycle networks connect across jurisdictions

Another approach would be to develop a new bicycle network or expand the existing network. This could focus on creating or improving routes

  • From high population areas to high employment areas
  • In areas with low car ownership and/or high numbers of bicycle commuters
  • For better connection with public transit

A third approach would be to focus on high crash intersections and corridors.

  • Identify the most dangerous areas for people on bicycles
  • Develop infrastructure changes that improve safety for all road users

Some of these approaches could overlap. For example, if the goal was to bring all bicycle lanes in compliance with guidelines from National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the bike lanes on the most dangerous corridors could be the priority.

A recent analysis by the Virginia Department of Transportation found that zero vehicle households and employment density were two of the strongest predictors of the locations of crashes between motor vehicles and non-motor vehicles. The number of zero vehicle households and employment density for all U.S. cities is available from the U.S. Census Bureau as part of the American Community Survey. In Maricopa County, the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) manages an interactive mapping website with census information; including population, employment, rate of car ownership, and transportation mode by zip code and census block. https://ims.azmag.gov/ This information is also available for all areas of Arizona through the U.S. Census Bureau using the Census Reporter and other Census tools. https://censusreporter.org/

Other pertinent traffic information is often available online. The City of Mesa updates their traffic counts annually at https://www.mesaaz.gov/residents/streets-transportation/traffic-counts, and provides a map showing posted speed limits at https://www.mesaaz.gov/home/showpublisheddocument?id=35998. Your community likely has this type of information available to help determine if the appropriate bicycle facilities are in place on your streets.

An interactive dashboard which includes a map of Arizona bicycle crash locations from 2015 to 2019 is located at https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/et.ratledge/viz/ArizonaTrafficCrashesInvolvingBicycles/AZBicycleCrashes.

If you are interested in how bicycle facilities should be designed, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), NACTO, and others offer a number of free resources for bikeway design and selection. These include the

The FHWA offers free Bicycle Facility Design training through its National Highway Institute. This training is open to anyone. https://www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov/course-search?tab=0&typ=3&sf=0&course_no=142080

Regardless of your place in the bicycle community, rider, advocate, planner, engineer or elected official, you can participate in working to improve and expand the bicycle network. You can start reviewing the information available in your area and working with others to make your roads safer and more efficient for people on bicycle.

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